Veteran River Hill leader is the BTC Coach of the Week
After 13 straight trips to the state playoffs and 10 consecutive 10+ win seasons, not to mention four Maryland state football championships, it was shocking to many when the River Hill football team missed the post-season in 2015.
However, under head coach Brian Van Duesen, now in his 18th season with the Hawks, River Hill regrouped and returned to the playoffs in 2016 and, following last Friday’s 42-0 rout of Howard County rival Wilde Lake, the Hawks are 3-0 in 2017 and ranked No. 12 in the VSN Football Top 20. Friday’s performance also earned an honor for Van Duesen as he has been named the Week 4 Baltimore Touchdown Club Coach of the Week.
“It was tough on our program to miss the playoffs in 2015,” said Van Duesen. “We battled back last year with a very young team and put together a strong second half of the season. This year we have much more experience than we have had in several years. We have great senior leadership and our players our working hard to get better each week. Expectations for all sports are extremely high at River Hill and we expect to be competitive on the state level every year.”
One of the challenges for Van Duesen is a smaller pool of players with which to work.
“With a decreasing school enrollment we have been low on numbers the last few years,” said the veteran coach. “We only have a total of 56 players in our program this year for two teams. Fortunately, we have a strong group of 21 seniors that have worked hard over the off season to get bigger, faster, and stronger.”
One of those seniors is RB/QB/DB Brett Shaw. He missed the 2016 season due to an injury suffered in lacrosse, but has infused productivity on both sides of the ball in 2017. He has scored three touchdowns on offense, including two rushing scores against Wilde Lake, and has intercepted three passes on defense, including one on Friday.
Van Duesen also praised senior RB/LB Austin Abraham, who has 32 total tackles on defense and has rushed for 160 yards and three scores on offense; senior All-County Brendan McKenna, an HB/DB, who has 304 yards of total offense and three TD’s, including a 20-yard touchdown reception against Wilde Lake; and two-time All-County punter Cooper McGeehan, a senior who is also shining at linebacker with six tackles and interception against the Wildecats.
Also making big contributions are sophomore RB/DB Beau Brade, a 2nd-Team All-County pick as a freshman, who has 33 tackles; quarterback Luke Champion, a dual threat who has produced eight touchdowns in three games; senior WR/LB Danny Peletski, who has 26 tackles on the season; and senior TE/DL Tucker Finkelston, who is helping move the chains, after sitting out last year due to a baseball injury.
With so many players going both ways, Van Duesen relies heavily on his veteran coaching staff to make sure the players are well prepared for any assignment they are given.
Tom Gruneberg, the team’s Defensive Coordinator, Line Coach and Strength Coach has been with the River Hill program for almost 20 years. “He has done an outstanding job with our defense that has recorded two shutouts already this season,” said Van Duesen.
The staff also includes Jimmie Owens, the RB/LB Coach and Darryl McCoy, the DL/SE Coach.
“It is a great honor to be selected by my peers for this Coach of the Week award,” said Van Duesen. “We have a great group of assistant coaches that deserve much of the credit for the win last week.”
Van Duesen is very active in the Baltimore Touchdown Club and serves as the Director of the selection committee for Team Maryland, which competes each summer against Pennsylvania in the Big 33 Classic.
“The BTC is a great organization and I am proud to be a part of it,” he said. “The BTC promotes the game of football and gives exposure to our student-athletes through all-star games and the Super 22 banquet. The BTC has helped give many local high school football players the opportunity to play football on the next level.”