The plan's simple; the execution difficult

Nov 15, 2018
Mike Mathews

Here’s the game plan for anyone interested in beating Fort Hill on the football field:

• Make zero mistakes;

• Win the field position game, substantially, from start to finish;

• Don’t make them mad;

• Keep fingers crossed and rabbit’s foot in hand.

Maybe a team could pull it off with three of the four. But so far, no one’s done it. They’re 0 for 10.

What is there to say about a team that is averaging 43 points and giving up seven per game? Or one that has outscored its last three opponents 153-8? Or one that has scored 261 points in its last five games?

Or one whose kicker has scored more points (71) than the defense has allowed (70) — 10 weeks into the season.

Seems like only yesterday when the teams and most of the fans were running for safety and the exits as a thunderstorm and lightning ruled the Friday night season opener against Loyola Blakefield.

Since then the Sentinels have done what head coach Todd Appel has always preached: get better every week.

Friday night’s playoff opener against Southern, especially the first half, will be awfully difficult to beat.

It took two plays to get on the scoreboard — a 44-yard kickoff return and a 31-yard touchdown run by Braeden Askins — and by the time Fort Hill had run four offensive plays from scrimmage it was 21-0.

It was 24-0 after the first quarter and 31-0 five seconds into the second. It was 45-0 when Southern got its first first down, 31 seconds before halftime.

The offense scored six touchdowns. The defense scored a touchdown (Carter Swan tipped pass; Colten Crabtree interception return) and the special teams (Davian Little punt return) scored a touchdown in the 59-8 victory.

And don’t forget, this Southern team was no slouch. Hardly. A second straight eight-win season, and the product of plenty of hard work, sacrifice and teamwork. A program that was on the ropes only a few years ago is 16-6 the last two seasons, and the future remains bright.

But the final margin Friday night could have almost been predicted when Fort Hill kept getting short fields on offense.

Fort Hill started its six first-half possessions, in order, at the Southern 31, Southern 19, Southern 20, Southern 39, Southern 44 and at midfield. That’s an average starting point of the Southern 34.

If that wasn’t tough enough, because of kicker Danny King, Southern’s first-half possessions — all seven of them — started at the Southern 20. In fact, the Rams had 10 possessions in the game, and each one started at their own 20.

Give Fort Hill a short field and put the opponent 80 yards from its end zone all night and there’s a pretty predictable outcome.
The plan's simple; the execution difficult

Fort Hill's Wyatt Brehm (1) had four sacks in Friday night's 59-8 win over Southern in their Class 1A West Region semifinal at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
Steve Bittner/Times-News

Was there a bit of extra motivation to win Friday night, after having won at Southern 16-9 on a touchdown in the final seconds a few weeks earlier?

“You’d have to ask the kids that. Did we say some things in our lineman meeting, about putting it all on the field, and about how things outside of our immediate family don’t matter?” Appel said. “And how if they accuse you of something, there’s nothing they can take away from you on the field?

“We did say those things before the game. I have to be honest and admit that. But we didn’t say a lot of it.”

The giant elephant in the room, er, stadium, was the allegation Southern had made after the regular-season game about Fort Hill using communication devices in helmets. It was a charge that the MPSSAA investigated and voted 6-0 in Fort Hill’s favor, citing insufficient evidence.

“Those people need to be held accountable. Anybody that did that, especially those who know our football coaches, know me and know our players, they would know that’s 100 percent not true,” said Appel.

Meanwhile, Wyatt Brehm became a household name Friday night. A one-man wrecking ball, he had four quarterback sacks — two on consecutive plays in the first quarter and two in a span of three plays early in the third — for losses of 22 yards.

The Fort Hill line dominated again. Southern had 29 yards and two first downs through three quarters.

“Our D-line, we call ourselves D-Line Nation. It’s just a brotherhood out there,” Brehm said. “We don’t play for anyone other than each other, and the man next to you.

“We came out and played the way we usually play. I think we’ll be fine,” he said about going forward in the playoffs. “We just keep getting better and better, and hopefully we peak right at states.”

Next man up, or team up, is Catoctin, Friday night at Greenway. Fort Hill and Catoctin have one common opponent: Southern. The Cougars, who are 10-1, beat the Rams 28-27 the second week of the regular season.