“You come at the king, you best not miss.”
— Omar Little, West Baltimore
Allegany Radio Corporation Sports
Much of what I heard from area high school football fans last week – other than from fans of Fort Hill and Mountain Ridge – was, “Fort Hill’s going down. Mountain Ridge is putting them down. Fort Hill’s time is up.”
Not yet, anyway.
For the much ballyhooed match between undefeateds Mountain Ridge and Fort Hill, the largest crowd the area has seen in a few seasons packed Greenway Avenue Stadium on Friday night with Mountain Ridge entering the game ranked No. 1 and Fort Hill ranked No. 2.
No. 2 noticed. Then proceeded to win what is likely to be the first of two matchups between the two Allegany County teams, 37-7.
“The kids were certainly motivated,” Fort Hill head coach Zack Alkire told Kyle Bennett, of the Cumberland Times-News. “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.”
And through the first five weeks, the Sentinels delivered impressive and gritty wins over Northern, Old Mill, Southern, Hollidaysburg and Oakdale,
“This week’s no different,” Alkire continued. “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 …”
Fort Hill used a Fort Hill-like ground-game drive to extend a 3-0 lead to 10 deep into the second quarter, and then quarterback Bryce Schadt and the Sentinel defense took control from there. It was a big win in a big game, which Fort Hill has been used to playing, and winning, since, in the words of former Fort Hill head coach Charlie Lattimer, Hector was a pup.
Not that there won’t be more big games coming for the Sentinels and the Miners this season – we can easily think of three or four more right off the bat, including (quite possibly) with each other – but Fort Hill has a long history with these kind of things from the time then-head coach Bill Hahn returned to the South Cumberland school from World War II in 1946.
No, clearly, each latest big game over the course of eight decades encompasses hundreds and hundreds of different players from many newer generations. But it’s called a winning culture and the Sentinels, dating back to The Greatest Generation, have built that culture, continue to cement it each day in the weight room (“We Bust Ours So We Can Kick Yours”) and in offseason preparations, and have won most of those games.
Big games are nothing new for Fort Hill, from Hahn, to Lattimer, to Bittner, to Calhoun, to Lattimer, to Appel and now, to Alkire. Winning them has been pretty routine as well; and not by accident.
That said, the Sentinels have two scheduled regular-season games remaining – at Smithsburg on Thursday, and Oct. 30 against their arch-rival Allegany (oh yeah, them …). Mountain Ridge, led by their magnificent quarterback Bryce Snyder, would be wise to keep its eye on the ball as well, as the Miners have home games with Northern, Williamsport and Keyser remaining.
After that, who’s to say?
The 1A West playoff field will include the Sentinels, the Miners, the Campers and the Huskies for beginners. None will be easy match-ups for whomever draws them in the postseason. The important thing for both Fort Hill and Mountain Ridge will be to put last Friday night behind them, which, for competitors, is not often easy to do.
Friday night at Greenway was an Event Night. It was a crisp autumn evening with an excited crowd that I would estimate at around 6,000 to 7,000. That used to be a commonplace draw around here, particularly at Greenway, but not so much anymore, for a number of reasons.
It was a great draw between two terrific high school football teams, and the communities answered the bell and turned out for it to support their respective community schools. It was a big crowd, but it was a night of still, quiet moments because of the immediacy of The Event.
It was a long time coming because of a number of circumstances, some of our own doing, much more not of our doing. It took a long time to get a hot dog and a slice of stadium pizza. It took a long time to get into the stadium.
But it was welcome.
And it could happen again.
Just be slow to knock the crown off the head of the king. That crown is up there for a lot of reasons.
Mike Burke writes about sports and a lot of other stuff for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital. 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 follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT