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