CUMBERLAND — It’s 13 down and one to go for the grand prize and a place in high school football history for the Fort Hill Sentinels.
Following an awfully familiar script Friday night, the unbeaten Sentinels routed Surrattsville 42-0 in a third straight playoff mismatch at Greenway Avenue Stadium, earning a spot in next week’s Class 1A state championship game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Fort Hill (13-0) will play
the winner of today’s Douglass/Cambridge-South Dorchester game in the state final on Saturday, Dec. 7, at noon.
A win next week would give Fort Hill a perfect season and the school’s third football state championship. The other state championship teams, 1975 and 1997, also were undefeated.
Friday night, Ty Johnson and Alex Barnes scored two touchdowns and Dekarai Darr and Hunter Squires scored one as the Sentinels built a huge lead and cruised to their 12th straight win.
Johnson ran for 143 yards on only five carries and Darr had 119 yards on 16 carries to lead a ground attack that piled up 350 yards.
For the second straight week the Sentinels led 35-0 at halftime. They have outscored their three playoff opponents by a 137-13 margin.
Few expected the state semifinal to be so one-sided.
“I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know what to expect,” Johnson said. “But it’s a great feeling to be going to Baltimore. I’m excited about that.”
Fort Hill coach Todd Appel, while confident in his team, didn’t expect to see the game he saw.
“Surrattsville is athletic and anytime you face an athletic team they have big-play potential,” he said. “We knew that coming in, and we knew the key players were Amaru Major and Ryan Wilcox. They were making big plays for them all year. We tried to mix up our coverage along with playing run defense and the kids did a great job with that.”
Major ran for 127 yards and Wilcox caught three passes for 91 yards, including an exceptional one-hand grab on a 48-yard gain, but the Hornets (10-3) managed little else.
Johnson, for the fourth straight week, came up with the first big play on offense, this time scoring on a 59-yard burst off right tackle with 1:36 left in the first quarter. The first of six Chris King extra points gave Fort Hill a 7-0 lead after the first quarter.
Joe Mundella and Cody Dolly stopped Daquan West on fourth-and-one at the Fort Hill 19, and moments later Johnson did again what he seems to do best — sprint untouched into the end zone — this time on an 81-yard dash.
“I don’t know why,” Johnson said about his knack of scoring the early touchdowns. “It’s just the linemen. They are great linemen. They block their tails off for me and I just follow them. They’re big guys, and I’m a small guy. I just follow them all the time.”
Center Michael Wright, guards Brennan Carlin and Timmy Friend, tackles Josh Roberts and Preston Bryant and tight end Ryan Shives have opened all big holes all year. In just the postseason, the Sentinels have averaged 11.9 yards per carry, gaining 928 yards on 78 rushes.
“Preston, Brennan and Michael are three seniors who have been great leaders all year long. We have young kids on the left side. Timmy Friend is a sophomore and Josh Roberts and Ryan Shives are juniors,’’ said Appel. “They are well-coached by Shaun Lewis and Rusty Swarner and they listen well. They are coachable, smart kids. They love to play football.”
The Sentinels ran 35 times for 350 yards. Of the 35 carries, all went for positive yardage.
Johnson’s 81-yard touchdown run seemed to take the starch out of Surrattsville, which had played well in the first quarter but fell apart in the second.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ryan Smith fell on a loose, squib kick at the Surrattsville 11. Darr ran it in on the next play, giving Fort Hill two touchdowns in 14 seconds, and three touchdowns on its last three offensive snaps.
A personal foul on the extra point enabled Fort Hill to kick off from the Surrattsville 45, and King’s expertly-kicked onside kick bounced over the front row of Hornets and into the waiting arms of Devin Shreve at the 28.
Five plays later, Barnes scored on an 11-yard run with 8:59 left in the half and the Sentinels, who had led 7-0 just three minutes earlier, now were on top 28-0.
A three-and-out by Surrattsville and a 14-yard punt put the Sentinels back in business at the Hornets 41. Darr had runs of 22, 14 and six yards. A nine-yard run by Barnes put the ball at the one, and Hunter Squires scored on a sneak to give Fort Hill a touchdown on a fifth straight possession and a 35-0 halftime lead.
It was another quick second half with the 35-point mercy rule in effect. Barnes had the only second-half touchdown with a five-yard run in the third quarter.
Surrattsville had driven to the Fort Hill 3, 23 and 19 in the first quarter but was turned away each time. Adam DuVall recovered a fumbled handoff at the Fort Hill 4 on the first drive. The Hornets turned the ball over on downs on the other two.
“This is a great team effort. This team wants to leave a team legacy and they really work together well,” said Appel.
“When our offense is having a hard time getting rolling, then our defense takes over. If we need a play by our special teams to get the ball back for us, they do it and do a good job.
“It’s really a team thing with these kids. They really want to win this whole thing, but they want to do it together.”
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at email@example.com