Fort Hill Coaches Felt It Would Be Their Day
Cumberland Sunday Times
November 11, 1984

The coaching staff of the Fort Hill football team thought yesterday could very well be their day when they picked up the newspaper and saw that South Carroll somehow lost to a weak Westminster team 21-0.

"When I saw that score," said assistant coach Barry Lattimer, "I got a feeling things might be on our side today. That gave us a golden opportunity to get in the playoffs. We had to capitalize."

Boy, did they capitalize.

In one of the biggest upsets in city football history, the Fort Hill Sentinels shocked the city of Cumberland and the Allegany High Campers 14-12. Defense, defense, and a little more defense won this game for Fort Hill and first-year coach Dick Bittner wanted his defenders to bask in the glory of a Homecoming victory.

"Can you imagine how hard these boys played and how good it must make them feel to shut down and defeat a great football team like Allegany? Coming off three losses out of the last four games, giving up 16 touchdowns in those games, and then to come into Fort Hill Stadium to beat the defending state champions who have not been beaten in two years...well, it's just an amazing thing. I have never been prouder of a group of people in my life than I am now of these boys."

Bittner was also quick to praise his offensive line that engineered two time-consuming drives. "All of our coaches deserve credit for preparing our boys so well. But that offensive line? Oh my goodness, coach Steve Lewis did a great job. Wayne Steckman, Troy McKenzie, Kenny Valentine, Jim Straw, Todd Helmick, Blaine Shewbridge and Scott Twigg provided us with the greatest blocking of the year. They were tremendous."

With the Sentinels coming into the second half leading 7-6, it seemed they were playing with a lot of confidence. Bittner agreed to a point. "We were confident all day long. It wasn't a matter of realizing after the first half that Allegany put their pants on just like we do. It was a matter of our boys being confident and determined the entire week and the entire game."

It was funny Bittner would bring up pants, because the matter was a focal point as the Sentinels donned bright scarlet pants for the first time in ten years (Bell Vocational, 1974).

When the Sentinels began their long journey down the steps from Fort Hill High School to the stadium, if one didn't know better he would have guessed the Campers were about to go up against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Bittner feels the new threads may have given his team an emotional lift. "John Broll, a young man who has helped our football program all year suggested it to me. We had brand new shirts and brand new red pants and John Broll talked me into wearing them. I guess the boys figured if we were going to look like a million bucks, we might as well play like a million. It probably perked them up and if it did, John Broll gets the credit."

Bittner really knew what won the game for Fort Hill and he again credited his defense. "Our players were poised and they did not make mistakes. Steve Hess and Wayne Steckman were tremendous at the ends. Coach Dee Kalbaugh deserves a lot of credit for the work he did with them this week."

"Blaine Shewbridge was magnificent and along with Helmick, George Creamer, and Steve Michael spearheaded our defensive attack."

Shewbridge was in on nine tackles and was named the game's outstanding defensive player. He was in on the stops on both of Allegany's two-point conversion attempts and he also was in on big hits when Allegany had the ball deep in Sentinel territory.

Although he was the top defensive player, the most important item to keep in mind about Shewbridge is the talented toe that was the difference in Fort Hill's 10-7 win over Martinsburg early in the season. The Shewbridge toe was the difference again yesterday - kicking two extra points.

"I was very nervous," admitted the six-foot 200-pound tackle. "I just had to concentrate on kicking the ball and things worked out."

Shewbridge cited the second quarter scoring drive in which Fort Hill marched 67 yards on 15 plays. Not only did it produce a Mike Gelles touchdown, it knocked 6:43 off the clock. "That drive was a key in my opinion. When we controlled the line like that, for so long, I knew we could win."

Does Shewbridge think Allegany took the Sentinels too lightly? "No. You could tell out on the field they knew it would be a tough game. This one always is for both of us."

Mike Gelles rushed for 84 yards on 19 carries and scored both Fort Hill touchdowns and was named the game's top offensive player. "It's great to beat Allegany. We were ready for them all week. We had a lot to prove today. The award is nice, but I could not have done anything without this guy (Gelles hugged Jeff Shambaugh) and the offensive line. They were unreal."

Shambaugh, the tiny Sentinel tailback, was also jubilant. "Everybody thought we were weak. We wanted to prove that we could play with Allegany."

