Mountain Ridge beats Fort Hill for first time, 27-20

Mar 13, 2021
Kyle Bennett

CUMBERLAND — In order to beat Fort Hill, you have to match its physicality at the line of scrimmage. Head coach Ryan Patterson emphasized it, and his players executed the game plan to perfection as the Miners defeated the Sentinels, 27-20, on Friday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium for the first victory against Fort Hill in Mountain Ridge football history.

“You’ve got to match their physicality,” Patterson said of the offensive and defensive line play. “That’s well-known. It doesn’t matter if it’s their varsity or JV, doesn’t matter if it’s 1950 or 2021. It doesn’t matter. You have to match their physicality if you think you’re going to be in a game with them.”

Bryce Snyder, like last week in a 28-14 win over Allegany, passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another, going 5 for 15 for 128 yards with 13 carries for 71 yards, a team-high.

“They just really played all-out today,” Snyder said of his offensive line. “They gave it everything they got from the first whistle to the last. I just can’t thank them enough for that and I can’t thank our coaches enough for preparing us to win this game tonight.”

Jeff McKenzie added 68 yards toward Mountain Ridge’s 169 rushing yards.

“They played insanely good today,” McKenzie said of his offensive line. “They’re banging heads Monday through Thursday, it don’t matter if it’s pregame (practices) or not, they’re banging heads getting ready for the game. I just can’t thank them enough. I might have to get them some doughnuts or something.”

“Our offensive line was blocking lights out tonight,” added Jaden Lee, who rushed four times for 24 yards. “We had all the time in the world and they did great tonight.”

It was the Miners’ first win against Fort Hill in 15 tries and, dating prior to the consolidation of Mountain Ridge, it’s the first-ever win at Greenway Avenue Stadium against the Sentinels. Beall was 2-25 all-time against Fort Hill, winning 28-12 in 2005 and 14-8 in 1970 in Frostburg, while Westmar, Bruce and Valley never played Fort Hill.

The win avenges a 31-6 defeat to the Sentinels on Halloween before fall sports were postponed due to COVID.

“Exhausting to be honest with you,” Patterson said. He was part of the coaching staff when Beall beat the Sentinels in 2005.

“The difference was that Mountain Ridge came ready to play and we were a little bit slow to the ball,” said first-year Fort Hill head coach Zack Alkire. “They came out with a lot of fire.

“I told the kids in the pregame that this was going to be their Super Bowl. They’d never beaten a Fort Hill team before. They’re going to be ready to play. They had some confidence that they played well the first time. There was a couple of breaks that we had went our way. I knew they were going to be ready to play and that was the case.”

After the teams traded punts, Fort Hill took over at its own 21 with 9:17 to play, resulting in a drive that ultimately took 12 plays and ate 7:42 off the clock. The Sentinels had three first downs, but gained a net of just eight yards, as two false starts and a clipping penalty led to a loss of 12 and a fumble recovery by Mountain Ridge’s Peyton Miller at the Sentinels’ 29-yard-line.

Mountain Ridge made them pay, with Snyder finding Lee up the left side for a gain of 24. After a 1-yard run by Jay Miller on first down, Snyder faked a handoff and pitched it out left to McKenzie, who reached the end zone untouched from 4 yards out for a 7-0 lead after Ashton Shimko’s point-after try with 56 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Fort Hill answered when Blake White took a handoff up the middle, going through the first line of the defense and shaking off a would-be tackler in the secondary before winning the foot race to the goal line for a 65-yard touchdown. Rob Bower’s PAT at 7:24 tied it at 7-7.

Patterson called a timeout with 34 seconds left before the half and the Miners took advantage of a bad snap, tackling the Fort Hill punter at the 5-yard-line for a turnover on downs.

It took one play for Mountain Ridge to get back in front, as Lee snuck across the line of scrimmage and Snyder waited patiently for the Miners’ sophomore Swiss Army knife to gain some separation, lobbing the ball to Lee for a 5-yard score. Shimko’s PAT with 25 seconds left gave Mountain Ridge a 14-7 halftime lead.

The time of possession on Mountain Ridge’s two first-half scoring drives was just 44 seconds.

