White scores 3 times as No. 2 Fort Hill slugs Oakdale, 42-7

Oct 4, 2021
Kyle Bennett

CUMBERLAND — Last week, No. 2 Fort Hill jumped out to a big lead against Hollidaysburg and escaped with a win. The Sentinels left no doubt on Saturday, as they executed big play after big play to take down Oakdale, 42-7, at Greenway Avenue Stadium.

“You never expect to do that to a program like this,” said Fort Hill head coach Zack Alkire, whose team jumped out to a 28-point halftime lead for the second week in a row. “Oakdale is a great team. Their record might be 2-3 right now, but they lost to some of the best teams in the state — Walkersville by a touchdown, Linganore in overtime by one, and then us. You don’t expect that, but you’re really happy whenever it happens. The kids were excited from the get-go, and it showed.”

Last week, with Fort Hill missing numerous starters and rotational players due to quarantine, the Sentinels led Hollidaysburg 35-7 at halftime before a second-half rally led to the Sentinels squeaking out a 35-33 win.

“I’m not going to lie, there was a brief, ‘Hey guys, just last week we were up 35-7 at halftime, and it ended up 35-33. Oakdale was down 21 points to Linganore with seven minutes to go and brought it back to overtime,’” Alkire said of his halftime talk. “The only message was the game isn’t over, we have to keep playing.

”We decided to change the defense up at halftime. Even though in the first half the defense was really good, too. We wanted to show them a different look that they haven’t really seen yet, at least for three or four weeks. We went back to what we did against Old Mill, and it was really successful for us.”

You want storylines? Fort Hill delivered them.

Blake White led the offense — which racked up 405 yards to Oakdale’s 175 — with 19 carries for 217 yards and three touchdowns, all of which came in the first three quarters.

Breven Stubbs touched the ball just once on offense, a 57-yard run that seemed like an 80-yard run to set up White’s first score. Stubbs also touched the ball once on defense, intercepting a pass and returning it 98 yards for a touchdown.

Nearly 50% (5 of 11) of Oakdale drives went to the red zone. The Bears ran 18 plays from inside the 20 — only one of them resulted in a touchdown.

“I think we were inside the 10 four or five different times with no points,” said Oakdale head coach Kurt Stein. “You just can’t win football games like that. If you get in the red zone consistently and don’t score, you’re not gonna win. You can’t expect to get a stop 15 possessions in a row. We’ve got to come away with points down there, and we did a terrible job today.”

On the other side, taking out Fort Hill’s final drive that went two plays for no yards before the final horn sounded, one-third (3 of 9) of the Sentinels’ drives went to the red zone. They ran six plays from inside the 20 — half of them went for scores.

”I’m still waiting for us to get off the bus,” Stein said. “Maybe we could play a football game if we actually showed up.”

Just when the Bears thought a comeback might be in the cards after halftime, Fort Hill put Oakdale’s defense in the meat grinder with a drive that went nearly half of the third quarter to put the game to bed.

And then there was the defensive play of Anthony Palmisano. Last week, Palmisano had the pass breakup on a Hail Mary throw that gave the Sentinels the win.

On Saturday, Palmisano had a pair of pass breakups in the end zone. The first was on fourth-and-goal from the 8 on the final play of the first half. The other came midway through the third quarter following Fort Hill’s lengthy drive and after Oakdale gained 40 yards on three plays to set up first-and-10 at the Fort Hill 25. After Palmisano’s second pass breakup in the end zone, the Sentinels got three sacks in a row — Landon Keech and Tavin Willis combined for one on third down before TJ Lee got a sack to force a turnover on downs.

”Couldn’t have asked for any more from him,” Alkire said of Palmisano. “He’s only a junior so he’s still got some time to grow. He’s a kid that colleges should be looking at. You got Brev, who colleges are looking at. You got Tavin, who colleges are looking at. But people sleep on Tony.”

Before the Sentinels got on the board on the first drive of the contest, it required a conversion on fourth-and-1, with Willis gaining 13 yards up the right side.

Then, following a holding penalty and a short run by Willis to set up second-and-18, Stubbs took a handoff on a jet sweep running right. The Oakdale defense forced him backward for an initial loss of five yards to the Fort Hill 35 but Stubbs slipped out of a tackle, then evaded a pair of tacklers at the 30 and cut back across the field, getting a pair of blocks on the edge and streaking up the left sideline.

Stubbs appeared to be on his way for a touchdown, but Oakdale’s Andrew Hodges caught up and made a touchdown-saving tackle at the Bears’ 3.

It didn’t matter, as White scored on the next play for a 7-0 lead at 8:07 following Jacob Tichnell’s point-after try. Tichnell was a perfect 6 for 6 on PATs.

”The line is doing amazing,” Stubbs said. “Everyone is doubting us, and we’re just coming out and playing as a team and getting great team victories. I’m feeling amazing. This game, no one thought we could do it, but we just beat the odds.