Shambaugh also had another reason to celebrate. Coming into the game he needed 54 yards to reach the 1,000 plateau for the season. Wouldn't you know it, he gained exactly 54. "I'll take a thousand, but that's just icing on the cake. Winning this game is the greatest feeling in the world."

Quarterback Richard Powell gave credit to the defense. "We knew we had a chance all along to beat them if we could hold them off, and the defense did it for us."

Randy Marrale, the 5-11, 170-pound defensive back, admitted to some anxious moments though in holding off the Camper offense. Especially, when Danny Porter began busting loose long runs in the fourth quarter. "Danny Porter is a great player and he had us scared at the end of the game. He broke some nice runs and he could have broken some more. I'm just glad he didn't."

"We were real confident in the second half. All I know is the Kettle is coming back to Fort Hill High School where it belongs."

"The Kettle?" Bittner asked. "Yeah, they won back The Old Iron Kettle. The thing is, none of our players have ever seen it and now they've won it. Allegany's had it for so long, our kids don't know what the heck they've won."

After the game, the mood in coach Jim Refosco's office at Campobello was somber. But there also seemed to be a relaxed feeling and air among the Allegany coaches.

"I'll be brutally frank," said Refosco. "I feel like the monkey's off my back. Don't get me wrong. We went over there to win the ballgame and I surely wish we had, but as soon as that game ended I just felt so relieved."

Refosco, too, had praise for the Fort Hill defense. "We wanted to run Danny Porter outside but we couldn't make the turn. We had to go back inside on our last touchdown drive and it paid off. Fort Hill played well all the way across and we give them credit for what they accomplished. I'm happy for Dick Bittner."

The Campers elected to go for two from kick formation. Robinette went in motion right and the ball was snapped to Porter lining up to kick the ball. Porter surged behind Robinette and holder Shaffer but was stacked up at the line by Fort Hill's Todd Helmick and Blaine Shewbridge.

"It was open," said Refosco. "We elected for two because we thought it would work. If we execute properly, the play works."

"Today Fort Hill is the better football team. They capitalized on our mistakes and that's what you have to do to win football games. We gave it our best shot and played very hard. We just didn't have what it took today and Fort Hill did."

For Refosco and his Campers, the season ends at 9-1. A city record 21 straight wins highlighted the Allegany season along with the all-round talents of Danny Porter. "I just hope people realize some of the things our football team has accomplished," said Refosco. "I hope our kids remember too. I told them after the game to keep this in the proper perspective. It's just a game. There has to be a winner and there has to be a loser."

Refosco is hoping his players will use the Fort Hill game as a learning experience down the road. "They're crushed right now. They've had a lot of pressure on them. Right now the pressure is off their backs and I told them to appreciate that. Life goes on. We had a great year and I want the players and our fans to realize that. Hopefully we'll all be better people because of all of this."

Refosco realizes himself that sometimes in sports, fans don't want to be so understanding following a loss in the big game. "Yeah, it falls under the old adage of 'it's what you did today that is important.' Today we didn't make the grade and people are just going to have to accept that."

"I have nothing but praise for Dick Bittner and Fort Hill High School. I wish them the best of luck in the playoffs."


Randy Stewart, a first year Allegany coach, was rushed to Memorial Hospital by ambulance immediately following the game. A hospital spokesman said Stewart's illness was treated and the 1976 Camper standout was released.


"Was the crowd as big as it looked?" Dick Bittner asked.

Yeah coach, it was as big as it looked. Veteran pressbox observers estimated a record turnout of 12,000-plus. Fans were still coming in as the game began. J. Suter Kegg, retired Cumberland Times sports editor, was of the opinion that the crowd a half hour before kickoff was the largest he had ever seen assembled that early at the stadium.

Hundreds of fans were forced to take a Saturday stroll through the park. With parking space at a premium, they cluttered the roads in nearby Constitution Park with their cars and made their way to the stadium in steady streams.

Two representatives of Chesapeake High of Baltimore County, at the game to scout Allegany, were amazed at the size of the crowd. "We've never seen anything like this," coach Don Harman said at halftime, "Our crowds are in the hundreds, not thousands"

Fort Hill leads the overall series 27-21-4. Since the Thanksgiving Day game was dropped, the Sentinels lead the Homecoming series 6-5.