Heavy-hearted Sentinels top Allegany in Homecoming, 42-6
Oct 31, 2021
CUMBERLAND — In order to win Homecoming, you have to have a near-perfect game plan. No. 1 Fort Hill’s defensive game plan was about as perfect as can be, leaving the offense with not very far to go, as the heavy-hearted Sentinels topped No. 3 Allegany on Saturday in Homecoming, 42-6.
It was an unfathomable 48 hours for the Sentinels, who lost one of their own on Thursday afternoon when Saiquan Jenkins was stabbed and killed a mere couple hundred yards from Greenway Avenue Stadium.
With Jenkins in their hearts and on their minds, the Fort Hill players showed the heart of a champion, out gaining Allegany 289-123 and racking up 28 points in the second quarter.
“It’s an extremely bittersweet feeling right now,” said Fort Hill head coach Zack Alkire. “You’ve got all these feelings of joy, but at the same time we can’t forget about the loss that we experienced on Thursday.
“The great part about it is this is the first time that we saw a lot of these kids smile. We saw it at halftime. The kids were smiling, they were so happy to be up 28 points. And then we came out in the third quarter with probably a little less focus than we should have. But we ended up getting the win. It’s really great to see these kids smiling again. This is part of the healing process.”
The Campers, meanwhile, were unable to get out of their own way. Their first five drives went interception, interception, blocked punt, fumble and fumble.
“Our defense responded well, they did well with the game plan,” Allegany head coach Bryan Hansel said. “We just left them on the field the whole time.”
Thanks to a blocked punt and a 10-yard run by Breven Stubbs — who picked up the loose ball after Tanner Wertz blocked the punt — on the last play of the first quarter, the Sentinels started the second on first-and-goal from the Allegany 5.
With an empty backfield on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard-line, Tavin Willis took the handoff on a jet sweep out of the slot from the right side, following his blockers into the end zone for the opening score. Jacob Tichnell booted the point-after try for a 7-0 lead at 9:38. Tichnell finished 6 for 6 on PATs.
“They had a nice wrinkle when they went empty,” Hansel said of Fort Hill’s opening score. “That’s something we have to address since teams will see that and try to emulate it against us in the future.”
Less than a minute later, TJ Lee came up big as he and a slew of Sentinels swarmed the ball like junkyard dogs, and Lee forced a fumble deep in Allegany territory with Carter Hess recovering at the Alco 10.
“I felt like I could’ve done better, but first week playing a different position than I’ve played all year, I felt like I did pretty good at it for as short as I’ve worked on it,” said Blake White, who was in on the play that caused the fumble. “Our defensive line makes things way easy, especially playing middle linebacker, it’s easy. You only have to worry about your gap and your gap only. They’ll take care of the rest.”
Exactly a minute after the Sentinels’ first score, they doubled their lead as quarterback Bryce Schadt rolled right and got a great block on the edge by Isaiah Campbell to get into the end zone.
The turnovers didn’t stop there for the Campers, as they coughed the ball up again on the second play from scrimmage, with Lee recovering the fumble at the Allegany 21.
The Fort Hill drive went nowhere quick, as Tichnell trotted out to attempt a 36-yard field goal. Alkire had other plans, however, as the Sentinels faked it. Holder and backup quarterback Lance Bender picked up the snap and rolled right, finding Wertz in behind the coverage for a 16-yard gain to the Allegany 3.
“My mind was made the extra point before that we were going to fake the next extra point,” said Alkire. “We were not expecting it to be a field goal. But I also thought that the situation we were in, it was a good spot to do that. Jacob did a great job with the kick fake, Lance did a good job with getting the ball, spinning out and hitting the open target.”
“I knew Quan was with me,” said Bender, who was named game MVP by the Great American Rivalry Series. “I wasn’t really thinking about anything else. I knew Tanner had the out route. I didn’t see him break. I just saw one white jersey and then all this blue running at me, so I just put it where Tanner could get it and that was about it.”
Fort Hill capitalized two plays later, with a one-yard TD run by Stubbs making it 21-0 and three scores for the Sentinels in a 3:16 span.
The ensuing Allegany drive ended with a turnover on downs near midfield, and the Sentinels made it a four-score game before halftime as Schadt hit Stubbs for a 36-yard touchdown pass 37 seconds before the break.
“He continues to do things every week that just blows our minds,” Alkire said of Schadt. “There were times out there today where, for whatever reason, we didn’t get the play call in. He improvised and just made plays.”
Schadt finished 7 of 9 for 72 yards with four carries for 44 yards, en route to being voted Offensive Player of the Game.
“I’m lost for words right now,” Schadt said. “The offensive line played really good today. They put us in a great position to win.”
Although the Sentinels turned the ball over via fumbles on their first two second-half drives, with recoveries by Trevor Milburn and Brett Patterson, they used two fourth-quarter scores to put the game away. White scored on a 12-yard run and Bender added a one-yard run to put the score at its final with 2:10 remaining.
Fort Hill kept Allegany pinned in its own half of the field for just about all of the first half. The only first-half play that reached the Sentinels’ side of the 50 was a two-yard run on fourth-and-four from midfield prior to Stubbs’ 36-yard touchdown catch.
“They’ve shown up all year long,” Alkire said of his defense. “They’ve been lights out. There’s a whole collection of kids that have been a part of it all season, Quan being one of those guys. Quan was a starter, he was going to be our starter at safety this week. We prepared for two weeks with Quan back there and Malakai Metz stepped in and played a great game.”
Anthony Palmisano ended Allegany’s first two drives with interceptions, en route to being voted Defensive Player of the Game.
“Stop them on defense and just get the ball back and score,” Palmisano said of the group’s defensive game plan. “We got interceptions, fumbles, blocked punts. All around we did good.”
White was the leading rusher for the Sentinels, toting the ball six times for 50 yards. Stubbs added 42 yards on nine carries and Willis had 10 rushes for 32 yards.
Allegany’s lone score came on a 12-play, 86-yard drive that was capped off with a 10-yard TD run by Brayden Hedrick.
The Campers will have the No. 3 seed in Class 1A West and will likely host Southern in the first round of the playoffs, which begin Friday.
With the win, Fort Hill (8-0) clinches the top spot in the Class 1A West Region and the overall top seed as well and will likely have a bye in the opening round.
“We started the day with breakfast out at the makeshift memorial for Quan out in the oval in front of the school,” Alkire said. “I was able to hold myself together throughout the morning. But when we came down the steps for pregame for warmup, they were so loud, they were so crisp, they were so focused. I had a really difficult time. It was just great to see them come out here and really turn it on for Quan.”