Fort Hill shuts out Mountain Ridge

Posted on Oct 31, 2015
by Chris Appel

FROSTBURG — Nathaniel Graves tossed two touchdowns and ran for a third during a 12-minute span as Fort Hill pulled away in the second quarter and used its defense to muffle Mountain Ridge during a 49-0 win Friday in Frostburg.

Graves finished with just under 200 yards of total offense by throwing for 166 and running for another 32 as the Sentinels once again spread the rock into 10 different hands in improving to 7-1.

Brayden Brown had 119 yards on only four touches and added a highlight reel 98-yard kickoff return to open the second half. He finished with two touchdowns by catching a 42-yard pass on the final play of the first half.

The win is the sixth straight for the Sentinels, who entered Friday as the top-seed in the Maryland 1A West Region, since losing their only game to Keyser. It also gives the Sentinels six consecutive scoreless quarters beginning with the second half against Sherando last week.

The improvement in the defense is what Coach Todd Appel has been most impressed with over the last few weeks.

“We’ve gotten better defensively these past games,” he said. “We are making better adjustments, we understand the offenses a little bit better and understand our coverages a little bit better. We are playing very sound defense at the moment. The defensive line is getting flat down the line, the linebackers are coming up and making plays and understanding where the seams and openings are going to be.”

Fort Hill kept Mountain Ridge quiet by not allowing the Miners any big plays. The largest gain it allowed was a 28-yard pass to Jacob Howard with the clock running in the second half. They allowed only four plays of 10 or more yards during the first half.

Offensively, the Sentinels had one of their more balanced showings after running 26 times and throwing 11. They gained 355 yards on the 37 offensive plays and were forced into just one punt, which came late in the second half.

After forcing a three-and-out on Mountain Ridge’s first drive, Fort Hill embarked on a nine-play, 54-yard drive that ended with a little bit of luck. Raen Smith, Brown and Brayden Poling all picked up first downs to help move the ball deep into Miners’ territory, and Fort Hill went to Graves on a pair of keepers to try and take the early lead.

The quarterback got three yards on the first attempt, but fumbled going into the end zone on the next. Fort Hill lineman Austin Trennum fell on the ball in the end zone for the first points with 6:54 left in the first quarter.

Poling ran in from four yards out five minutes later to increase the lead to 14-0.

Graves opened the second-quarter scoring with a 26-yard touchdown on what started as a sneak up the middle.

He later found Ethan York on a 40-yard touchdown pass before Smith had a two-yard touchdown with 2:08 remaining in the half.

Fort Hill forced a punt late in the final minute of the first half, and went to their playmaker Brown on a short pass that the gifted junior turned into a 42-yard touchdown with less than four seconds left.

“We try to work hard during the offseason, and it’s not just on weight training, but also speed and quickness,” professed Appel. “I know that Brayden Brown has a lot of natural speed, but he’s gone from a 4.6 40 (yard dash time) to a 4.3 40 almost just by hard work. People lose that when they watch high school football and only see what the result on the field is, but there is a lot of work that these kids put in that doesn’t get noticed.

“The same with players like Raen Smith. Sure, he’s 6-1, 235, but if he didn’t work at it then all he would be is a 6-1, 235-pound body and probably not playing fullback for us.”

Brown added the final points on the second half kickoff and took advantage of the Miners breaking the integrity of their lanes after the ball bounced past the Fort Hill returners and all the way down to the two-yard line. Brown calmly picked up the ball, made a few defenders miss on the left side of the field and headed upfield before breaking across the turf and returning the kick 98 yards.

The Miners (4-4) were led by quarterback Kaden McElhenny, who went 8 of 13 for 89 yards, and Dalton Jeffries with 75 yards on 18 carries. Mountain Ridge will finish the regular season Friday at Keyser.

Fort Hill has the week to ready for its rival Allegany with the Homecoming game beginning at 12:30 on Saturday.

The fact that both Fort Hill and Allegany are set to make the playoffs and potentially play again won’t change the way the Sentinels prepare this week.

“A lot of people like to think that it would be nice to still have something left in the bag in case you have to play them again, but we are more worried about winning each game than setting up for the next one. I’m not going to give up the game in front of us just to have something in case we play the second time.

“I don’t like the fact that we might have to play Allegany twice in such short time, but that’s the way it is. Maybe the state will figure it out — since we have probably six of the best 1A schools all in one area — that’s it’s probably not the best for the state to have the better teams knocking each other out to even get to the finals. I’d like to see Fort Hill and Allegany play in the state title game. I know it would be good for the state as well.”

The Sentinels enter Homecoming on a six-game winning streak over the Campers and have not lost a Homecoming game to Allegany since 2007.