Fort Hill rolls over Northern

by Mike Mathews

CUMBERLAND — Raen Smith scored four touchdowns and top-seeded Fort Hill buried fourth-seeded Northern with a 42-point second quarter in storming to a 65-16 victory in the Class 1A West Region semifinals Friday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium.

The win was the 25th straight for the defending state champion Sentinels (11-0), who will host second-seeded North Carroll (9-2) for the region championship on Friday.

Smith and Alex Barnes combined for 192 yards and six touchdowns, all in the first half, for Fort Hill, which scored on all six of its possessions, and on two of Northern’s also, in building a 56-8 halftime lead.

Smith had 11 carries and 130 yards, Ty Johnson ran eight times for 96 yards and caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from Rashaan Shives, and Barnes ran six times for 62 yards for the Sentinels.

“The kids did a great job, especially in not getting complacent and not having a letdown after last week,’’ said Fort Hill coach Todd Appel, referring to the Homecoming win over Allegany. “They went right back to work, and want to get better and play better.

“We’re very pleased with the way they played.”

While Appel saw a team that focuses on one game at a time, Northern coach Phil Carr believes he saw something else.

“I think they proved that they’re the best 1A team in the state,’’ he said. “I can’t see anybody beating them.

“No one’s really even given them a game, except for Keyser and Allegany. We knew we had to have a perfect game to maybe be in the game.”

Fort Hill broke up Northern’s bid for a perfect game early, and a 50-point second quarter — Fort Hill won it, 42-8 — iced things quicker than the falling mercury on the game time thermometer could.

Smith had a six-yard run and Barnes an 11-yard run for the first-quarter touchdowns and 14-0 lead.

One of the most productive quarters in school history followed for the Sentinels, who scored four touchdowns on offense and two on defense. The final three TDs came in less than a two-minute span.

Smith had two- and one-yard plunges for the first two scores and Barnes had another 11-yarder that made it 36-0 with 5:44 left in the half.

Northern’s Trevon Jones ended the Fort Hill run, racing 37 yards around right end for a TD with four minutes left in the half, but the Sentinels answered by scoring 21 points over a 1:48 span.

Smith ran up the gut 49 yards to make it 43-8, and Luke Stegmaier and Quade Raley recovered fumbles and returned them for touchdowns on back-to-back Northern possessions. Stegmaier ran 32 yards for his score, Raley 13.

“In the first quarter I thought we hung around a bit, but the second quarter we made a lot of mistakes and the fumbles hurt,’’ Carr said. “You can’t make any mistakes against them if you want to have a chance.”

Fort Hill had 325 yards of offense, with 302 on the ground, in the first half.

“Our offensive line played great and they’ve been getting better each time out,’’ Appel said of Josh Roberts, Timmy Friend, Tanner Brode, Danny May, Wilbert Page and Ryan Shives. “And in the second quarter, the key was not so much the offense but the defense getting the fumbles and scoring the touchdowns.

“We’re pleased with the effort and the fact that we’re getting better every week.”

With a turning clock because of the 35-point mercy rule, there were only two touchdowns scored in the second half. The first came on the second play of the third quarter when Rashaan Shives lofted a pass over the secondary and into the hands of Johnson, who sped untouched over the final 40 yards on a 61-yard pass play that made it 62-8.

Northern’s Aaron Rodeheaver scored on a seven-yard run late in the third quarter, and a 35-yard field goal by Fort Hill’s Austin Farrell ended the scoring late in the fourth.

Northern finished 6-5, doubling its win total from the previous season. It was the ninth playoff appearance for the Huskies, and 17th for a Garrett County team.

“We made the playoffs, and when you’re a small school like we are it’s a big deal to make the playoffs,’’ said Carr. “We dressed 21 players this year, won six games and got to this point, and I’m proud of our guys.”

Rodeheaver ran 18 times for 66 yards and Jones had four carries for 58 and one reception for 37 to lead the Huskies.