”Bunch of turnovers, bunch of good goal-line stands. The defense played amazing, the line blocked their butts off. Great team victory.”

The Sentinels forced a turnover on downs on Oakdale’s ensuing possession and scored three plays later when Bryce Schadt heaved a pass downfield on the run for a 45-yard touchdown to Willis.

Oakdale got inside the Fort Hill 5 on each of its next two drives, but a fumble at the 2 — recovered by Tanner Wertz — and a turnover on downs at the 3 kept the Bears off the scoreboard.

”They were resilient,” Alkire said of the defense. “We talked about two things all week long. Oakdale has big-play ability, and they’re going to hit the big play. You’re not going to hold a team like this down forever. They’re going to get big plays. But we need to realize they’re going to get big plays, and we need to fly to the football. ... We were able to be resilient, get stops and come up huge.”

After a 13-yard run by Wertz on third-and-3, White broke through the line and blazed past the secondary for a 78-yard touchdown and 21-0 lead at 1:59.

The Bears returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 43, then quarterback Joe Pippin hit Brayden Kuhn for a 32-yard gain, but Stubbs picked off Pippin on the next play and returned it for the touchdown with 1:26 to go in the first half.

Oakdale had an 80-yard kickoff return to the Fort Hill 8 to open the second half, setting up the Bears’ lone touchdown, a 1-yard run by Evan Austin at 10:37 to get back to within 28-7.

But then the Sentinel offense went to work out of the Wing-T, playing classic Western Maryland three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football and driving 56 yards on 13 plays, capped off by a 4-yard touchdown by White. Six of the plays on the drive went for 4 yards or less.

“That’s the advantage of being able to signal in the offense,” Alkire said. “I know people for ages have been wanting us to quit running the quarterback to the sideline, and now people want us to run the quarterback over to the sideline.

“That’s the advantage — we can dictate the tempo. There’s times where it’s a little bit rocky, but we were able to literally get the play in with enough time for them to get set up on the ball and run the play. We were able to slow things down. Kids got a chunk here, a chunk there, and sawed away that game.”

”I thought our kids did a pretty good job in practice simulating it,” Stein said of the Wing-T. “It was the other side of the ball that causes problems on defense. If we were able to score, and make it close, and have a lead, I think they would’ve had to go about things differently offensively. We just never put any pressure on them.”

After a turnover on downs, Fort Hill took over at midfield and scored four plays later with Wertz crossing the goal line on a 5-yard run to put the score at its final on the last play of the third quarter.

The win improves the Sentinels to 5-0, with wins now against a Class 4A foe in Old Mill, Class 3A in Oakdale and a Pennsylvania Class AAAAA team in Hollidaysburg.

”Hats off to them, they did a great job,” Stein said of the Sentinels. “They ran what we thought they’d run, but they executed it very well.

”Fort Hill has a wonderful team, a wonderful program and they played great. I’m pretty disappointed in my guys right now, but that doesn’t say anything about them.”

The win sets the stage for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown at Greenway on Friday, 7 p.m., with top-ranked Mountain Ridge coming to town to play Fort Hill.

The Miners, the No. 1 team every week the poll has been published this season, are 5-0 after a 48-13 win over Frankfort on Friday.

”We’ll see next week,” said Stubbs. “One step at a time, I don’t really focus on what people say out there. I just focus on what our team does in practice. Every week and every gameday. We just focus. Nothing but focus.”

Alkire echoed a similar statement, insisting one less day of rest for his players won’t have an impact when the lights come on Friday night, just over seven months after Mountain Ridge beat Fort Hill, 27-20, for the first time in school history.

”Typically we’re not doing a whole lot on Saturdays as coaches anyway — we do our stuff on Sunday morning,” he said. “It gives our kids a chance to relax, gives us a chance to relax and be with our families. So we lose that day, but the kids don’t really lose anything. They lose a day of rest I guess, but they’re going to be just fine to play this week.

”There’s no motivation needed. If we told those guys, ‘Hey, Mountain Ridge is coming down here tonight, we’re going to play at 7 o’clock,’ they’re going to be ready to play. I’m not concerned about that at all.”



Fort Hill's Blake White breaks free on a 78-yard touchdown run against Oakdale on Saturday at Greenway Avenue Stadium. White finished with 19 carries for 217 yards and three touchdowns. PHOTO: Steve Bittner (Times-News)
Fort Hill's Carter Hess (bottom) and TJ Lee (26) gang-tackle Oakdale's Stefan Rich (11) while Josh Holtman (34) and Ray Whorton (52) swarm the ballcarrier. The Sentinels defeated Oakdale, 42-7, on Saturday at Greenway Avenue Stadium. PHOTO: Steve Bittner (Times-News)