CUMBERLAND — Logan Johnson threw a pair of touchdowns to Brayden Poling, Troy Banks ran for 126 yards and a tie-breaking touchdown, and Fort Hill stopped Allegany inches shy on a critical two-point conversion in the final minutes to preserve a 21-20 victory in the Class 1A West Region championship game Friday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
The Sentinels (11-1) survived a spirited upset attempt by Allegany (9-3) for a spot in next week’s state semifinals. The four-time defending state champs will host that semifinal game, either Friday night or Saturday afternoon. The opponent will likely be Lackey (10-2), which defeated Douglass, 36-28, in last night’s South Region final.
Allegany’s Karson Robinette led all rushers with 28 carries and 163 yards and went over the 2,000-yard mark for the season in the third quarter. He also scored twice. Elisha Llewellyn ran 11 times for 73 yards and caught two passes for 35 yards. Christian Welch recovered a pair of fumbles.
Friday night’s win was Fort Hill’s 12th in a row over Allegany, but it hardly resembled the Homecoming game. Two weeks ago, Fort Hill won 56-21. Last night, they led 21-20 with 3:53 left with the Campers going for the two-point conversion and the lead.
But the Fort Hill line led a sea of red that stopped Elisha Llewellyn inches shy of the goal line. Shakur Trimble recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Sentinels ran out the clock with three first downs to move two wins shy of a state record fifth straight championship.
“I’m thankful,” Fort Hill coach Todd Appel said moments after the late-game drama had unfolded. “Thankful that the kids came up with big plays when they needed to. It was a close game, and sometimes people don’t expect us to be in close games, especially since that Homecoming game was such a broad margin.
“But our kids were resilient. My hat goes off to Allegany and their kids and their coaches for their preparation and for playing so hard. But my hat goes off just a bit more to our kids, who came up with big plays when they had to.”
The biggest play in a game of big plays came after Llewellyn, on third-and-10, had hauled in a 22-yard pass from Cameron Bratton to get to the Fort Hill 13. On the next play, he sped into the end zone to chop the Fort Hill lead to 21-20.
Choosing to go for two points and the lead over a kick and a tie, the Campers ran the same play with Llewellyn, who broke through the line and pushed forward before being stopped just inches shy amid a pile of players from both sides.
“I don’t know who made the tackle, but I’m pretty sure that No. 20 (Poling) had something to do with it,” Appel said. “He’s been an awesome defensive football player the last four years. And there’s nothing bigger than making a big play when your team needs it.”
Allegany had its big plays as well, and went toe-to-toe with the defending region and state champions from start to finish. Head coach Bryan Hansel liked the opportunity and chance he saw in the two-point try, and went for it. But he tried to call a timeout before that deciding snap.
“I ran out on the field, but (the officials) didn’t see me. It’s a long distance, and they weren’t looking at me, they’re watching the line of scrimmage,” he said. “All we wanted to do is keep the same play. Go tight splits. That’s the power we were running at them all the way down the field. We do that, maybe we get in.
“Elisha was probably an inch or two short. The referee was right. It was the right call. You live there, and you do it again. Over and over.”
Hansel had no second thoughts afterward.
“You say you want to stop a dynasty, stop the streak, you want to stop all this ... you do that by taking risks,” he said. “You do that by taking chances. You do that by telling the kids ‘we believe in you,’ and take a shot. I thought we took a great shot. We came up an inch short.”
Welch’s first fumble recovery, on the third play of the game at the Fort Hill 36, set up the first touchdown. Robinette ran for 32 yards on third-and-12 and scored on a 6-yard run on the next play. Coleton Furlow’s kick made it 7-0 less than three minutes into the game.
The Sentinels tied it four minutes later with a 70-yard, 10-play drive that Johnson capped with a 10-yard TD pass to Poling. Ryan Hipp’s kick tied it 7-7.
The Sentinels got their first lead midway through the second period when Johnson and Poling hooked up again, this time on a pass that covered 38 yards. It ended an 85-yard, 11-play march that consumed 6:12 of clock. Hipp’s kick made it 14-7 with 7:42 left in the half.
Welch’s other fumble recovery was also key, stopping the Sentinels at the Allegany 19 with three minutes left in the half and keeping it a seven-point game at the break.
The Campers tied it with an impressive drive to begin the second half, going 80 yards in 15 plays over 6:28, the big plays being a 22-yard run by Llewellyn after a lateral by Bratton, and a 13-yard pass from Robinette to Llewellyn. Robinette scored on a one-yard dive and Furlow’s kick tied it 14-all with 5:32 left in the period.
Fort Hill answered on its next possession, the big play being a 15-yard facemask penalty on Banks on a fourth-and-2 from the Fort Hill 40. Three plays later, on third-and-10, Johnson hit Poling again, in stride along the sideline for a 27-yard gain to the Allegany 18. Banks broke the tie on the next play, going off right tackle, and Hipp’s kick made it 21-14 with 2:04 left in the third.
Allegany, stopped on fourth down on its next series, got one final possession, and made the most of it by going 63 yards in 10 plays, with Llewellyn converting a fourth-and-2 with a 7-yard run to get to the Fort Hill 48, and two plays later Robinette gained 11 yards to get to the 35.
After Llewellyn outmanuevered several defenders and a teammate to catch a pass from Bratton for 22 yards to get to the 13, he scored on the 13-yard run to make it 21-20, setting the stage for the two-point try.
Follow Mike Mathews on Twitter @MikeMathewsCTN.
Fort Hill edges Allegany in West Region nail biter, 21-20. Game story: https://t.co/3smbtb10Iq— Mike Mathews (@MikeMathewsCTN) November 18, 2017
Final: Fort Hill 21, Allegany 20 #CTNFF— Mike Mathews (@MikeMathewsCTN) November 18, 2017
Elisha Llewellyn 22 yard pass from Cameron Bratton , 13 yard TD run. Fort Hill stops 2 pt run a half yard shy Fort Hill 21, Allegany 20, 3:53 left #CTNFF— Mike Mathews (@MikeMathewsCTN) November 18, 2017