CUMBERLAND — Dylan Clay did just about everything, the defense passed another test and the Fort Hill Sentinels moved a step closer to their ultimate goal with a 49-27 victory over Brunswick in their Class 1A West Region semifinal Friday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
Fort Hill (11-0) will host second-seeded Boonsboro (10-1) in the region championship game Friday. Brunswick ended the season 7-4.
Brunswick led in most every statistical category, with 6-foot-6, 250-pound quarterback Ian Fisher completing 41 of 63 passes for 453 yards. But it was the Sentinels who dominated the scoreboard, building leads of 21-0 and 28-7 in the first half and 35-7 in the second.
One of the big reasons was Dylan Clay, who ran for three touchdowns, caught a touchdown pass, took a touchdown away from Brunswick with an interception in the end zone, and ended the Railroaders’ chances with another interception late in the fourth quarter.
Garrett Clay ran 21 times for 190 yards and two touchdowns and Dylan Clay ran 18 times for 120 yards. Ryan Briner scored the other touchdown.
“The guys on this team never quit,” Fort Hill coach Todd Appel said. “We’re used to blowing teams out. I don’t know how many times they threw the ball ... but our defensive linemen probably ran three miles tonight, 10 yards at a time.
“Our kids are tremendous. They play extremely hard and there are great athletes all over the place.”
The Sentinels’ largest lead was 35-7 after a Briner nine-yard run with seven seconds left in the third quarter. A pair of successful onside kicks in the fourth helped the Railroaders get to within 35-21 with 10 minutes to play, but they got no closer as the Sentinels won their playoff opener with heavy hearts after learning of the death of their head coach’s mother earlier in the day.
“She never let me down. She wouldn’t want me to let these kids down. Plain and simple,’’ Appel said softly. “That’s what I told them today. She would have been mad if I didn’t show up tonight.”
The teams combined for 989 yards of offense. Joe Conrad completed a pass for 28 yards, making Brunswick 42 for 64 for 481 yards through the air, and finished with 529 for the night.
While the Railroaders chucked it all night, the Sentinels were the opposite, running 53 times for 383 yards and finishing with 460 yards of offense.
Ironically, it was one of the few Fort Hill passes that may have been the biggest of the night. Mike Austin entered the game and promptly threw a perfect sideline pass to Dylan Clay who caught it in full stride for a 50-yard touchdown with 57 seconds left in the first half, making it 28-7.
“Mike Austin gets a lot of quality reps on the scout team side of the ball in practice,” Appel said. “This week he was Ian Fisher, so he threw the ball a lot. I told him earlier in the year to keep his head up, things will work out and happen for him. Tonight they sure did.”
Fort Hill scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, building a 21-0 lead on two- and 10-yard runs by Dylan Clay and a six-yard run by Garrett Clay.
The third touchdown was set up by a failed fake punt on a fourth-and-3 from the Brunswick eight, with Cody Dolly, Dylan Clay and Wesley Wills getting the big hit on Brunswick punter Tate Rolland, stopping him a half yard short of a first down.
Fisher hit Blaine Price for a 29-yard touchdown pass and after Price recovered an onside kick and a 35-yard pass play, Fisher scored on a two-yard run to make it 35-21.
The Railroaders recovered an onside kick after that score, too, but an incompletion on fourth down stopped them, and if a 23-yard TD run by Garrett Clay with 5:47 didn’t ice it, Dylan Clay’s interception a few plays later did.
“Brunswick’s dangerous. They always attack and their coach (Patt Foster) comes up with all kinds of stuff,” Appel said. “The spread offense and the onside kicks ... you didn’t see half of it. I was watching films until my eyes bled this week.
“We didn’t make a good play on the onside kick, gave them good field position and they put one on the board and closed the margin. You’re worried, every time, because they can score so quickly.”
Fisher, headed to James Madison University in the fall, hit Tyler Dabbs with 11 passes for 118 yards. Jacob Strauss had eight catches for 139 yards and Price nine for 97.
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.