by Kyle Bennett
CUMBERLAND — Fort Hill’s Saturday afternoon was all about perfect timing, from prompt blocks up the right side by 6-foot-8, 253-pound Gabe Logsdon and Rashaan Haines (5-8, 246), to slowing down Allegany’s trio of backfield stars in Karson Robinette, Elisha Llewellyn and R.J. Buford on third-down runs, to getting its business wrapped up just before the rain showers swept over Greenway Avenue Stadium.
Along the way, the Sentinels never punted. They never attempted a pass. They never faced a fourth down. They were 4 for 4 on third downs. They had three players run for over 100 yards and ran for 490 as a team.
In the end, the result was perfect for Fort Hill, as it collected a 56-21 win over city rivals Allegany in the Homecoming game.
Sure, the offense put up 56 points, but Fort Hill was so fierce on defense that Allegany’s third down plays needed, on average, a little over 13 yards (13.1) to get a first down.
“We worked on setting the tone a lot in practice,” said linebacker Carter Swan. “As we work in practice, I had my keys to go to, Keegan (Miller) had his keys to go to. We always went to the slot, and every time Keegan went out (to defend) on a passing route, I just split and tried to do the best I could.”
The Big Red defense was stout throughout, led by Swan, Miller and co., as they held the Campers to a 25 percent conversion rate on third downs (2 for 8) compared to the Sentinels 100 percent rate on third down (4 for 4).
On both Allegany third-down conversions, the Sentinels shot themselves in the foot with penalties. A pass interference call on a third-and-8 with around four and a half minutes to go in the first quarter gave Allegany an automatic first down. Then, a personal foul penalty on the Campers’ fifth drive was tacked on on top of a 13-yard run by Buford to give Allegany a first down on a third-and-24.
The six third downs that Fort Hill stopped the Campers on? Runs of 1 and 3 yards by Robinette on a third-and-2 and third-and-8, respectively, on Allegany’s opening drive; a pair of incomplete passes on third-and-15 and third-and-27 later in the first half and runs of 4 and 2 yards by Llewellyn on a third-and-17 and third-and-4.
“What we tried to do every time is stop the first run,” said Swan, “because after we stop the first run, all they had to do was pass, and they can’t pass on us.”
Swan, who finished with a game-high 11 tackles (five solos, six assists) and a tackle for loss, was right. The Campers went 1 for 7 through the air, with their only completion being their first pass attempt, a 35-yard touchdown strike from Cameron Bratton to Llewellyn.
It all started up front on first and second downs, with the likes of Luke Hamilton, Kaleb Harden, Braeden Smith and Shakur Trimble setting up those long third down tries.
“They make my job 10 times easier,” said Miller, who finished with two solo tackles and five assists. “I know they have my back when I go in coverage. I know that the quarterback is getting rushed. So I know there’s going to be a crazy ball thrown in the air, so it helps me out a lot.”
Running back Tyreke Powell said, “When you got boys like Luke Hamilton, Kaleb Harden, Braeden Smith, Shakur Trimble, it’s hard to get around them. It’s hard to block them. They just power through and tackle whoever they see with the ball. They’re some big boys.”
Hamilton finished with six tackles (one solo, five assists), one sack, two assisted tackles for loss and a forced fumble, which was recovered by Swan.
Harden added two solo tackles, seven assisted tackles (two for loss), 1 1/2 sacks and a fumble recovery with just over three minutes remaining before halftime.
Smith picked up three solos and four assists and Trimble had four assisted tackles (one for loss) and 1 1/2 sacks.
The win is the Sentinels’ 10th consecutive Homecoming victory and 11th straight over the Campers.
When asked what this game meant to the Fort Hill football program, Miller responded, “Just keeping the tradition I think.”
“I’m glad we won,” said Swan, “and I got to do it again next year.”
Some other tidbits from the Homecoming game:
Powell, Troy Banks and quarterback Logan Johnson led the way on offense, accounting for all seven Sentinel scores and 453 of their 490 rushing yards. Powell had 11 carries for 187 yards and a touchdown run of 39 yards to put the score at its final with 2:30 to play.
“It feels great,” said Powell. “Winning a big game with my team, we’re brothers. It’s a brotherhood around here.
“If you read our pants, it says ‘family.’ That’s what it’s all about — working together as one big team.”
“It’s wonderful,” said Banks. “I’m trying to do everything I can to help my team win the game.”
Banks did just that — and more — as the bell-cow running back carried the ball 21 times for 162 yards and three scores (3-, 10- and 18-yard runs).
Powell was just as complimentary to Banks in post-game interviews as he was complementary to Banks during the game.
“Troy runs hard,” said Powell. “He finds the holes and has vision for days. If the hole’s left, he goes left. If the hole’s right, he goes right. He sees everything. The hole might be left and he’s forced to go right, but he may still get 20 yards. ... He’s just a great player.”
Johnson was an added bit of spark, as he averaged 20.8 yards per carry (five runs for 104 yards) for three touchdowns (runs of 58, 1 and 27 yards).
“It’s pretty amazing,” said the senior playcaller. “I never expected it. It’s just kind of something that happened.
“We ran the right plays at the right time, and that’s just how it went. I’ve never had three rushing touchdowns in a game before. Before this game, I’d actually only ever rushed for one, so it’s an improvement in that regard no matter what.”
Powell, Banks and Johnson feasted on holes created up the right side by Logsdon, Haines and co.
“We seen a little bit of it,” noted Powell on the Sentinels spotting those openings early on. “It’s just that, no matter which way we’re going, our offensive line blocks hard. They find the right guy, get on ‘em and just keep going, driving them down the field.”
Fort Hill efficiency
The Sentinels scored on all eight of their possessions.
Four of the Sentinels’ first five drives were four plays or less, including three that were two plays.
Fourth down conversions
As unsuccessful as the Campers were on third downs, they converted 3 of 4 fourth-down attempts, two of which resulted in Llewellyn’s touchdowns. The other was a 1-yard plunge by Robinette on Allegany’s opening drive.
Between the scores
Between Llewellyn’s 35-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter and his 6-yard scoring dash in the third, the Sentinels held Allegany to 63 total yards over 30 minutes and 55 seconds.
Fort Hill: Finishes as the top seed in Maryland Class 1A West Region and plays No. 4 Southern at Greenway Avenue Stadium on Friday evening. The Sentinels played the Rams’ Garrett County rival Northern in last year’s region semifinals.
Allegany: Finishes as the No. 2 seed and will host third seed Boonsboro on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last year’s region semifinals.