| Fort Hill holds on
to beat Central
CUMBERLAND — Fort Hill rode the big play to a big lead, then got two more big ones in the final seconds as they held on for dear life to beat Central, 29-21, Friday evening at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
Dekari Darr ran for 129 yards and a touchdown, Hunter Squires hit Travis Bush for a pair of touchdown passes, and Ty Mance returned the second-half kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown for the Sentinels (4-2), who scored 29 straight points and led 29-7 midway through the third quarter.
But the Dragons (4-2), of Martinsburg, Pa., roared back behind quarterback Austin Cunningham, who completed passes to seven receivers and finished 21 of 32 for 231 yards. He had a 12-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter and a 29-yard TD pass to Chris Brumbaugh that cut it to 29-21 with 2:07 left.
Then, a game that had appeared to be headed into the win column after three quarters turned into a bit of a white knuckler for the Sentinels, as Central got one more crack after a Fort Hill punt with 1:05 to go.
Three completions and a six-yard run by Cunningham got the ball to the Fort Hill 33 with 19 seconds left before the Sentinels defense produced the final two big plays.
First, Roger Dawson sacked Cunningham for a four-yard loss with 19 seconds left. After a Fort Hill pass interference as time ran out gave Central the ball at the Fort Hill 16 for an untimed down, Micah May chased Cunningham out of the pocket and Ryan Shives intercepted his pass to finally seal the Fort Hill win.
“We’re young and inexperienced, and we got tired at the end,” admitted Fort Hill coach Todd Appel. “And when you get tired, you don’t always think that well.”
The Sentinels chased after Cunningham all evening and had good success with pressure up the gut, but when the offense managed only three yards in the fourth quarter, the defense rarely got off the field. In the second half, Central ran 42 offensive plays and had 214 yards of offense. Fort Hill had 22 plays, and 74 yards.
On the final Central drive, the Dragons, without a timeout, completed three passes and were able to get out of bounds on each one.
“We have tough kids, but did not play as good in the end as we did the first three quarters. But our kids gave it to us. They gave everything they had against a very good Central team,” Appel said. “The coaches did a great job with the kids and the kids gave a great effort in return. I’m real proud of the way they played.”
Central held a 367-243 advantage in offense and the upperhand in most every statistic except the only one that matters.
“We were unable to stop them from making the big plays, and they hurt us ... the kickoff return, the big run in the first half and a big pass in the second,’’ said Central coach Dave Baker. “Those are the kinds of plays we have gotten in the past that have helped us to wins.”
Central lost a fumble that led to a Fort Hill touchdown in the first half and threw two interceptions in the fourth. Mance recovered the fumble and had one of the interceptions.
“We played well in the second half, but that’s the way we needed to play all the time in order to win. We didn’t make the plays we needed too.”
Central’s only lead came after a 76-yard, nine-play game-opening drive that ended with a 10-yard run by Todd Slick.
Darr answered by hitting the left side and racing up the sideline untouched on a 73-yard touchdown run with four seconds left in th quarter. Chris King’s kick tied it 7-7.
Mance pounced on a Central fumble at the Fort Hill 40 early in the second quarter, and the Sentinels went 60 yards on a textbook 13-play drive that ate up 7:06 of clock and ended with Squires hitting Travis Bush on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Squires hit Micah May for the two-point conversion and 15-7 halftime lead.
Mance came up with the big play on special teams, too, when he took the second half kickoff at the 15, sped to the outside and outran three Dragons along the sideline for an 85-yard return just 14 seconds into the half. Squires ran for the conversion and 22-7 edge.
Later in the quarter, on third-and-10 from the Fort Hill 49, Squires found Bush behind the secondary and hit him in stride fo a 51-yard touchdown pass that made it 29-7 with 6:05 left in the quarter.
From there, it was all Central, but the damage the Sentinels had quickly done with their big plays proved to be too big of a hole for the Dragons to overcome.
Squires finished 6 of 9 for 111 yards and two touchdowns for For Hill. Bush caught three of the passes for 78 yards for the Sentinels, who play at Southern on Friday.
King, in the first half, and Darr, after the game, were taken to the hospital with undisclosed injuries.