The final state championship game of the weekends sees the River Hill Hawks (Howard County) take on the Thomas Johnson Patriots (Frederick County) for the Class 3A championship. The Hawks enter with an 11-2 record, while the Patriots come into the game at 10-3.
I’ll use this space to post periodic updates during the game, mostly relating to scoring plays, but also just to post general thoughts and analysis. For more frequent updates, follow me on Twitter.
Final Score: River Hill 41, Thomas Johnson 13. This one was all River Hill in the second half, as they outscored TJ 28-6 in the second frame. The Patriots did not help themselves whatsoever, committing nine turnovers in the contest.
10:02 PM- River Hill, 41-13. GAME OVER. The Hawks win their third state title in five years, greatly aided by Thomas Johnson’s nine offensive turnovers.
9:55 PM- River Hill 41-13. Brandan Berney manages to salvage something of this game for Thomas Johnson, rushing left for a 7-yard touchdown. A failed two-point conversion gives TJ 13 points, and it’s likely that the game ends with this score. Two minutes remain.
9:47 PM- River Hill, 41-7. This is crazy. Richie Anderson fumbles for Thomas Johnson, and the ball is recovered by River Hill. That’s the ninth turnover for Thomas Johnson. The state record for most turnovers in a game is 13, which is coincidentally held by the Thomas Johnson team from 1987.
9:42 PM- River Hill, 41-7. Raamah Vaughn reaches the end zone for the third time tonight on an 11-yard quarterback keeper. The score gives the Hawks a 34-point lead, and puts Vaughn over the 100-yard mark (15 carries, 106 yards, 3 TD). 4:38 remaining to play.
9:32 PM- River Hill, 34-7. Thomas Johnson commits their 7th turnover of the night, this time in the form of anther interception. This has been an extremely ugly game throughout from TJ.
9:24 PM- River Hill, 34-7. Touchdown, River Hill! Evan Griffin takes a pitch left for a 12-yard rushing touchdown, letting the Hawks open up a 27-point lead with 11:55 to play.
9:21 PM- River Hill, 27-7. The last play of the third quarter will probably be the last relevant play of this game. Brandan Berney fumbles for Thomas Johnson, and the ball is picked up by River Hill. The lost fumble is the Patriots’ sixth turnover of the night, and it gives River Hill the ball on the Thomas Johnson 12-yard line.
9:17 PM- River Hill, 27-7. Injured Raamah Vaughn sweeps right for River Hill on a three-yard quarterback keeper. The score is Vaughn’s second rushing touchdown of the night, and it gives the Hawks a 20-point lead to close out the third quarter.
9:13 PM- River Hill, 20-7. Randall Watson picks off his second pass of the game and returns it 20 yards to the Thomas Johnson 14-yard line. Raamah Vaughn is back in for River Hill, who might be able to put this one out of reach with a touchdown on this possession. About two minutes remain in the third quarter.
9:09 PM- River Hill, 20-7. River Hill quarterback Raamah Vaughn leaves the game with a mysterious hand-and-leg injury, and backup Austin Altman, a junior, comes in as a replacement. After failing to convert on a 3rd & 8, the Hawks punt, and Thomas Johnson takes over from their own 18-yard line with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
9:01 PM- River Hill, 20-7. River Hill has hurt themselves yet again with a turnover. A bad snap bounces off Raamah Vaughn’s ankle, and is pounced on by two Thomas Johnson linemen. The Patriots have the ball now on their own 30-yard line, down 13 points with 6:34 to go in the third quarter.
This turnover is big. It means that Thomas Johnson can stick with their usual playbook for a bit longer, only down by two scores. A 20-point deficit would have made it nearly impossible to come back without passing on nearly every down.
8:57 PM- River Hill, 20-7. River Hill makes a big defensive stop, then gets the ball back and have Vaughn and Wells rattle of a ten-yard run each. Another score and they might have this game wrapped up. The defense is playing that well. 7:10 left in the third quarter.
