Havre de Grace falls to Fort Hill in 1A state ti­tle game for 2nd straight sea­son

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By MATT HICKS

Spe­cial to the Whig

— Havre de Grace clashed in a re­match with 1A foot­ball jug­ger­naut Fort Hill in the 1A state cham­pi­onship game at Navy-Marine Corps Memo­rial Sta­dium on Saturday in search of its fourth state ti­tle in pro­gram his­tory.

The op­pos­ing Sen­tinels, who outscored their op­po­nents 49-9 per game this sea­son, ap­peared to be on their way to an­ni­hi­lat­ing yet an­other team that stood be­tween them and vic­tory, en­ter­ing half­time with a 21-0 lead on a bit­terly cold and windy after­noon.

How­ever, the War­riors, who showed re­solve and an un­will­ing­ness to quit all sea­son, quickly scored twice in the sec­ond half to creep back within one touch­down, be­fore be­ing handed an even­tual 35-14 loss by Fort Hill in the 1A state cham­pi­onship game.

“We knew from last year what type of foot­ball game this was go­ing to be,” War­riors head coach Brian Eber­hardt said. “It was go­ing to be a phys­i­cal foot­ball game and we were go­ing to have to try [and] match that. We didn’t nec­es­sar­ily get that done on ev­ery play but there was a mo­ment there in the third quar­ter when we got within one score, down 21-14.”

Af­ter pulling within seven points, the War­riors (10-3) were un­able to stop Fort Hill (14-0) on the very

AN­NAPO­LIS

next pos­ses­sion, as the Sen­tinels mo­tored 78 yards on 11 plays be­fore ju­nior run­ning back Troy Banks punched the foot­ball in from 5 yards out to give his team a 28-14 lead af­ter a suc­cess­ful point-af­ter at­tempt with only 1:08 re­main­ing in the third quar­ter.

“I thought there were times where we were able to match the phys­i­cal­ness of Fort Hill and we did have some suc­cess,” Eber- hardt said of his play­ers’ ef­fort. “It was just, again, the crit­i­cal part of the game for us was when we were only down one score and we couldn’t get them off the field on their next pos­ses­sion and it re- sulted in a touch­down and put us down two scores again. That was a re­ally crit­i­cal part for us, not be­ing able to get them off the field when we were only down one score.”

Havre de Grace was on a mis­sion to pull it­self within one score again when it marched down the field on an eight-play, 51-yard drive. But Fort Hill se­nior play­maker Bray­den Brown stepped in front of a pass from se­nior quar­ter­back Mikey Flosser in­tended for re­ceiver Jordan Day at the 5-yard line, de­liv­er­ing the fi­nal knock­out punch.

Fol­low­ing a turnover on downs at mid­field with just 6:43 re­main­ing in the con­test, the Sen­tinels crafted their fi­nal scor­ing drive of the game (seven plays, 51 yards) as Banks scored his fourth and fi­nal touch­down of the game on a 10-yard touch­down run with 3:08 re­main­ing to se­cure the win for Fort Hill.

Although it ended in an­oth­er­state cham­pi­onship loss to Fort Hill, the War­riors still com­pleted an­other suc­cess­ful sea­son. Havre de Grace held the Sen­tinels to their third-fewest points scored all sea­son, while scor­ing the sec­ond­most points on the stout de­fense from west­ern Mary­land. Fort Hill reg­u­larly plays a tough sched­ule com­posed of out-of-state schools and pro­grams of higher clas­si­fi­ca­tions.

“I didn’t re­al­ize that [we had done bet­ter than most teams against Fort Hill this sea­son],” Eber­hardt added. “I’m proud of these guys re­gard­less. Who would have given us a chance to come

back here again af­ter grad­u­at­ing 15 se­niors last year? I’m betting the odds were against us on com­ing back, so I’m ex­tremely proud of these guys. They’re ded­i­cated kids and ded­i­cated foot­ball play­ers. We have a young team and I’m sure we’ll re­bound from this well and prob­a­bly get back to work in a few weeks.”

