CUMBERLAND — After mixing old and new during a 46-7 win over Manchester Valley, the undefeated Fort Hill Sentinels have no reason to change a recipe that has worked all season when they welcome North Carroll to Greenway Avenue Stadium for tonight’s Maryland 1A West Region Championship at 7 p.m.
The No.1 Sentinels (11-0) are playing in the West Region title game for the eighth-straight year and have won four of the previous seven to advance to the state tournament. North Carroll (8-3) is celebrating its first winning season since 2007 and its first ever 1A Region championship appearance.
Fort Hill manhandled Manchester Valley up front to rush for 327 yards on 31 carries and hold the Mavericks to 68 yards of its own. The offensive line opened gaping holes for the running backs, who then returned the gesture with big chunks of yardage.
Ty Johnson gave his team a lead less than a minute into play when he scampered 63 yards for a touchdown, and had 155 yards on the ground and three touchdowns on five carries. Dekarai Darr added 92 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.
Darr and Johnson are two of the area’s leading rushers with Darr averaging 118 yards a game and Johnson over 85.
Sentinels quarterback Hunter Squires has completed 47 of his 80 attempts for 916 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Ryan Shives has shown to be his favorite receiver so far, catching 19 balls for 391 yards and two touchdowns. Devin Shreve has 190 yards on 16 receptions and Johnson adds 13 catches for 291 yards.
The Panthers have advanced this far into the season despite finishing 1-9 last season. They started this season much stronger than they have finished, opening with seven straight wins before dropping the final three games of the regular season. North Carroll lost those three games by an average score of 39-10, including a 27-8 loss to Manchester Valley in the finale. The Panthers secured the three-seed despite the late losses and turned their fortunes around by edging Hancock 14-13 in the West semifinals.
North Carroll didn’t take its first lead until the final minute against Hancock, using a late interception at their own six-yard line and a 50-yard scoring drive to jump ahead and get the win.
Panthers’ quarterback Jack Flowers, who completed only five passes all evening, completed all three of his throws on the game-winning drive, finding Kyle Fielder for a 25-yard touchdown that made it 13-12. The Panthers converted the try for two to take their first lead of the night with one minute remaining.
On the season, Flowers has thrown for 1,247 yards on 81 of 156 passing with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. Sean Floto and Aaron Heinle lead the team in rushing with 731 yards and five touchdowns for Floto and 513 yards and one touchdown for Heinle. Fielder leads the team with 23 catches for 426 yards and nine touchdowns.
North Carroll scored on a 33-yard run by Zach Sherman for its first touchdown, but Hancock blocked the kick.
The Panthers struggled with stopping Hancock quarterback Jesse Wolford when Wolford decided to run. He ran for over 100 yards and two scores in the first quarter.
The 1A South Region final features Douglass vs. Edmondson and the 1A North pits Surrattsville against Sparrows Point, both on Saturday, while Cambridge-South Dorchester hosts Perryville tonight in the 1A East championship.
Chris Appel is a sportswriter for the Times-News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.