CUMBERLAND — Mike Durr came up with the big play at the end of the first half, and Marcus Lashley and Garrett Dolly did the same in the second as third-ranked Fort Hill edged fourth-ranked Mountain Ridge, 24-21, in high school football Saturday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
Durr returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half, but it took a 32-yard field by Lashley late in the fourth quarter and a blocked field goal by Garrett Dolly in the final seconds to seal things for the Sentinels.
The win sends Fort Hill into Saturday’s Homecoming showdown with second-ranked Allegany with a 7-1 record. The Sentinels have nailed down a berth in the Maryland Class 1A playoffs as the second-ranked team, behind the 8-1 Campers, in West Region ratings. Fort Hill is 25th this week in the Maryland state poll that includes schools from all four classes along with private schools.
The tough loss knocks Mountain Ridge, at 7-2, out of the playoff picture as third-ranked Smithsburg and No. 4 Boonsboro are both 9-0 going into their face-off this week. The Miners will be closing their season on Friday night at Calvert.
Fort Hill’s Eric Howser completed 6-of-10 passes for 122 yards and had a 29-yard scoring strike to Jordan Helmick. Those two also teamed up on a key 17-yard completion that helped set up the winning field goal. The Sentinels’ quarterback also scored on a one-yard sneak in the second quarter.
Lashley was Fort Hill’s leading rusher with 83 yards on 18 carries. He kicked the three extra points before his game-winning field goal that came with 5:28 left.
Mountain Ridge’s Matt Farris teamed with Russell Knieriem and Keinan Harper on a perfectly executed 25-yard hook-and-lateral play that put the Miners back in the game in the third quarter. The senior quarterback then scored on a 25-yard run after a Fort Hill fumble and finished with a game-high 104 rushing yards on 14 carries. Marcus Stewart scored the other touchdown with an 11-yard run.
After a slow start, Mountain used a bevy of seven different runners to pile 254 yards on the ground and eat up a lot of clock with 46 running plays. Farris completed 3-of-5 passes for 38 yards to give the Miners 292 yards in total offense.
The powerful Fort Hill rushing attack was held to 166 yards on 38 plays after a strong start.
“It was a great game and Mountain Ridge has a great football team. It’s a shame they won’t make the playoffs because of our playoff system,” said Fort Hill coach Todd Appel. “They drove the ball down our throats and did a good job of taking away Marcus Lashley in the second half. We muscled up and got a big stop and found a way to muster it out. They out-played us.”
In the Maryland system the top four teams in each region make the playoffs instead of going with the overall top 16 like West Virginia does.
Fort Hill drove 66 yards on the game’s first possession on 12 running plays before turning the ball over on downs at the Mountain Ridge 14-yard line.
The Miners were forced to punt and a short kick gave Fort Hill the ball at the Mountain Ridge 42. Howser connected with Sam Walker for 13 yards on his first pass. The Sentinels were still at the 29 for fourth down and Howser was able to hit a high-leaping Helmick for the touchdown with 3:05 left in the first quarter.
Mountain Ridge coach Roy DeVore then elected to gamble on a fourth-and-one at the Miners 37 and Dolly came up to stuff Corey Wellings for no gain. Lashley blasted for 15 yards on first down and, seven plays later, Howser scored on a one-yard sneak at the 9:46 mark in the second quarter.
After the teams traded punts, Mountain Ridge finally got its running game going behind Farris and Stewart. The Miners marched 73 yards on 11 plays and took 4:02 off the clock with Stewart going 11 yards up the middle for the touchdown with 3:08 left in the half. Cody Hovatter’s kick cut the Fort Hill lead to seven points, 14-7.
With time running out in the half, Mountain Ridge made what became a questionable decision. With fourth down and four yards to go at midfield and only 22 seconds on the clock The Miners sent Hovatter on the field to punt.
The high punt almost got away from Durr on a muff, but the speedy senior was able to gather in the ball and found a wall of blockers down the left sideline en route the end zone on an 88-yard sprint. Lashley’s kick made it 21-7 at the half.
Mountain Ridge got the ball at its 26-yard line to start the second half and moved to the Fort Hill 25 before the Miners found themselves in a fourth-and-eight situation. After a couple of timeouts, the Miners brought out the old hook-and-lateral play.
Farris hit Knieriem with the pass about 10 yards down the field and he promptly flipped the ball to the speeding Harper who went the rest of the 25 yards for the touchdown with 5:23 left in the third quarter.
Fort Hill then coughed up the ball on a fumble after a hard hit by Drew Winters and Jared Stakem got the recovery at the Sentinels 23. After a two-yard loss, Farris broke loose on the 25-yard touchdown run and Hovatter’s kick tied it 21-21 with 4:32 still on the clock in the third quarter.
A 15-yard personal foul against Fort Hill on that play and another penalty for roughing the kicker on the extra point had the Miners kicking off from the Sentinels 30. A successful onside kick covered by Stewart gave the Miners the ball at the 20-yard line.
The Fort Hill defense came up with a key stop by Glen Vincent and got the ball back at the 11 with 2:37 left in the third quarter. The Sentinels used 18 plays to move to the Mountain Ridge 15 before settling for the Lashley go-head field goal.
Mountain Ridge drove the ball to the Fort Hill 31 on a run by Farris only to get pushed back 15 yards by an offensive facemasking penalty. With seven seconds left the Miners had a first down at the Sentinels 30 and lined up for a 48-yard field goal by Hovatter, who had been putting his kickoffs deep in the ends. Dolly charged around the end for the game-ending block.
Fort Hill’s Sam Walker takes advantage of a block by Nathan Greise for first-half yardage against Mountain Ridge Saturday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium. The Mountain Ridge player is Kienan Harper (6). Fort Hill won, 24-21. The game story will be featured in Monday’s edition. (PHOTO BY: Steve Bittner)
Fort Hill’s Jordan Helmick (11) and Mountain Ridge defenders Keinan Harper (6) and Russell Knieriem (left) reach for a pass during the first quarter of Saturday night’s game at Greenway Avenue Stadium. Helmick made the catch and stepped into the end zone for the first touchdown of the night. Also pictured is Mountain Ridge’s Nick Graham (5). (PHOTO BY: Steve Bittner)