passes over Fort Hill
Sep 27, 2019
CUMBERLAND — Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. For the Fort Hill Sentinels, that other beginning’s end came on Thursday night as the Sentinels fell in their home opener to Cathedral Prep, 48-14, ending their 16-game win streak in a battle of defending state champions.
The Sentinels, the 2018 Maryland Class 1A state champion, fall to 3-1, while three-time defending Pennsylvania Class AAAA champion Cathedral Prep improves to 4-2.
The Ramblers, of Erie, Pennsylvania, left for Cumberland and made the four-hour drive early Thursday morning — with a stop at Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh, a pitstop necessary for any western Pennsylvanian during a road trip — and if the long day of travel slowed down Cathedral Prep, it only took one drive to get it out of its system as it racked up 499 yards of offense, including 356 off the arm of quarterback Collin Johnson.
“Our thing was stop 10 (Luke Sittinger) because 10 is a tremendous running back,” said Fort Hill head coach Todd Appel. “They went to the pass and just outmatched us athlete for athlete and that was the difference in the game, I thought. Our kids fought and we take what we got, and we battled with a good Cathedral Prep team who has a good program and can recruit. I’m very proud of our kids with the way they fought all the way through it, I can’t say much more about that.
“I know there was a big crowd because this is kind of what some people wanted — to see us go down. I told the radio that they don’t know our kids as names and people — they just know us as the Fort Hill football team, and they’re rooting against (the kids) because that’s what they do. But I’m thankful that these kids battled. And I think later on down the road, it’s going to be a benefit to them.”
After forcing a turnover on downs on Fort Hill’s opening drive, the Ramblers went three-and-out on its first drive. But the Cathedral Prep defense held the Sentinels to a three-and-out on their ensuing drive, and the Ramblers immediately showed that they can score from anywhere on the field.
A penalty on the first play set the Ramblers back five yards, but two plays later, on a broken play, Johnson found Jaelen Carson all alone on the sideline, connecting on a strike that was initially good for 10 yards. But, Carson was able to beat the first defender, then cut back to the middle of the field and split a pair of Fort Hill defenders before getting into the end zone for a 38-yard score. Cole Constable converted the point-after try at the 4:20 mark to give the Ramblers a 7-0 lead.
The Sentinels didn’t let the Ramblers enjoy it for long, however, as Fort Hill started on its own 31 and needed just one play to tie the game at seven apiece. Breven Stubbs took the handoff and found a hole off the left side of the Fort Hill offensive line and found the edge, racing 69 yards up the sideline for a score. En route to the end zone, Stubbs was aided by a great block by Andrew Smith, blocking one Rambler and clogging up the lane to Stubbs of another defender, allowing the sophomore tailback to outrun the secondary. Danny King converted the PAT with 4:03 remaining.
The Ramblers re-took the lead on their next drive, giving the packed Greenway Avenue Stadium a vibe that the night was going to be much like the shootout the Sentinels had with Florida’s Melbourne Central Catholic two seasons ago, which Fort Hill won 44-42.
On the ensuing drive, Cathedral Prep went 80 yards on seven plays — including 19- and 13-yard runs by Sittinger and a 23-yard pass from Johnson to Jack Oedekoven — and capped off the drive with another touchdown pass from Johnson to Carson, this one from 20 yards out. Constable booted the extra-point, giving the Ramblers a 14-7 lead with 2:10 to play in the opening quarter.
The Sentinels had positive yardage on their first three plays from scrimmage on the ensuing drive — a 13-yard pass from King to Alijah Metz, an 11-yard gain to Colby Santmyire on a wheel route and a five-yard run by Carson Snyder. The snap was fumbled on second-and-5 as the drive carried over into the second quarter.
On the first play of the second stanza, King scrambled out of the pocket and threw a pass on the run toward a wide open Stubbs at the front of the end zone, but Stubbs was unable to come back and make the one-handed grab. King attempted a 56-yard field goal on fourth down that fell short of the mark.
From there, it was all Ramblers on the scoreboard.
Five plays after the missed field goal, Johnson hit Oedekoven on a 59-yard score. The PAT was no good, moving the score to 20-7 with 10:07 before the half.
The Ramblers forced a three-and-out on Fort Hill’s ensuing drive and took three plays to score, as Johnson connected with Carson on a 39-yard touchdown.
The Sentinels next drive bled nearly five minutes off of the clock, a 13-play march that was capped off with a three-yard touchdown run by Snyder 44 seconds before the break. King booted the PAT, making it 27-14 in favor of Cathedral Prep, who was set to receive the second-half kickoff.
The Ramblers went for it, trying to negate the Fort Hill score before halftime.
Johnson hit Oedekoven on a 40-yard pass, then Jordan Adams on a 16 yarder before throwing his fourth touchdown pass to Carson on a 24-yard catch-and-run with 21 ticks before halftime, giving Cathedral Prep a 34-14 halftime lead.
The Ramblers scored on their opening drive of the second half, a three-yard pass from Johnson to Oedekoven, and put the score at its final when Sittinger scored on a one-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Cathedral Prep outgained the Sentinels, 499-345. Johnson finished 15 of 20 through the air for 356 yards and six touchdowns. Carson recorded eight catches for 175 yards, Oedekoven had six receptions for 165 yards and Sittinger had 19 of the Ramblers’ 26 carries for 109 of their 143 rushing yards.
Stubbs led the Sentinels on the ground, where they racked up 295 yards, with seven rushes for 83 yards. Snyder added 63 yards on 15 carries. King was 3 of 5 passing for 50 yards, with Santmyire hauling in a pair of passes for 37 yards, including a 26-yard gain on the Sentinels’ first play of the game, to go along with nine carries for 39 yards.
“Don’t get me wrong — we don’t like to be good losers,” said Appel. “We have class kids who battle and don’t make it a personal battle when something like this happens. And I know that, and this is a strong word, but there’s some hate out there towards us. I was really proud of the way they just played and did their best to play against a team that was super athletic and physical.”
For the Sentinels, their new beginning comes next Friday night when they travel to Hedgesville, 7 p.m., for their final road game of the regular season before closing out the schedule at home four weeks straight. Cathedral Prep plays fellow Erie, Pennsylvania, school McDowell next Friday on the road.