all else fails, there's always belief
December 1, 1997
PARK - If
Charlie Lattimer, the former Fort Hill football coach
really did make a deal with the devil 22 years ago,
the contract expired at halftime of Saturday's Maryland
Class 2A state championship game at Byrd Stadium.
the Fort Hill Sentinels had fumbled away scoring opportunities
inside or around the Dunbar 20, the Poets appeared ready
to get into the end zone late in the second quarter,
moving the ball 43 yards thanks in large part to a 24-yard
gain by Dahnel Singfield on a botched punt attempt.
five plays later, Noah Read made the pivotal play of
the game for the Sentinels, picking off a DeNelle Hale
pass at the Fort Hill 14 and returning it 24 yards to
the 38 with 2:24 left in the half.
times the Sentinels were inside the Dunbar 20, and three
times they came away with nothing. And if the foreshadowing
wasn't gloomy enough, Read, one of the flat-out best
football players Fort Hill has ever had, was finished
for the day with what was believed to be a broken fibula.
it is at halftime of championship games when would-be
champions make the decision to take the final step in
becoming a championship team. Fort Hill did that on
Saturday, deciding to stay with its successful defensive
scheme but altering its offensive stratagem to three
basic plays: off-tackle, fullback trap and quick pitch.
behind me," 6-5, 250-pound tackle Jeff Burgess
demanded of Fort Hill assistant coach Jim Snyder. "I'm
handling that guy."
was never any deal with the devil 22 years ago, although
South Cumberland football fans are probably still hard
pressed to believe it. But why would Lattimer have to
make such a deal when he had a line of Bruce Metz, Randy
Hillegas, Dick Wheeler, Dudley Holliday, Wyatt Durst
and Mike Hast, and a backfield of Steve Trimble and
only was that a talented collection of football players,
but it was a determined and knowing group of players.
group knew it was going to win the state championship
just as Burgess and linemates Jonathan James, Gary Ritchie,
Bill Harvey, Robert Dettinburn, Rick Jenkins and John
Squires knew it was going to win on Saturday. Such knowledge
is attainable when you're blocking for seniors Josh
Page and Trae Foster and junior Jordan Hamilton, who
would fill in wonderfully for the departed Read.
season that began with a 16-point victory over Dunbar,
D.C. would end with a 16-point victory over Dunbar,
Baltimore as Fort Hill ran Page off-tackle and on the
trap, and Hamilton on the quick pitch.
state championship season ended successfully because
Mike Page, Tommy Welsh and Jenkins continued to make
big plays defensively; because cornerback Jared Fradiska,
just as his classmate Hamilton did, filled in admirably
for Read; and it ended successfully because this team
became frustrated just enough in itself to efficiently
take it out on the Poets, who were beginning to believe
they had dodged enough bullets themselves to gain the
coach Mike Calhoun said his senior class set the state
championship as its top goal because, in part, it was
sick and tired of hearing about Fort Hill not being
able to win one.
as juniors," Calhoun said, "this group has
had a knack for deciding what they want and having the
ability and the know-how in going out and getting it.
And I think you saw tonight how that work ethic and
belief affected the juniors who had to come in and do
the job themselves."
should we sell short the efforts of Calhoun and his
coaching staff. Barry Lattimer, John Alkire, Snyder,
Dee Kalbaugh and Todd Appel. There isn't a better coaching
staff in the state of Maryland.
a man they have said all season long it has been nothing
but a pleasure to work with this team. Saturday night,
by winning the state championship, the Fort Hill Sentinels
let their coaches know the feeling was mutual.