“We like to think we’re a quick-strike offense,” said Patterson. “We get a turnover like that (before the first touchdown) and we’re usually going to try to go up top and, on that sudden change, make a big play. We got athletes and anybody that has seen us play knows we have athletes.”

The Miners started the second half at their own 37, with a gutsy play call on fourth-and-inches gave them a first down after a 1-yard run by Miller.

Following two short-yardage plays, it was next-man-up for Mountain Ridge, as Shimko darted across the middle on third-and-8 and hauled in a pass for the first down, breaking free from the secondary and up the left sideline for a 51-yard touchdown. Shimko kicked the PAT to make it 21-7 Mountain Ridge at the 9:08 mark.

“There’s not many of us,” Patterson said of his team’s roster size. “The guys we have, we love ‘em, right from the top dog down to the last guy. Everybody practices hard and that’s a key. Starting this week, we were a little bit rusty here and there, but we really went hard at it on Wednesday and I think that was a big key.”

“That’s when I don’t want to say we discovered Shimko, but I think when he saw Nathaniel Washington get hurt, he thought, ‘That might be my opportunity to help this offense too. Not only am I not going to be a big kicker, but I’m going to help this offense any way I can.’ And that’s the selflessness of this team and that’s what we love about them. We’re so young and we love it for the seniors too.”

Mountain Ridge extended its lead to 20 on a three-play drive — McKenzie breaking free for a 37-yard gain, Lee gaining 11 up the right side and Snyder capping it off with a 20-yard touchdown run. The PAT was no good, giving the Miners a 27-7 advantage at 3:53 in the third quarter.

The Sentinels responded five plays later when Bryce Schadt found Malakai Webb in behind the secondary for a 58-yard strike with 2:02 left in the third, putting the score at 27-13 after a missed PAT.

Fort Hill recovered two fumbles, Mountain Ridge’s only turnovers, in the fourth quarter. The Sentinels marched down the field after the first one, but a pass on fourth-and-goal from the 5 was broken up in the end zone.

Three plays later, White recovered a Miners fumble at the Mountain Ridge 15 and Paxton Wertz scored on a 6-yard plunge with 4:45 left and a 27-20 deficit following Bower’s PAT.

White finished as the Sentinels’ leading rusher with 120 yards on 11 carries. A knee injury limited Breven Stubbs to four carries for 7 yards.

“Breven’s had some knee issues and he’s been out of practice, for the most part, this week,” said Alkire. “He just wasn’t ready to go 100 percent. Hopefully he gets back out there next week and he gets the reps that he needs to play.”

Schadt entered the game in relief at quarterback, finishing 2 of 5 for 80 yards with Allan Stevenson completing 2 of 3 passes for 20 yards.

“Bryce throws a really good ball,” Alkire said. “Bryce has been giving us much better reps this spring. He’s really opened (things) up for us. Now if we could just get everybody else on board, we’ll be OK.”

The Miners were able to ice the game on the drive following the Wertz touchdown. Coming out of a timeout, Fort Hill’s second of the half, Snyder faked a handoff to Miller before finding Lee over the top for a 28-yard gain.

The Sentinels used their final timeout on the next play at 3:54 after a loss of 2. Snyder then ran for 6 and 4 yards to set up a fourth-and-2 at the Fort Hill 34, where Patterson called a timeout at 2:20. Snyder was able to use the hard count to draw Fort Hill offsides for the first down.

Lee then ran 10 yards for a first down with a Sentinel facemask penalty tacked on, and Snyder kneeled twice to seal the victory.

When asked how long he’ll let his team enjoy the win, Patterson joked, “‘Til Monday. We’re going to watch a little film on Monday. We’re going to take it a little bit easy this week. I’m sure we have some bumps and bruises.”

The Miners have a bye next week before hosting Allegany on March 26.

Fort Hill hosts Allegany on Friday at 5 p.m.




Mountain Ridge quarterback Bryce Snyder rolls to his right looking for an open receiver during the first half of the Miners’ 27-20 victory over Fort Hill Friday evening at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
PHOTO: Steve Bittner/Times-News