8:51 PM- River Hill, 20-7. Touchdown, River Hill! Aaron Wells sprints up the middle for a 63-yard rushing touchdown, leaving Thomas Johnson’s safeties in his dust. The touchdown is Wells’ second of the night. After a missed extra point, the Hawks hold a 13-point lead with 10:58 remaining in the third quarter.
I said that it would be important for River Hill to score first, and they did. Aaron Wells showed a great burst of speed to reach the end zone, and the touchdown means that Thomas Johnson will have to either pass the ball more or speed up their offense to stay in the game.
8:45 PM- River Hill, 14-7. River Hill will receive the kickoff to start the second half, and a drive for a touchdown would be huge to open up the half. The Hawks’ offensive line needs to continue blocking well, and the offense can not afford any turnovers.
8:26 PM- River Hill, 14-7. Halftime. River Hill has the lead going into the half, but this game could go either way. If not for an exceptional play by Randall Lawson on the interception, the score would likely be tied at 14.
The Hawks have moved the ball well on the ground, to the tune of 114 team rushing yards. Aaron Wells leads the charge with 63 yards on 11 carries. Thomas Johnson has also run well, gaining a total of 96 yards on the ground. Brandan Barney has been the Patriots’ best rusher, with 66 yards on 11 carries.
It’s time for both of these teams to step up, as this game could easily go either way. Whichever team takes better care of the ball will probably leave with the win, as turnovers have hindered the progress of both’s teams’ offenses in the first half.
8:21 PM- River Hill, 14-7. River Hill’s Randall Lawson picks off a Heath Dahlgren pass in the end zone, stifling the Patriots’ drive which previously looked very dangerous. The Hawks now have the ball on their own 20-yard line with 1:03 left in the half.
8:20 PM- River Hill, 14-7. Thomas Johnson is currently on the move offensively, with the ball on River Hill’s 35-yard line and 1:28 left on the clock. The Patriots are moving the ball very well on the ground, and have been all half.
8:13 PM- River Hill, 14-7. Touchdown, River Hill! Aaron Wells scores on a one-yard pitch play to the left side, giving the Hawks a seven-point lead with exactly four minutes remaining in the first half.
8:07 PM- Tied, 7-7. River Hill turns the ball over on downs inside the red zone, failing to capitalize on an offensive opportunity yet again. Thomas Johnson takes over, and is having very little luck now in the running game against the stout defensive line of River Hill.
8:00 PM- Tied, 7-7. An odd play sees River Hill turn the ball over, then gain it back. Quarterback Raamah Vaughn throws an ill-advised pass that is intercepted by TJ’s Danny Medina, but a Medina fumble is recovered again by the Hawks’ offense. Raamah Vaughn and Aaron Wells then followed with eight and 20-yard runs, respectively, to put River Hill in scoring position.
7:54 PM- Tied, 7-7. Touchdown, Thomas Johnson! Brandan Berney punches the ball in for a touchdown from the one-yard line on 4th down. Berney ran for 49 yards on 8 carries on the drive. There is 11:57 remaining in the first half.
7:51 PM- River Hill, 7-0. The first quarter ends with River Hill leading by seven points. Thomas Johnson currently has possession, facing a 4th & goal from the Hawks’ one-yard line. It remains to be seen whether the Patriots will go for the touchdown, or try to kick what would be about an 18-yard field goal.
7:48 PM- River Hill, 7-0. Thomas Johnson is moving the ball well on their current drive, mixing the pass and the run well. Brandan Berney is running well for the Patriots on the drive, gaining 45 yards on six carries.
7:38 PM- River Hill, 7-0. Touchdown, River Hill! After a gutsy call for a halfback pass that gained 28 yards, Hawks quarterback Raamah Vaughn ran 8 yards for a touchdown. River Hill now has a seven-point lead with 6:31 remaining in the first quarter.
7:32 PM- Tied, 0-0. Thomas Johnson has turned the ball over twice already in the first three minutes. The Patriots fumbled on their first and third plays from scrimmage, with River Hill recovering both. The Hawks turned the ball over on downs on their first possession, they’ll try to capitalize on the opportunity with their second drive. As one reporter in the press box just exclaimed, “…this one’s looking like a goofy game already!”