September 19, 2009

Lee leads Fort Hill to 22-12 win
Quarterback ran for score, tossed another, had two picks on defense

CUMBERLAND — The unbeaten Fort Hill let its play do the talking, especially in a near-perfect first quarter Friday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium.

In a battle between two top 25 teams in the state, the Sentinels prevailed 22-12 over Mount St. Joseph of Baltimore with Devin Lee running for a touchdown, throwing for a touchdown and picking off a pair of passes.

Lineman Glen Vincent picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown in the first quarter of a gorgeous evening for football that turned a bit sour in the final minutes when a Mount St. Joseph player alleged he was the subject of a racial slur from a Fort Hill player.

The allegation came nearly a day to the year of last season’s allegations made by Dunbar, of Washington, on Sept. 19, 2008.

Last night’s allegation came after a Fort Hill punt and two penalties by the Gaels that gave Mount St. Joseph the ball at its own three with 4:03 to play.

Referee Jeff Grogg, who spoke to all 22 players on the field during a stoppage of play, said he didn’t hear anything the entire game.

Mount St. Joseph coach Chip Armstrong said the same, as did Fort Hill coach Todd Appel.

“One of my players said one of their players used a racial slur. That’s all I know. I?didn’t hear anything like that and I don’t want to make something more out of this than there was,’’ said Armstrong. “But the kid that told me that I would believe. He’s a straight-A student and is not a kid who would make something like that up.”

“I don’t even want to comment on that anymore,’’ said Fort Hill coach Todd Appel. “I get tired of that. I know it could be a big story because it’s been a year since (last year’s) incident, but nothing’s ever been found true of that.

“I trust my kids. I don’t believe that at all. We’re a very diverse population, from Oldtown to Flintstone to Jane Frazier village, and we all get along.”

The Sentinels (3-0) could play the rest of the season and not put together a better drive than they did in opening the game. They went 74 yards in 16 plays over 7:42, and were 5-for-5 on third down conversions. Lee capped the drive with a four-yard run with 2:49 left on the clock.

Then Vincent took center stage on defense. First, he sacked Travis O’Brien for a 9-yard loss, and on the next play, he stepped in front of a screen pass, picked it off, and dashed 12 yards for the score with 1:07 left in the quarter.

Lee hit Sam Walker for the conversion and 15-0 lead.

“It was a great start and our kids knew from the get-go they had to jump on them early,’’ said Appel. “We knew we had to come down those steps like angry young men and play very hard from the start. And that helped us at the end. We needed that cushion because I?felt like we were pressured the whole second half by their speed.

“It was a great defensive touchdown by Vincent which helped us out tremendously, and the 2-point conversion put pressure on them to have to score twice at the end.”

As great as the first quarter was, the Sentinels allowed the Gaels a chance to sneak back into it with three penalties, a fumbled snap and an interception in the final six minutes of the half.

The Gaels (2-2) didn’t get their initial first down until the 4:15 mark of the second quarter, and overcame three interceptions (two by Lee, one by Vincent) to trail by only 15-6 at the half.

An interception by Gentry White set up a 53-yard, six-play drive that ended with White scoring on a four-yard run with 39 seconds left in the half.

“When we come up to Cumberland to play Allegany or Fort Hill, we cannot make the mistakes that we did tonight,’’ said Armstrong. “You cannot come into this stadium and make those errors and expect to win. I?think we had seven penalties and three turnovers in the first half. We probably should have been down worse.”

Both teams scored a touchdown in the second half. Walker hauled in a short pass from Lee at the 25, got past a defender and went the distance for a 33-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter for Fort Hill, making it 22-6.

Mount St. Joseph went 67 yards in seven plays midway through the fourth, scoring when Matt Mullett pounced on a fumble by O’Brien in the end zone.

Shelton Bennett-Hall ran 15 times for a game-high 102 yards for the Gaels, but was injured on the play prior to the touchdown and was believed by Armstrong to be lost for the season with a broken leg.

“It’s a tough loss for us, and we had some key injuries,’’ said Armstrong. “Fort Hill played hard and they always do up here. I think Fort Hill deserved to win the game. I thought they played a better football game than we did.”

Dakota Welsh led Fort Hill with 23 carries and 91 yards.

“I’m very proud of our kids and the way they played, and the way they are getting better at preparing for football games,’’ said Appel. “That’s the main thing, because we want to get better each day.”

Fort Hill hosts Martinsburg on Friday night.