Near-perfect performance sends Fort Hill past Joppatowne, 54-0
Nov 20, 2021
CUMBERLAND, Md. — Fort Hill couldn’t have asked for a much better first half on Friday night.
The No. 1 Sentinels only had the ball for 2:39 and nine offensive plays, yet led 42-0 at halftime. In doing so, they got one step closer to the state final by routing No. 8 Joppatowne, 54-0, at Greenway Avenue Stadium in the state quarterfinals.
Blake White and Tavin Willis combined for 257 of Fort Hill’s 335 yards of offense with four touchdowns out of five on the ground. The Sentinels added a passing touchdown, a defensive score and a TD on special teams.
“I remember telling Blake, Tavin, Brev (Breven Stubbs), all the running backs ‘Hey, this is going to be a game where we’re going to be able to put up some numbers,’” said Fort Hill head coach Zack Alkire. “We thought we could take advantage of some of the things they did defensively and we never really got around to doing that because our defense was so dominant, making big plays, scoring touchdowns on their own right. So to score 42 points and running nine plays, that’s awesome.”
The Sentinel defense controlled the night, forcing a pair of turnovers and holding Joppatowne to 93 yards. The Mariners were 1 for 13 on third downs and averaged 12.8 yards to go.
Fort Hill forced a punt on the Mariners’ opening drive, with Stubbs blocking the kick and Tanner Wertz scooping it up and returning it 15 yards for a score. Fort Hill led 7-0 at 9:01 following Jacob Tichnell’s point-after try — Tichnell was 6 of 7 on PATs, with the lone miss being blocked.
The Sentinel offense finally got the ball at the 6:42 mark and didn’t keep it for long, as Willis gained 11 yards on first down before scoring on a 27-yard run on the next play at 6:03.
Fort Hill forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive and took over at its own 34. One play later, Willis got the handoff and bolted up the left side behind a trio of blockers before getting into the end zone untouched on a 66-yard scamper at 4:02.
Both of Willis’ touchdowns, plus the 11-yard run, came on the same play call, with Willis lining up on the right side of the line, going in motion behind quarterback Bryce Schadt and taking the handoff up the left side.
“If it keeps working, keep going with it,” said Alkire. “We do the same thing with Blake. When it’s the halfback’s turn and they’re doing big things, we have to do the same thing with them. What’s fair is fair, I guess. Tavin’s ran the ball really good for us all year long. He kind of gets overshadowed by Blake, but he had a really good week in practice. He’s been blocking a heck of a lot better, so it’s really good to see him get his due, too.”
Willis finished with four carries for 105 yards, while White led the team with 152 on three tries. The next-highest rushing total was Jaxon Jones with 18 yards in mop-up duty.
The Sentinels took a 21-0 lead into the second stanza despite Joppatowne leading in time of possession, 11:10 to :50.
Joppatowne began moving the ball on its next drive, marching from its own 35 to the Fort Hill 9 to set up first-and-goal. But Wertz got a sack on first down to set the Mariners back four yards before a run for no yards on second down. Stubbs then broke up a pass on third down and a Joppatowne receiver dropped a pass in the end zone on fourth down.
Three plays later, Fort Hill led 28-0 after White found open space up the right side and scored on a 79-yard scamper at 8:03.
Just under four minutes later, Josh Holtman fell on a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
The Sentinels forced a three-and-out on the next drive, with Anthony Palmisano returning the punt 30 yards to the Joppatowne 23. On the next play, Schadt hit Jace May for a 23-yard touchdown and a 42-0 advantage that they took into halftime.
“He’s been a great blocker for us all year long,” Alkire said of May. “I think he’s caught two passes all year long now and both have been for a touchdown. So it’s really good to see him get in the end zone too and get rewarded for the great blocking he has done.”
Fort Hill came out of the break with the mercy rule in effect and the clock running, but it didn’t take long for the Sentinels to extend their lead to 48-0 when White scored on a 69-yard run on the second play from scrimmage.
With the second string and kids called up from the junior varsity team into the game, the Sentinels still found a way to put a perfect bow on the night.
With both of Saiquan Jenkins’ younger brothers — Jabril Daniels and Gamil Daniels — called up to the varsity squad for the playoffs, both players were called into action to see the game out. Jenkins was killed in front of Fort Hill High School on Oct. 28, two days before the Homecoming game.
Just before the end of the third quarter, Jabril Daniels appeared to score on a 12-yard run, but it was called back on a holding penalty. He was able to get some redemption, scoring on a five-yard run with 8:08 to play that put the score at its final.
On Joppatowne’s first play from scrimmage following the touchdown, Gamil Daniels came down with an interception.
“It’s a huge moment, especially for those two, to go through what they had to go through,” Alkire said. “It was a really emotional moment for the entire sideline. There was a lot of anger in my heart whenever they threw the flag and Jabril’s touchdown got called back, but we were doing everything we could to get him in there. And then Gamil, we can’t call that. But Gamil getting that interception, you know Saiquan was looking down on us.”
Fort Hill advances to the state semifinal for the eighth consecutive time, excluding the COVID season of 2020/21, when there were no playoffs. Next week, the top-seeded Sentinels will play No. 4 Edmondson-Westside, which beat No. 5 Colonel Richardson, 42-20, Friday night. The other semifinal matchup is No. 2 Mountain Ridge hosting No. 3 Perryville.
“We’ve just got to keep focused,” Alkire said. “We need to make sure we are practicing hard and preparing, just like we have been, and everything will take care of itself.”