ANNAPOLIS — Four-time defending Maryland 1A state champion Fort Hill will play for what would be a state-record fifth consecutive state title today when the Sentinels take battle with the Dunbar Poets, 3:30 pm., at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Fort Hill, 12-1 on the season, and 66-2 in the last five seasons, is West Region champion for the past six years. Dunbar, 11-1 this season and a state semifinalist for the last two seasons of their four in Class 2A before returning to 1A this year, was the North Region runner-up.

The Sentinels entered the playoffs with the second-highest points rating of 9.59; Dunbar, the third-highest at 9.58. The Poets defeated the top seed, Reginald F. Lewis, 48-0, in the North Region title game two weeks ago.

Dunbar has won nine state football championships, including three at Fort Hill’s expense. The Sentinels have won six state championships, one coming at Dunbar’s expense. The Poets have won a state-record 55 playoff games. The Sentinels have won 51.

This will mark Fort Hill’s fifth straight state championship game appearance, a state record.

The Poets opened the season in Cumberland and lost to Allegany, 49-42, at Greenway Avenue Stadium. Since then, Dunbar has not lost a game, winning 11 in a row, including 48-0 wins over Chesapeake and Reginald F. Lewis to open the playoffs, and last week’s 52-27 win over last year’s state finalist Havre de Grace in the semifinals.

The Sentinels began the season with seven wins to extend their Area record winning streak to 32 games before falling at Friendship Collegiate, 24-6. They closed the regular season with a 49-3 win over Mountain Ridge and a 56-21 win over Allegany.

After a 48-6 win over Southern to open the playoffs, Fort Hill has defeated Allegany, 21-20, for the West Region title and Lackey in overtime, 34-33, with both games going the Sentinels’ way when they stopped two-point conversions toward the end of each game.

In the semifinal win over Lackey, Braeden Askins, who blocked three kicks in the game including a field-goal try on the final play of regulation, made the tackle that stopped Lackey’s two-point conversion attempt in overtime to secure the win for Fort Hill.

In the Dunbar victory over Havre de Grace, quarterback Jared Lewis (3,411 passing yards, 27 touchdowns) threw for 268 yards and touchdowns to three different receivers — Raekwon Walker, Shaun Tolbert and Malik McCormick. Walker also had two interceptions.

Running backs Alfonzo Graham (1,116 yards, 16 touchdowns) and Andre Brandon (1,120 yards, seven touchdowns), each ran 12 times for two touchdowns, with Graham gaining 191 yards and Brandon gaining 105.

Senior fullback Troy Banks, who rushed for nearly 200 yards and four touchdowns in the 2016 state championship game, leads the Sentinels with 1,457 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns this year. He has 2,721 rushing yards and 44 touchdowns in his three-year varsity career.

Senior Luke Hamilton, who has a scholarship offer from Navy football, will play his final high school game on the Midshipmen’s home field. Hamilton has 170 total tackles, 10 quarterback sacks and 14 tackles for loss this season, along with 50 pancake-blocks.

Three-time All-State linebacker, senior Brayden Poling, has recorded back-to-back 1,000 all-purpose yard seasons and for his four-year career, he has totaled 40 touchdowns (26 rushing, 13 receiving, 1 defensively).

Senior quarterback Logan Johnson has accounted for over 1,400 total yards this season, rushing for 583 and passing for 13 touchdowns and over 800 yards.

The Sentinels are averaging 46.9 points a game, and have been giving up 15.4 per game. They average over 420 yards per game, while the defense has forced 33 turnovers.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeCTN.

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