White, Wertz combine for 5 TDs as Fort Hill tops Northern, 40-14

Nov 13, 2021
Kyle Bennett

CUMBERLAND, Md. — Fort Hill hit the big plays and nearly put the game to bed by halftime, as Blake White rushed for 175 yards and three scores and Tanner Wertz had 165 yards and two long touchdowns to lead the Sentinels past Northern, 40-14, on Friday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium in the Class 1A West Region Co-Final.

Fort Hill held the Huskies to no first downs until the 6:10 mark in the second quarter. By then, the Sentinels led 26-0.

“They were resilient,” said Fort Hill head coach Zack Alkire. “There were 37 of them that were able to get in uniform today. All 37 of them played. They all did everything we asked them to do all week long.

“We didn’t have any idea who we were going to play that first week because we had the bye week. So it wasn’t like we had two weeks to prepare for Northern. But they spent all week focusing, concentrating on beating Northern and they all did a great job.”

“We got physically handled,” said Northern head coach Phil Carr. “We talked at halftime and we were winning no battles anywhere, on the line, at receiver to get open. They won every battle possible. Sometimes there’s not a lot you can do about it.”

After forcing a three-and-out on Northern’s opening drive, Tavin Willis took the first two carries for a combined 17 yards. Then, in old-school Sentinel fashion, the rock was handed off to the fullback White on the next four plays. He gained four, 10 and 16 yards — with a Northern offside penalty along the way — before reaching the end zone on a five-yard run at 8:22 for a 7-0 lead following Jacob Tichnell’s point-after try.

The Sentinels took advantage of a short field on their next drive, starting at the Northern 49. Seven plays later, White took the handoff up the left side, getting to the edge and winning the foot race to the goal line for his second score at 2:58. The snap on the PAT sailed over the holder’s head, as Fort Hill settled for a 13-0 lead.

“He had a great night,” Alkire said of White. “Him and Tanner both had great nights. Blake was doing more the traditional Wing-T stuff, Tanner the more Spread stuff. Both of them were on fire tonight.”

The Huskies’ third punt backed the Sentinels up to their own 22, but the extra yardage wasn’t much of a hindrance, as Wertz broke free up the right side on the first play from scrimmage and scampered 78 yards for the touchdown. The ensuing two-point run was stuffed by the Huskies.

White made it 26-0 on a 16-yard run at 7:13 in the second and Willis gave the Sentinels a 33-0 halftime advantage after a 13-yard touchdown run with 1:32 to go before the break.

On the Sentinels’ second play from scrimmage in the second half, the running clock was set in motion as Wertz went up the gut then cut past the defenders into open space and eventually into the end zone for a 61-yard TD run.

“He’s been consistent and he’s held onto the ball,” Alkire said of Wertz. “He had some fumbling issues earlier in the season. He’s held onto the ball a little bit better. He was really, really good tonight. He was able to find seams and exploit them and have enough breakaway speed that no one was able to catch him.”

Fort Hill’s offensive line created huge hole after huge hole, and won the battle up front even without some players that were suspended after entering the field — and quickly going back to the bench — during a scuffle in the Homecoming game.

“Going into tonight it was concerning because Northern has a really big, physical defensive line,” said Alkire. “They’re really physical up front. We had to replace a guard and a tight end tonight because of suspensions. Coming into tonight, I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous about it.

“Cameron Bean stepped in there for Tyler Wilhelm, Bryson Metz stepped in there for Jace May. Those guys, along with the other three or four lineman that we played in there tonight, they blocked their butts off. They created big holes. They hit all their assignments. They all played a great game.”

In turn, the Sentinels outgained the Huskies, 421-187, and had a 323-52 edge in total offense in the first half.

“We kind of changed things up a little bit,” Alkire said of his defense. “We ran multiple fronts. Sometimes we ran a 4-3, sometimes we ran a 6-2, sometimes it was more of a 5-3 look. We wanted to try to give them as many looks as possible. That’s one of the advantages of being able to have multiple defenses throughout the year is we were able to get into those defenses tonight and hopefully that’s the plan the rest of the year.”

The Huskies finished strong to put some positives on the end of a 5-6 season that included impressive victories over Frankfort and Keyser. With 6:26 left in the contest, Jamison Warnick connected with Kellen Hinebaugh on a 29-yard touchdown pass.

“I’m proud of the kids and what they accomplished with two big wins over Keyser and Frankfort,” said Carr. “Winning a playoff game, a home playoff game. I said, ‘Many guys had played at Northern High School and never seen a playoff game. But you guys dressed for two of them. Hang your hat on that. I know it’s tough now, but heads up and we move on.’”

Northern forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Warnick capped off that drive with an 11-yard touchdown run at 4:03. Wally Brands booted the PAT following both touchdowns to put the score at its final.

Warnick finished with 99 yards on 24 carries and was 3 of 6 passing for 38 yards.

“They kept playing the whole time and he had a great year,” Carr said of Warnick. “He’s got to be up for some of the awards, I would think. … The Keyser game, he carries (the ball) 29 damn times. We rode him like a mule. He was a kid who had stability. He made it through. After that Keyser game I said I wasn’t sure if he could make it through many more games like that, but he did.”

The 26-point margin is larger than the 10-point win the Sentinels had in Week 1 over the Huskies, with Alkire and Carr admitting both of their respective teams have come a long way since then.

“I think in Week 1 they came in a little bit overconfident,” said Alkire. “They weren’t playing as physical in Week 1. It was almost as though they assumed putting on the Fort Hill jersey and wearing the red and white was going to make them a dominant team. Northern came out and they played a great game in Week 1 and it really opened our kids’ eyes. It showed them that this wasn’t going to be easy. We do need to come out every game to play. So far since then they have come out every game and played really well.”

Fort Hill (9-0) will be the top seed in the Class 1A quarterfinals and will host Joppatowne.

“They’re a good football team,” Carr said of Fort Hill. “They’re No. 1 for a reason and they showed it tonight. I wish them the best of luck. If there’s a team that deserves a championship, with what they’ve went through, it’s probably these guys, so hopefully they do well down the road.”




Fort Hill running back Tanner Wertz (20) outruns the Northern defense on his 78-yard touchdown run during the first quarter of the Sentinels’ 40-14 victory over Northern in the Class 1A West co-Region final Friday at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
PHOTO: Steve Bittner/Times-News