White, Willis each score twice as Fort Hill tops Old Mill, 28-13

Sep 11, 2021
Kyle Bennett

CUMBERLAND — Blake White and Tavin Willis provided the offense, Jace May provided the blocking and Carter Hess provided the defense, as Fort Hill topped Class 4A foe Old Mill, 28-13, on Friday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium.

“This is awesome,” Sentinels head coach Zack Alkire said. “Old Mill’s a great team. They’re a 4A school that was in the semifinals the last full season we had. They brought a lot of guys back. Their quarterback is a three-year guy, he’s phenomenal. Their receivers are phenomenal.

“But you’ve got to give a lot of credit to our kids that went out there and stuck with them. We had tons of guys out there playing. All of them who came in stepped up and did a really great job shutting down their offense, which is prolific. They scored 59 points last week, so a great total team win.”

White led the Fort Hill rushing attack with 112 yards on 13 carries, while Willis carried the rock 12 times for 60 yards — both had two touchdowns.

The senior duo’s 172 yards accounted for a solid chunk of the team’s 242 rushing yards and 241 yards of total offense, made even more impressive after Fort Hill ran 11 plays for 10 yards on three drives in the second quarter and was without star tailback Breven Stubbs for the entire game.

“He got nicked up, I think it was Tuesday this week,” Alkire said. “He tried to give it a go and we just didn’t want to risk that. Hopefully he heals up by next week, or relatively soon.”

After Fort Hill turned it over on downs on its second drive of the game, the Sentinels got the ball right back three plays later when they forced and recovered a fumble at the Old Mill 32.

After first-down runs of 14 yards by quarterback Bryce Schadt and 10 by White, the latter carried the ball four more yards to set up second-and-goal from the Old Mill 4.

Willis, lined up to the right of Schadt, swooped around and took the handoff up the left side, received a one-handed block by May to get some space, and cut back inside for a touchdown. Jacob Tichnell booted the point-after try, giving Fort Hill a 7-0 lead at 1:25 in the opening period.

The Patriots tied things up on their ensuing drive, which carried over into the second quarter. Anthony Taylor kept the drive alive on the first play in the second period with a three-yard run on fourth-and-1.

After Tanner Wertz read Old Mill quarterback Myles Fulton like a book to force an incompletion on third-and-6, Fulton hit Timothy Tripplett for a 13-yard score, which was waved off on a facemask penalty on the Patriots. On fourth-and-11, Fulton hit William Ennis for an 18-yard touchdown, with Trent Radford tying the game with a PAT at 10:39.

The Sentinels went three-and-out on their next two drives, then had a chance to take the lead before halftime when they got the ball at their own 38 with 1:28 to play.

Wertz gained 10 yards on first down and then another five, but the drive was cut short on the next play when the Patriots came up with an interception, sending the game into halftime tied at 7-7.

Old Mill got the ball coming out of the break, but penalties continued to mount for the Patriots as their drive reached the Fort Hill 30 and ended on third-and-23 when Josh Holtman came up with an interception, returning it 36 yards to the Old Mill 37.

The Patriots had 20 penalties for 95 yards while Fort Hill was flagged seven times for 20.

Willis took the ball on the next two plays for gains of 14 and one yard, then Schadt for seven and five yards, then White for a pair of two-yard runs to set up third-and-goal from the Patriots’ 6.

Willis took the halfback toss to the left, getting a block from May at the edge and finding the corner of the end zone for the score at 4:53. Tichnell added the PAT for a 14-7 advantage.

A snap over Fulton’s head on the ensuing drive, an incompletion and an illegal forward pass resulted in a fourth-and-33 for the Patriots, forcing them to punt.

Fort Hill needed just six plays to extend its advantage. After Schadt scampered for nine yards to the Old Mill 3 — getting a huge block on the edge by May in the process — White rumbled in on the last play of the third quarter, giving the Sentinels a 21-7 lead entering the fourth following Tichnell’s PAT.

“It was great,” Alkire said of May’s play. “I kept on hoping to throw some passes in there to him. With me being a former tight end, I always like to catch the ball. The game plan in the second half was to hit him on a couple passes, but because he was blocking so well, why throw the ball? He really stepped up for us.”

Old Mill got back to within a score plus a two-point conversion when Fulton ran it in from seven yards out — the PAT was blocked by Wertz.

Fulton finished 25 of 38 for 305 yards, with Donte Craggette-Drake catching 10 passes for 144 yards.

But it was seemingly too little, too late. On the drive, which spanned seven-and-a-half minutes, the Patriots had to convert on third-and-10, following a second-and-28, and again on fourth-and-4, following a third-and-18.

The Sentinels recovered the ensuing onside kick with just under 2:30 remaining.

After Old Mill used its final timeout, White put the nail in the coffin with a 54-yard scamper for a touchdown at 2:09, and Tichnell’s boot put the score at its final.

The final run for White encapsulated the type of fullback he is for the Sentinels, which isn’t a traditional three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust type of runner, but more so a home-run hitter. White was both on Friday night.

Before the 54-yard TD run, White had just two carries for more than four yards.

“Blake showed us today he can do both,” said Alkire. “There were many times where he picked up the short yardage, many times where he stuck his nose in there. And then just like that last play when he broke it big, it’s huge.”

Despite the Patriots’ passing success, Hess played a crucial role in limiting the rushing attack to 30 yards on 38 carries. He also came up with 1.5 sacks for a loss of a combined 15 yards.

“Carter’s a man-child,” said Alkire. “He’s a young sophomore. He’s raw. He doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, but man can he play football. He was a big difference-maker this week.”

The Sentinels (2-0) move on to face Southern on the road next Saturday, but Friday seemed like a big step in the right direction early in the season.

“You could see there was a different team out there on our side tonight,” Alkire said. “They were more focused, there was a lot more intensity from the get-go. Old Mill tied the game back up, these guys didn’t back down. They were resilient.”




Fort Hil’s Tavin Willis (28) eyes the end zone on his 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of the Sentinels’ 28-13 victory over Old Mill Friday evening at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
PHOTO: Steve Bittner/Times-News