Sentinels put it all on the line and delivered

by Mike Mathews
Nov. 4, 2017

Homecoming games can be deciphered, picked apart and critiqued in many ways. Always have been, I suppose.

But the 43rd one might not be able to be summed up any better than this:

• Fort Hill didn’t punt the football.

• Fort Hill didn’t pass the football.

• Fort Hill set a record for most points scored.

It was won, again, in the trenches. Allegany’s quick punch to the belly with a touchdown in the opening minutes had no effect. Didn’t even faze them.

“We just had to settle in. Once we settled in we got on a roll and did great. We didn’t really make any adjustments. We just got our coverages mixed up,” senior Brayden Poling said of the TD that gave Allegany a 7-0 lead five minutes into the game. “Once we got them set, we were locked down.

“I wasn’t surprised they scored early. They’ve got great running backs and a great line. It was a dogfight all day.”

The dogfight went to the same dog for the 10th straight year. It’s the longest winning streak in the series but not the longest unbeaten streak. That goes to the Fort Hill teams of 1946 to 1958 that went 12-0-2.

Fort Hill’s Todd Appel is 10-0 in Homecoming games as a head coach.

“I don’t really count them. I don’t. I try to help them win football games,” he said. “That’s all. It’s not about records or streaks or anything like that.”

There wasn’t an official Offensive Player of the Game announced. But there could be many nominations, and there were four 100-yard rushers in the game, which is likely another Homecoming record.

But one ballot is in, and it says: Kaleb Harden, Gabe Logsdon, Rashaan Haines, Connor Brode, Shakur Trimble, Colton Wilhelm, Keegan Miller and Luke Hamilton. The Fort Hill line and ends.

How else can one explain how a team sets Homecoming offensive records without throwing a single pass?

Fort Hill, down 7-0, simply lined up and played smash-mouth football all day. They were going to run the football. And it didn’t matter that everybody knew they were going to run the football.

“We knew we had it in us,’’ said Logsdon, a towering 6-foot-8, 253-pound tackle. “We might get down sometimes, but it’s always in the back of our heads that we’ll get it started again. I think our line played great. Our double teams were good and our execution was really good.”

They ran it five times for 131 yards in the first quarter. Fourteen times for 153 yards in the second. Twelve times for 74 yards in the third, and 13 times for 132 yards in the fourth.

For the game, it was 44 times for 490 yards, an average of 11 yards per carry.

“We executed really well,” said Haines. “We pushed them off the ball and were physical. I was really impressed with our line play today. It was the key, because without the blocking, you can’t score, so,” he said facing the scoreboard, “I think we did really good.”

Of the 44 runs, 18 went for 10 or more yards. Six went for 20 or more. Only three went for negative yardage.

It was a powerful display by the offensive line, especially blocks on the corners by Harden and Hamilton, who said he’d rather deliver the big block more than anything else on a football field.

“There’s not a better feeling than doing that ... attacking the edge for Troy Banks and letting him walk into the end zone,” he said.

“I think the big difference was how we prepared this week. The intensity that we came out with on Monday and how we hit the sleds and how we attacked practice every day,” Hamilton added. “It showed in how this game turned out for us.”

There were touchdown drives that lasted 18 seconds, 47 seconds, 61 seconds and 78 seconds.

“The big key ... I just think it was all the emotion we had built up,” said Harden. “They’re a really good football team and we just knew we had to come out here and play hard from the start. I feel we did start wearing them down, but they still kept coming at us with their best, so I have to give them credit for that.”

A bruising second quarter that included three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries led to a 35-7 halftime lead. And Fort Hill received the second-half kickoff and went 80 yards in 12 plays that ate up 5:15. Banks ran seven times for 42 of the yards. On back-to-back plays, Banks ran for 22 yards and Powell 18.

“We knew going in that we had really good tight ends. We used three tight end formations and ran off tackle for the most part,” said Appel. “Our kids did a good job picking up linebackers and kicking and doubling down and running up in.”

In the end, it was another Sentinels win. They made it a decade with a 10th straight win.

“It was great. There’s no other way you’d want it to be,” said Poling, a four-year starter and one of 22 Fort Hill seniors. “It’s great to win this game four times. I wouldn’t want to play for any other team. With such tradition that we have here. It’s just amazing.”

Top-seeded Fort Hill begins defense of its state championship Friday, at 7 p.m., at Greenway against fourth-seeded Southern in a Class 1A West Region semifinal. Second-seeded Allegany hosts third-seeded Boonsboro on Saturday afternoon at Greenway.