MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

The passing of Mark Manges last month naturally brought back a flood of memories. You’ll have that, of course, when it comes to a two-sport All-American and one-time subject of the cover of Sports Illustrated. But everything about Mark, in or out of athletics, evokes giant memories because it seemed everything about him and everything that surrounded him was extra-large as life.

That includes the football team he quarterbacked his senior season at Fort Hill High School 50 years ago, the 1973 Sentinels, who finished the season at a perfect 10-0 and virtually ran though and over every team it faced but one.

If that Fort Hill team, coached by Charlie Lattimer and quarterbacked by Mark Manges, wasn’t the greatest football team in Cumberland history … Let’s put it this way: While there are a handful of teams from both Allegany and Fort Hill that might be in the conversation, there has been none better than the 1973 Fort Hill Sentinels.

For beginners, they were unfairly talented with every bit as much depth. There were players on that team who played, and played a lot, but did not start, such as lineman Rick Twigg, now the head softball coach at Allegany College of Maryland, and end Mike Amezcua, now the owner of Ledo Pizza in LaVale, both of whom would have easily been All-City and All-CVAL performers any other year but their own senior year. Terry Hansrote, who was a starting defensive back, would have been All-State quarterback if not for the All-American quarterback he was playing behind.

From that team, Manges and lineman Butch Benson received football scholarships from the University of Maryland, fullback Fred Miller went to Akron and played for the NCAA Division II national title; backs Shane Hast and Hansrote, and end Fred Hadra went to James Madison to help start the football program there; and ends Jim MacFarlane and Barry Lattimer went to Shepherd, Lattimer, a future Fort Hill head coach, having been a junior in 1973.

The Sentinels scored a then-City record 397 points and gave up just 42. They pitched five shutouts and did not allow a conversion on any of the seven touchdowns scored on them. The only game in which they were even challenged came in Hagerstown when they beat one of the best South teams in history, 12-6 (the Rebels would go undefeated in basketball that winter and win the Maryland 3A title).

Thing about it is, or was, Fort Hill was not the only great football team in the city that year. There were two others — Bishop Walsh, who had won seven games, and the Allegany Campers, who entered the annual Turkey Day Game with Fort Hill with a near-perfect 8-1 record, their only loss coming to the aforementioned South Hagerstown Rebels, 13-0.

It was 50 years ago, and Allegany and Fort Hill still closed their seasons at the stadium on Thanksgiving afternoon. The 1973 Turkey Day Game, as turned out, would be the final one, as the beginning of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state football playoffs had been pushed back one season, much to the dismay of Charlie Lattimer, which would be 1974.

Fort Hill and Allegany both had great football teams in 1973 and both teams truly believed they would win the Turkey Day Game, but Fort Hill closed out Manges’ brilliant four-year career as the starting quarterback with an alarming confirmation of their feelings on the matter with a 50-12 rout of the Campers on a sunny 67-degree Thanksgiving day in front of an estimated 9,000 fans.

The Campers of head coach George Stimmel did nothing wrong. In fact, they played a very good game. It just didn’t matter because no team would have had a chance against Manges and Fort Hill on that day.

Manges was magnificent in rushing for three touchdowns and passing for another one. He rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries and completed five of six passes for 90 yards for 212 yards of total offense in his farewell to what was then Fort Hill Stadium. He also returned punts and kickoffs and one interception (he was the starting safety) for 325 yards. One long punt return for touchdown was nullified by penalty, and his three touchdown runs would have been longer if not for some saving tackles by Alco’s Kelly Mooney.

The Sentinels rushed for 236 yards and had 326 yards of total offense, holding the Campers to 63 rushing yards and 133 passing. Besides Manges’ TDs, Hast, Tommy Merritt, Miller and Barry Lattimer scored as well, with Lattimer catching four passes for 63 yards, including a beautiful 40-yard TD pass from Manges. Amezcua kicked six extra points to tie the then-City season record of 39.

Both of the Campers’ touchdowns were scored by Marc Coleman on passes from Tim Kane.

The win was Fort Hill’s second in a row over Allegany and fourth in five years, giving the Sentinels what was then a 19-16-4 lead in the series.

For coach Charlie Lattimer, it marked his second undefeated season (he would have two more) and the 112th win of his career at Fort Hill. In the previous game, a 35-6 win over Bishop Walsh, Lattimer surpassed his former coach Bill Hahn as the winningest football coach in Fort Hill history, a distinction he still holds with a 157-40-4 record in 20 seasons.

For those of us who were lucky to be there, it sure doesn’t seem like 50 years. It was a Fort Hill team like no other.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT