CUMBERLAND — The Fort Hill Sentinels, one win from a berth in the state championship game and two wins from a spot in the state record book, hosts Lackey today, at 7 p.m., in a Class 1A football state semifinal at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
The top-seeded Sentinels (11-1) and fourth-seeded Chargers (10-2) advanced to the 1A’s final four by winning region championships a week ago. Fort Hill edged Allegany, 21-20, for the West championship. Lackey, in a game that featured six lead changes, scored in the final minutes to beat Frederick Douglass, 36-28, for the South championship.
In the other 1A semifinal, third-seeded Havre de Grace (11-1) plays at second-seeded Dunbar (10-1) of Baltimore City on Saturday, at 1 p.m. The state championship game is Saturday, Dec. 2, at 3:30 p.m., at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis.
Fort Hill enters the semifinals with a state record 18-game postseason winning streak and last year tied Urbana (1998-2001) for consecutive state championships, with four. No team has won five straight MPSSAA state championships.
Last week, the Sentinels prevailed over Allegany with Troy Banks running for 126 yards, Brayden Poling catching two touchdown passes from Logan Johnson and Poling and Kaleb Harden combining on a tackle on a two-point conversion try that would have given the Campers the lead with just under four minutes to play.
Banks scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 18-yard run late in the third quarter, after Johnson had found Poling on 10- and 38-yard TD passes in the first half.
Lackey, of Charles County, moved from Class 2A to 1A this year and trailed Douglass 28-21 until Jayson Wilmer’s 5-yard run and Robert Middleton’s two-point conversion that put the Chargers ahead 29-28 with 1:29 left in the fourth quarter.
They sealed it moments later with a Dalano Washington sack and forced fumble, which Chris Thompson returned 22 yards for a touchdown that padded the lead to 36-28. It was Lackey’s first region championship in 10 years.
Middleton, a 5-10, 200-pound junior quarterback, ran 16 times for 118 yards and completed 5 of 5 passes for 94 yards. James Wilkerson caught four of the passes for 65 yards.
Defensively, the Chargers had five sacks and Jonathan Bridgett intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown.
For the season, Banks leads the Sentinels offense with 1,367 yards rushing, a 9.1-yard average and 23 touchdowns. Tyreke Powell has 725 yards, a 12.5 average and eight TDs, Poling 561 yards, an 8.1 average and eight TDs, and Johnson 549 yards, a 9.8 average and five TDs.
Johnson is 37 for 57 passing for 769 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Poling leads the team in receptions (11), yards receiving (292) and yards per reception (26.5). Anthony Smith is next with nine catches, 191 yards and a 20.9 average.
Defensively, Poling leads in tackles with 160 (73 solo, 87 assists) and 13 tackles for loss. Luke Hamilton has 152 (60 solo) with 12 tackles for loss and a team high nine sacks. Keegan Miller has 100 tackles (34 solo) and Carter Swan 94 (42 solo) and three fumble recoveries. Wyatt Brehm has eight sacks, Jadon Hoover six interceptions and Braeden Askins three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
The Sentinels have converted 65 of 70 extra-point kicks with Ryan Hipp 59 for 61. Danny King has a pair of field goals and a 39.4-yard punting average.
The Sentinels have reached the state semifinal round 24 times, and last week’s win moved Fort Hill’s all-time postseason record to 50-25. Lackey, 16-12 all-time in the postseason has reached the state semifinals five times.
Fort Hill and Lackey have met only one other time, a 1987 state quarterfinal game that the Sentinels won 18-12 in overtime.
The winner advances to the state final, which Fort Hill has won six times. Lackey has won one, which came in a 38-21 victory over Allegany in the 1986 Class B final at the University of Maryland. That was the same day Fort Hill lost to Magruder in the Class A final, 28-7.
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Ridiculous https://t.co/LCOLt73bSo— Mike Mathews (@MikeMathewsCTN) November 23, 2017
Fort Hill-Allegany II: An instant classic. Sunday football column: https://t.co/8feCQTd7tV— Mike Mathews (@MikeMathewsCTN) November 19, 2017
Terrific https://t.co/1KQzQQ2Lwf— Mike Mathews (@MikeMathewsCTN) November 19, 2017