CUMBERLAND — No. 2 Fort Hill made big plays when it mattered most, while No. 1 Mountain Ridge couldn’t get out of its own way, as the Sentinels trounced the Miners, 37-7, on Friday night at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
Bryce Schadt ran for a pair of touchdowns and Shane Welsh added a pair of insurance scores to put the game to bed, as the Sentinel offense outgained Mountain Ridge, 337-132.
“The kids were certainly motivated,” said Fort Hill head coach Zack Alkire. “All season long we’ve heard that we were the second-best team, or maybe not even the second-best team. There were people out there at the beginning of the season saying we’d be a .500 team — so each week they’ve used that as a chip on their shoulder.
“This week’s no different. On our scouting reports for our kids, we had No. 1 Mountain Ridge, just to remind them, ‘Hey, this is what everyone thinks.’ They were certainly motivated to play this game. They got a couple key stops early, couple interceptions, couple turnovers, forced them into some mistakes that they’re not characteristic of doing and it turned out our way.”
“Disappointing night obviously,” Mountain Ridge head coach Ryan Patterson said. “We came here expecting to win, and a litany of mistakes kind of got us off the tracks. You can’t do that with a team as good as Fort Hill. That was evident out here.”
Key to holding the Miners, who averaged 56.2 points per contest entering Friday, to seven points and 132 yards (96 rushing, 36 passing) was the play on defense of Carter Hess, who recorded two sacks.
CUMBERLAND — It’s become a recurring theme for Fort Hill’s game plans, particularly on defen…
“They are no longer the number one team in the area,” Hess said. “We like having a target on our back, let’s keep it going. That’s what got us a win.”
Although Fort Hill’s first two drives resulted in punts, the Miners’ opening two drives ended via turnover with an interception and a fumble.
The Sentinels marched down the field on their third drive thanks in large part to a 10-yard run by Blake White, an 11-yard run by Tavin Willis and then a 35-yard catch by Willis off the arm of Schadt to account for Fort Hill’s only passing yards.
The Miners’ defense held out and forced Fort Hill to settle for a 35-yard field goal by Jacob Tichnell at 2:25.
Fort Hill extended its lead to 10-0 on a 5-yard run by White with 4:38 remaining in the first half.
With favorable field positioning late in the first half thanks to a 26-yard punt return by Saiquan Jenkins, the Sentinels made it 17-0 when, on fourth-and-9, Schadt broke free up the left side for a 35-yard score. Tichnell added the PAT for a 17-0 advantage with 1:43 to go before halftime.
Schadt, although finishing 1 of 6 for 35 yards, had one less passing yard than Mountain Ridge’s Bryce Snyder, who came into the game averaging just under 200 yards passing per contest.
“Bryce Snyder is great. He’s a great quarterback, he throws a great ball, he has a bright future,” Alkire said. “But I feel like Bryce Schadt kind of had a chip on his shoulder about it. When people talk about Bryce (Snyder), they don’t think about (Schadt). He really has made it a point to up his game. His play tonight was phenomenal. He made a couple big plays with his feet that we’re just like, ‘Wow.’ When the play broke out on that big play that he took it in for his first touchdown, we did not know he was that fast.”
Schadt finished with five rushes for 59 yards.
“That (play) was not planned,” Alkire said of the touchdown play, where Schadt had three receivers to his right. “That was Bryce making a play. We were going for it on fourth down. Mountain Ridge had good coverage, the play broke down, they got pressure on him and Bryce just made a play.”
Schadt added a 15-yard touchdown run at 8:01 in the third quarter, with Welsh adding 1-yard scores at 1:24 in the third and 8:10 in the fourth.
Anthony Palmisano led the Sentinels in rushing yards with 63 — 56 of them came on the drive resulting in Welsh’s first touchdown, where the Sentinels drove 96 yards on eight plays spanning just under five minutes.
Willis was the bellcow with 15 carries for 54 yards, White added nine rushes for 47 yards and Shane Welsh finished with 11 carries for 45 yards, all of which came in the second half. All of which came in the absence of Breven Stubbs, who Alkire found out on Tuesday would be in COVID quarantine.
“We knew that when Brev wasn’t going to be there this week that we had to rely a little bit more on Tavin,” said Alkire. “We pumped him up for it all week and Tavin’s a gamer. Tavin wants to win probably more than most people probably should. The fact that he was able to come out there tonight, play both sides of the ball, cover their best receivers, do a lot of motioning, play linebacker, we never really got into a set where he was going to play safety. There’s lots of places for Tavin. For him to do what he did tonight, just a great job.”
The Miners appeared to be heading for another punt situation just before halftime, on third-and-13 from their own 20; Snyder, however, kept it himself on a run-pass option and broke free up the left side for a 69-yard gain to the Fort Hill 11. Two plays later, Snyder hit Uma Pua’auli on a mesh route for a 10-yard score, with Ashton Shimko booting the PAT and making it a 17-7 ballgame at halftime.
“Up and down tonight,” Patterson said of Snyder’s play. “We expect him to be perfect and we coach him that way. The early turnover can’t happen. He showed right before halftime though what he’s made of. He’ll be back, he’ll be fine.”
Snyder finished 5 of 17 for 36 yards and two interceptions.
“We played terrible from the start,” Snyder said. “We’ve got a lot of cleaning up to do. We just gotta move on, we’ve got to flush it, but we’ll keep it in the back of our minds.”
With Mountain Ridge holding much of the momentum entering the break, considering it would also receive the opening kickoff, the wind got taken out of its sails on the first play of the second half when the snap sailed over Snyder’s head for a 20-yard loss.
“You could see it in our psyche,” Patterson said. “As coaches we tried to build morale on the sideline at that point in time, but you could see they were very disappointed by that. They knew we were playing a good team, and they knew we couldn’t make a mistake like that. We couldn’t overcome it.”
The Miners turned the ball over three times in total with two picks and six fumbles, five of which they recovered. Fort Hill fumbled three times and recovered all of them.
Mountain Ridge (5-1) returns home next week to take on Northern, who is coming off a 22-13 loss at Moorefield.
“I want to see how we respond to this,” Patterson said. “I hope this isn’t the defining moment for our season. ... We have film study first thing in the morning and we’re going to look at the mistakes. We’ll see which ones are correctable. Northern’s going to be a bear for us. We know that already.”
Fort Hill (6-0), who seems like the surefire unanimous No. 1 in next week’s Area Top Five, travels to Smithsburg on Thursday.
“It’ll be a little bit different,” Alkire said of the Thursday game. “It’s also a 6-o’clock start, so it’s going to change some things throughout our day for sure. But we’re just going to keep plugging away and develop a game plan for Smithsburg and play Smithsburg and hopefully come away with another victory.”