Hill's the state champion
November 30, 1997
beat Dunbar for Maryland 2A crown
PARK - Just
when the breaks appeared to be getting the best of them,
the Fort Hill Sentinels went to their horse for the
final time and to the surprise of no one, fullback Josh
Page and the rest of his teammates delivered at the
wire to defeat Dunbar 22-6 Saturday and win the Maryland
Class 2A state championship in front of approximately
10,000 fans at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium.
the 6-3, 220-pound fullback who has scored more touchdowns
(71) and more points (438) than any player in the history
of Maryland scholastic football, made his final game
at Fort Hill one to remember, pounding the Poets' defense
for 125 yards on 33 carries and scoring two touchdowns
and a two-point conversion in a 22-point third quarter
that provided the South Cumberland high school with
its second football state title.
finishes his career with 4,987 rushing yards, but his
individual accomplishments were of little interest to
him Saturday night as he, his teammates and thousands
of Fort Hill fans celebrated on the turf of Byrd Stadium.
have no thoughts," said Page. "None that I
can really share with you at this moment. When things
didn't look good at halftime, we came together and decided
without ever really saying it that we were going to
be state champions."
here we are. Look at us now. State champions."
Sentinels (13-0) had two scoring opportunities in the
first half but squandered them on lost fumbles, going
into the dressing room in a scoreless tie despite the
10-carry, 94-yard performance of Halfback Noah Read.
If the Sentinels were feeling unsure at that point they
had good reason to as it was learned Read would miss
the rest of the game with what is believed to be a broken
said Fort Hill head coach Mike Calhoun. "That,
more than anything, is what we were feeling. You know,
we had two scoring chances that we didn't take advantage
of. We had lost Noah. We were looking around."
our coaches made great adjustments at the half and we
pumped into our kids that they had been playing great
defense so if they kept that level of defensive play,
we'd find a way offensively. We'd find something."
the Sentinels found were three plays: off-tackle, the
quick pitch, and the fullback trap. And what the Sentinels
found along with it was a breakthrough performance by
junior halfback Jordan Hamilton, who would rush for
67 yards on nine carries and score Fort Hill's second
touchdown of the night.
Hill took the ball at its 35 to start the second half
and a toss left to Hamilton immediately gained 17 yards.
After a Page gain of seven, Hamilton went back to the
left side for 15 more to set up Page's gain of nine.
second and nine from the Dunbar 17, Page took the load
the rest of the way, going left for eight yards, gaining
seven more on a trap, and going over the left side from
two yards out for the first Fort Hill touchdown of the
night with 9:27 left in the third quarter. The kick
for conversion missed and Fort Hill kicked off with
a 6-0 lead.
made a big stop on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Poets
poor field position at their 18. On second and 10 from
the 29, quarterback DeNelle Hale sent an option pitch
right to running back Thomas James, who was popped by
Fort Hill linebacker Tommy Welsh. The ball aquirted
loose and linebacker Rick Jenkins recovered at the Dunbar
28 with 8:33 left.
Hill and Hamilton were beating Dunbar on the corners
as the junior halfback gained 15 on first down to take
the ball to the 13. On second and seven from the 10,
Hamilton again worked the left side and ran over Dunbar's
Will Patterson to get into the end zone with 7:45 left
in the third quarter, giving Fort Hill a 12-0 lead.
Sentinels went for two points and Hamilton was successful
in providing the 14-0 lead.
however, would climb right back into it as Tyrone Henderson
returned the ensuing kickoff 66 yares to the Fort Hill
26 with Mike Page making the touchdown-saving tackle.
plays later, Hale found wide receiver Chris Barnes in
the end zone between Fort Hill defenders Trae Foster
and Jared Fradiska. The coverage was good enough, but
the pass and the catch were even better as Barnes took
in the 25-yard pass to bring Dunbar to within 14-6 with
5:54 left in the third quarter.
pass for two points was incomplete.
Sentinels then gave the ball back to the Poets after
three plays but Mike Page picked off a Hale Pass at
the Dunbar 40 and returned it 29 yards to the 11.
four carries, Josh Page gained four, one and four yards
before barreling over the left side on fourth-and-one
for the two-yard touchdown with 1:37 left in the quarter.
the run for two points, Page broke two tackles to put
Fort Hill ahead, 22-6.
Sentinels forced a punt and then went back to work offensively
for the drive that would ensure the state championship.
11:52 left in the game, Fort Hill took over at its 30
and pieced together a 13-play, 55-yard drive that, most
importantly, would eat 7:18 of clock. Again, the Sentinels
ran their three basic plays with Page gaining 27 yards
on eight carries. But they ran them with such precision
and force, the Poets were practically helpless before
stopping Hamilton on fourth and three, one yard short
of the first down at the Dunbar 15 with 4:34 left in
to a 12-yard sack of Hale by Nathan Weaver Fort Hill
got the ball back with 2:55 left in the game and stayed
with Josh Page as the fullback carried five times for
18 yards. As he went over the left side for a four-yard
gain and a first down at the Dunbar 42 with 1:30 left
in the game, head coach Calhoun and assistant coach
Barry Lattimer were doused with ice by members of the
about-to-be-crowned state champions.
10 seconds left in the game, Welsh picked off a Hale
pass deep in Fort Hill territory and the celebration
most proud of the fashion with which we won this state
championship," said Calhoun. "We overcame
a lot of adversity and the loss of Noah Read. We went
with three basic plays, drove the ball on a great Dunbar
team and then stopped a great Dunbar team with our defense.
team never failed to rise to the occasion and tonight
was the biggest occasion they've met, and the rose to
it like the champions that they are. It takes a special
group of kids to do that and in the second half they
decided they were going to come out and win the game."
happy for our seniors, one of the best classes ever
at Fort Hill, and they set winning the state championship
as their number-one goal. And I think we're all happiest
for the Fort Hill community. I think they wanted this
more than even we did. And look at them out here. They're
proud of our kids. Our people know this was not an easy
win, and that makes it on of the great wins in Fort