Fort Hill pounds South


CUMBERLAND — Fort Hill unleashed a brutally punishing ground game, using five ballcarriers to rush for nearly 500 yards and dominate time of possession in pounding the South Hagerstown Rebels, 47-26, Friday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium in a match-up between former Cumberland Valley Athletic League foes.

In the schools’ first meeting since 1988, the Sentinels (5-1) did what they wanted to do offensively when they wanted to do it, relying on their talented backfield and the dominating play of their offensive line to more than neutralize the South Hagerstown spread offense, which was led by the explosive running of senior running back Darian Robinson.

Fullback Raen Smith led the way for Fort Hill with 185 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, while halfback Brayden Brown rushed for 105 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries.

Brown also took a pass from quarterback Nathaniel Graves 62 yards for a touchdown to finish with four on the night. Graves also was effective with 94 yards and a touchdown on nine carries before leaving the game late in the third quarter, while running back Brayden Poling rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

In all, Fort Hill rushed for 486 yards and 25 first downs on 63 carries for just under 8.0 yards per carry and finished the game with 557 yards of total offense.

“When some kids went down others stepped up,” said Fort Hill head coach Todd Appel. “South is a real good team so this a very good win for us. We’ll work hard this week and get ready for another 3A team in Sherando, and we’ll work on our conditioning. We haven’t played 48 minutes in three weeks, but we’ll take care of that.”

The Sentinels’ style of play on this night proved to be just what the doctor ordered, as the Rebels (4-3), a Maryland 3A playoff team the past two seasons under former Franklin High star Toby Peer, made things uncomfortable for the home crowd behind the spectacular running of Robinson, who finished the game with 288 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries.

Just when it appeared Fort Hill was going to put things away on three different occasions, Robinson made a holy nuisance of himself by breaking off touchdown runs — very fast touchdown runs — of 78, 80 and 77 yards to keep the Fort Hill faithful on edge.

Yet there was no panic on the part of the Fort Hill offensive unit, which answered each Robinson scoring dash with a powerful time-consuming scoring drive of it its own.

“It really wasn’t the game plan (to purposely control the clock),” Appel said. “We had a good defensive game plan too, but (Robinson) is a special player and he made three big plays for them. But our offense took over and Raen is back and healthy, although he needs to hold on to the football. You can’t give a team like South extra chances.”

The Rebels finished the game with 327 yards rushing and 339 yards total, with Robinson accounting for 235 of them on just three runs.

Fort Hill got on the board first when Brown scored on a seven-yard sweep to conclude a five-play, 43-yard scoring drive. Robinson, then running 78 yards through the center of a wide open Fort Hill secondary, made it 7-6 at 7:06 of the first.

Fort Hill countered with a nine-play, 76-yard scoring drive, with Poling going over the right side at 3:54, then opened some breathing room on its next possession when Graves flipped a play-action pass to Brown, who showed the most blazing burst of speed to complete the 62-yard touchdown play to make it 20-6 at 11:13 of the second.

South, however, countered with a six-play drive with quarterback T.J. Peer going in from two yards out to make it 20-13. Back came Fort Hill, though, with a nine-play scoring drive covering 62 yards, with Brown hitting the left corner for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the three to make it 26-13 at the half.

After a stop to open the second half, a four-play, 40-yard drive was capped by Graves, who had success all night faking to Smith and following him through the hole. Graves’ touchdown covered six yards at 9:24 and the Sentinels were about to assert control.

Until, that is, Robinson burst through the middle again for 80 yards and another South touchdown.

Unfazed, the Sentinels marched 74 yards on eight plays, this time with Brown taking a pitch to his right from the Rebel eight, then bouncing back to his left and exploding into the end zone with a stiff arm, with Smith’s run for two points making it 40-20 at 4:57 of the third.

Neither was the Rebels’ Robinson fazed, as he picked up three yards on first down from the 20, then went 77 yards on second to bring South to within 40-26 with 4:15 in the third.

But it was here that Fort Hill took over for good, finishing a third quarter in which it had a 9:56 to 2:04 advantage in time of possession, and beginning a fourth quarter with a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive to seal the deal with Lennon Squires under center after Graves had to leave the game with cramps at 1:39 of the fourth.

At 10:09 of the fourth, Smith, on his sixth carry of the drive, got his touchdown on a six-yard run and Austin Farrell’s kick put the eventual final at 47-26.

“I was very pleased with how we finished,” said Appel, “and I was particularly pleased with Lennon Squires taking over when?Graves went out. Lennon went in and made sure our offense was run correctly, and he did a good job running the clock. “Lennon did a great job for us.”