A short time ago, Justin Arn was half the man River Hill needed him to be, and that was an improvement on his previous weeks. A pinched nerve after a vicious tug on his face mask in an Oct. 20 win over Reservoir made his left arm numb, keeping the two-way standout from his defensive duties two weeks ago and all action in another.
On Friday, though, in the Maryland 3A East region final against Atholton, sometimes it seemed like there were two of him. The senior finished with 221 yards of total offense and three touchdowns in a 35-27 win that wrapped up the Hawks’ seventh region title in the past eight years.
“He’s been banged up for a few weeks, so it was nice to get him back,” Coach Brian Van Deusen said. “I think he’s about 100 percent now. He looked 100 percent when he was running. He was clutch for us. He came up big.”
Afterward, Arn couldn’t walk five steps without being congratulated or pulled aside for a hug. Nice runs, teammates told him. Great catches, friends said to him.
But for all of his scoring, perhaps his biggest play was relatively anonymous. With Atholton (10-2) marching down the field in the second quarter, eyeing a touchdown and a 14-14 tie, Arn forced a fumble. He recovered it at the Hawks’ 15-yard line, and only a minute later, he was celebrating something else.
A 78-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Austin Altman made it 21-7, and River Hill (12-0) was on its way to a 29-point run that had them up 35-7 in the fourth quarter.
“The safety bit up [on a play-action fake] and Justin sped on by him,” said Altman, who went 10 for 13 for 218 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. “All I had to do was lob it up there and let him go get it.”
At times, it was just that easy, just that simple, for Arn and Altman. During a three-touchdown streak that started with his long catch, Arn added a 49-yard scoring run before reaching pay dirt on the ground from 26 yards out.
Atholton quarterback Luke Casey authored an impressive rally to bring the Raiders within an onside kick of a potential game-tying drive. But when the bouncing ball found the safe embrace of Anthony Corrao’s hands with 57 seconds remaining, the game was effectively over. River Hill had won its 22nd straight game, and now only Urbana stands between the Hawks and another championship appearance.
“Something started seven years ago is just consistently brought back every week, every year,” Altman said. “It’s not a big transition when seniors leave because other guys are ready to step up. They’ve been waiting.”