CUMBERLAND — Nathaniel Graves took to the air for four touchdown passes and undefeated Fort Hill made sure that the only thing more confused than Capitol Hill was the Capitol Christian offense during a 63-0 blow out of the Warriors on a damp Friday at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
Graves finished 5 of 7 for 108 yards and found Brayden Brown and Luke Hamilton, as well as Brayden Poling twice, for touchdowns. The Warriors were penned up for only 52 yards, gaining zero on the ground in the first half and just eight all night. Capitol quarterback Jordan Border was chased all evening and wound up 8 for 20, often just getting a pass off before being floored by the Sentinels.
The athleticism of Border and running back Nicholas Barnes could be seen when they were able to make a single Fort Hill player miss, but what they couldn’t make miss was the swarm of Sentinels usually following that play.
“We are going to see players like that later in the season,” said Fort Hill coach Todd Appel. “We don’t have slouches on the defensive line either, they’ll get after the you, but that quarterback can make plays if you aren’t smart or careful. So could their running back (Barnes). They just didn’t have a lot of help. We worked on tackling after the Silver Oak game, but Capitol Christian has some talented players that can make you miss in the open field.
“It helps us down the road though, that if we can tackle these kids, we can tackle some other kids like that if we come across them.”
While the Warriors had a few players capable of making the Fort Hill defense miss, the Sentinels’ offense missed nothing all night. Graves completed all but two passes, five players scored offensive touchdowns and in 31 carries only one was for a loss.
The drives were models of efficiency, needing just two plays to get the first touchdown — a 13-yard run by Raen Smith. The second drive took five plays for Graves to find Brown wide open behind the defense for a 44-yard score, and the third touchdown drive was so efficient that it took no plays at all as Graves (a play after throwing the touchdown to Brown) stepped in front of a Bolder pass and returned it 31 yards to make it 21-0 by the end of the first quarter.
Graves finished 5 of 7 for 108 yards and the four touchdowns. Brown caught two passes for 67 yards and Brayden Poling had two for 33 yards.
While Fort Hill has the weapons to be able to both throw and run the ball, the coaching staff seems to know exactly when to dial up a deep throw and when to stick to the ground.
“This staff is always prepared and has a plan for whoever we are going against,” Appel said. “Gavin Palumbo calls a good game for us, but one thing I think that really helps is how close we are as a staff. We have been coaching together for a long time and are all friends. It’s easy for us to all get on the same page together and figure out what needs to be done. We do a good job of knowing what the the other team is giving us and what we can take from them.”
A Poling interception (one of three for the Fort Hill defense) set the table for Brown to run 59 yards two plays later to make it 28-0. Brown added 107 yards on five carries to go with his 67 receiving.
Less than two minutes later the score grew to 35-0 when the Sentinels’ front got pressure on a punt and forced a kick straight up. The punt was for minus-seven yards and Hamilton was there to field it at the Capitol Christian 21-yard line and return it for a touchdown.
Fort Hill made it 42-0 on a four-play drive that ended when Graves threw a 27-yard touchdown to Poling with 4:20 left in the second quarter, and another Graves-to-Poling touchdown from six yards made it 49-0 with 45 seconds left.
A fumble recovery by Hamilton set up the final touchdown of the half, an eight-yard pass from Graves to Hamilton.
The final points came on a running clock in the fourth quarter when Carter Swan ran in from nine yards with 4:32 remaining.
The Sentinels will welcome Fairmont Heights on Friday after the Hornets fell to 1-4 with a loss to Gwynn Park with the idea being for Fort Hill to continue to improve each week.
“We as coaches and players will come together to fix things that need fixing, and I know we will come up with something to work on areas that need improving. We need to work on rushing the passer under control and our kickoff coverage, and that will be handled early in the week. It’s all about not making the same mistakes and getting a little better each game.”