Published: January 17, 2009 11:31 pm

FH’s Todd Appel Coach of the Year

Mike Burke
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Fort Hill’s Todd Appel will be the recipient of the Coca-Cola Golden Helmet High School Football Coach of the Year Award during the 61st annual Dapper Dan Awards Banquet Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Ali Ghan Shrine Club.

An inclusion math teacher and assistant coach on the Fort Hill staff for 15 years, Appel became the 10th head coach in school history on Feb. 8, 2008, succeeding Barry Lattimer, who resigned after nine seasons. He is the fifth Fort Hill coach to be selected area coach of the year by the Dapper Dan Club of Allegany County.

Appel led the 2009 Sentinels to an 11-2 record, the Maryland Class 1A West Region championship and a berth in the state championship game at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, where Fort Hill fell to Dunbar, 20-19, in the final seconds of the game. Appel will be on the Dapper Dan dais with at least one of his players on Jan. 31 as Fort Hill fullback Marcus Lashley will be presented with the Morton W. Peskin Sr. Offensive Player of the Year Memorial Award.

A 1987 graduate of Fort Hill, Appel played for coaches Dick Bittner and Mike Calhoun, being named Times-News All-Area offensive guard and linebacker for the 1985 and 1986 seasons. He attended Fairmont State for one year, before graduating from Frostburg State University.

Appel has been a member of the Fort Hill football coaching staff since the 1993 season, serving in various capacities under former head coaches Calhoun and Lattimer. Prior to becoming the head coach, he was the Sentinels’ defensive coordinator, also coaching the offensive line and linebackers.

The 2008 Sentinels opened one of the most demanding schedules in school history with a 14-6 win over Baltimore City College. The Sentinels were defeated the following week, 13-7, at Keyser, but wouldn’t lose again until Dec. 6 in the state championship game.

Key victories along the way included the forfeit win the Sentinels were awarded by the state against Dunbar, D.C., a 36-28 victory over Cambridge-South Dorchester, a 14-12 win over Frederick Douglass and a 24-21 victory over Mountain Ridge, before coming from behind in the final minutes to defeat Allegany, 26-22, in the Homecoming Game.

In the first-round playoff game, Fort Hill routed Boonsboro, 35-0. Facing Allegany for a second time in the West Region finals the Sentinels put together another long drive in the closing minutes for a 21-14 win. Capitalizing on four turnovers and controlling the ball on the ground led to a 28-0 win over Joppatowne, which led to the Sentinels playing for the state championship.

The Sentinels pounded many opponents and controlled the clock behind the running of Lashley, who rushed for 200 yards and a touchdown against Joppatowne. In other games they used the arm and legs of senior quarterback Eric Howser to come up with big offensive plays. The Offensive Player of the Game in the Homecoming win came through with some crucial passes to the likes of Jordan Helmick, Devin Lee, Colton Sibley and Johnathan Foster.

A major key to any team’s success is the offensive line and in Appel’s mind the Sentinels had the best one in the area. Creating holes and providing pass protection were tight ends Sibley and Helmick, tackles Caleb Morris and Morgan Absher, guards Nathan Greise and Clint Johnson, and center Matt Riggleman.

Special teams were also a factor, especially in the win over Mountain Ridge when Mike Durr returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half and Lashley kicked a 32-yard field goal for the winning margin.

The Fort Hill defense always seemed to come up with the big plays that gave the Sentinels a chance to win. In the Homecoming game Helmick earned Defensive Player of the Game honors after turning a punt blocked by Garrett Dolly into a touchdown, and setting up another score with an interception.

Members of the Fort Hill coaching staff were Jeff Brode, Chris Cassell, Gavin Palumbo, Eric VanSlyke, Thad Burner, Shaun Lewis, John McKenney, Zack Alkire and Branden Giffin.

For Dapper Dan banquet ticket information, call The Original Sports Shoppe at (301) 722-5490.