Eber­hardt in­tends to build on a suc­cess­ful sea­son that of­fered great ex­pe­ri­ence for his un­der­class­men who will re­turn next year in hopes of re­turn­ing to the state ti­tle for a third straight sea­son.

“In my opin­ion, [it was a re­build­ing year]. We lost 15 se­niors and a lot of those guys were on both sides of the ball,” Eber­hardt said of his young team. “Again, when you lose 15 se­niors from a 1A school, I mean, we only carry 30 guys on var­sity. If you lose half of them to grad­u­a­tion, I was look­ing at it as a re­build­ing year.”

Fort Hill had to earn state record-ty­ing 4th-straight crown

Havre de Grace gave Fort Hill, which tied Ur­bana (four state ti­tles from 1998-2001) for the most con­sec­u­tive state cham­pi­onships, all it could han­dle in the first quar­ter.

The War­riors over­came a turnover on the open- ing kick­off by forc­ing a turnover on downs and a punt, re­spec­tively, on the Sen­tinels’ first two pos­ses­sions. The Har­ford County squad then drove to the Fort Hill 20-yard line to set up a field goal at­tempt by re­li­able ju­nior place­kicker Clay Harris (13 for 16 on the sea­son, long of 41). How­ever, Brown, a Coastal Carolina com­mit, blocked the 37-yard field goal at­tempt to swing the mo­men­tum and give the ball back to the dan­ger­ous Sen­tinel of­fense, which had three play­ers with 750-plus rush­ing yards and 42 com­bined touch­downs.

Brown made the War­riors pay for the missed field goal when he took a hand­off off­tackle to the right side for a 21-yard touch­down run to cap a nine-play, 68-yard drive with 0:05 re­main­ing in the open­ing frame. A suc­cess­ful point-af­ter-touch­down put the Sen­tinels ahead, 7-0.

Fort Hill quickly struck again af­ter its de­fense, which en­tered av­er­ag­ing 231 pounds on the de­fen­sive front, forced the War­riors to punt. Banks took the sec­ond play of the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion 14 yards on the ground for a touch­down. Fol­low­ing a botched snap on the point-af­ter-at­tempt, the Sen­tinels staked claim to a 13-0 lead.

The Sen­tinels found the score sheet again late in the sec­ond quar­ter when Banks com­pleted a suc­cess­ful nine-play, 72-yard drive by scam­per­ing in from 5 yards out. Fort Hill quar­ter­back Nathaniel Graves then found run­ning back Luke Hamil­ton through the air on the 2-point con­ver­sion to give the Sen­tinels a com­mand­ing 21-0 lead en­ter­ing half­time..

The War­riors ex­ited half­time re­fus­ing to go qui­etly.

Havre de Grace re­cov­ered a fum­ble on the open­ing kick­off of the sec­ond half. Ju­nior line­backer Sean Gree­ley then put the War­riors im­me­di­ately back in the game when he crossed the goal line on his lone carry of the game, a 1-yard touch­down rush that pulled his team within two touch­downs.

Af­ter the Gree­ley-led de­fense forced a punt on the en­su­ing Fort Hill drive, Flosser (11 com­ple­tions, 121 yards, one pass­ing touch­down) led his of­fense on a six-play, 43-yard drive that he capped with an 8-yard touch­down pass to re­ceiver Ken­neth Sumpter that pulled the War­riors within a score.

“We were go­ing to make some changes [af­ter half­time], but with the turnover, I think that turnover re­ally sparked our guys and [told us], ‘Hey, we can play with these guys.’ I re­ally think that turnover on the kick­off sparked us,” Eber­hardt said of the key de­fen­sive play. “If we could have car­ried that mo­men­tum and got them off the field down one score, the com­plex­ion [of the game] would have been a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JORDAN SCHATZ

Havre de Grace se­nior quar­ter­back Mikey Flosser rushes with the foot­ball dur­ing his team’s 35-14 loss to Fort Hill in Saturday’s 1A state cham­pi­onship game at Navy-Marine Corps Memo­rial Sta­dium in An­napo­lis.

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