After his team split with Long Reach and upset the No. 1-seeded Lightning in the Class 3A East regional semifinals last year, River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen was expecting a battle Thursday night between two undefeated teams.
But after the No. 14 Hawks forced a running clock in the final two minutes by scoring on their second straight possession to take a 42-6 lead that held up as the final score, even Van Deusen was surprised by the result.
“Watching the game tape, they’ve looked really good,” Van Deusen said. “Defensively we knew they were going to be strong with most of their guys back from last year. … We certainly didn’t expect this.”
The Hawks intercepted three passes — two in the first quarter — while junior quarterback Luke Champion controlled the offense to perfection and finished with three rushing touchdowns. River Hill improved to 4-0 while the No. 12 Lightning fell to 3-1.
The Hawks ran for 119 yards in the first half and 221 in the second with a number of different running backs. Austin Abraham, Brendan McKenna, Brett Shaw and Champion handled the majority of the work, with any given player toting the ball at a given time. And on Thursday night, seemingly everything worked.
“It’s a bunch of things. It’s running right, it’s running left, it’s up the middle,” said Champion, who finished with 15 carries for 61 yards while completing six of nine passes for 102 yards. “It’s a lot of misdirection and trying to catch the defense off-guard.”
Champion did most of his damage with his feet in the red zone. He capped both of River Hill’s 70-yard scoring drives, a 10-play possession in the first quarter and a 13-play drive in the second, with touchdown runs as the Hawks took a 14-0 lead into the break.
The defense, meanwhile, had four sacks in the opening quarter to go with the two turnovers. McKenna, who had three catches for 66…