Oct. 29—CUMBERLAND — On each decisive play during the first half of Homecoming Saturday, Fort Hill pulled all the right strings.
Third-and-22 and 4th-and-7 conversions, a 4th-and-inches stop, a dropped interception, missed passing connections and surprise tactics all went the way of Fort Hill.
Allegany's early window was quickly swallowed up by the Sentinels' dominance along the line of scrimmage, sure tackling and a record-setting performance by Jabril Daniels — who scored the most touchdowns in the 87-game history of Homecoming and Turkey Day contests.
In the end, it wasn't one thing that powered Fort Hill to a 15th straight Homecoming win, it was everything, as the Sentinels rolled to a 47-21 romp of Allegany on Saturday before an estimated 4,500 spectators at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
"The kids showed up," Fort Hill head coach Zack Alkire said. "They were clicking on all cylinders. It's a great day to be a Sentinel.
"It's a big deal to win 15 in a row. You want to keep it going. You don't want that streak to ever end."
It was an unseasonably warm October afternoon with fair skies and temperatures around 75 degrees at kickoff, but what wasn't unseasonable was Fort Hill's play.
The Sentinels (9-0) have made winning Homecoming an annual tradition, extending their lead over the Campers (6-3) in the game to 55-29-3.
Daniels had a performance for the ages with 19 carries for 146 yards and five touchdowns.
With scoring runs of 36, 16, eight, six and two yards, Daniels broke the single-game Homecoming touchdown record held by Fort Hill's Dalton Hillegas that stood for 66 years.
To the surprise of no one, particularly in the sea of red that flooded the visitors' bleachers and spilled over to the walkway and hill, the slippery back was named Offensive Player of the Game.
"It feels great," said Daniels, who has scored 20 touchdowns over his last six games. "Two years in a row I beat Allegany. Hopefully, I don't ever lose."
In all, Fort Hill amassed 493 yards of offense to Allegany's 331, rushing for 424 on 50 carries — Tristan Ross also went over 100 yards, ending with 135 and a score on 12 touches.
This Allegany team entered Saturday hot off five straight wins, and its 10 senior offensive starters, talented backfield, seasoned quarterback and capable offensive line hinted at a possible barnburner.
It was anything but that.
Fort Hill — which started the game in the Maryland I formation on offense for the first time this season — was facing a 4th-and-7 on its first series, but Ross gained just enough on a counter.
That became a seven-play, 65-yard touchdown drive.
Allegany followed up with a formational surprise of its own lining up in the shotgun and running under center in an old-school Wing-T set pre-snap, and it moved down to the Fort Hill 31.
There, the Campers faced a 4th-and-inches, and they fed their power fullback Brett Patterson — who rushed for a team-high 63 yards on nine carries — but he was stood up by Carter Hess and the Fort Hill line for a loss.
Hess, who won Defensive Player of the Game honors, made a team-high seven tackles and one for loss.
Even when he wasn't directly involved on the tackle, Hess ate up two and three blockers to spring his linebackers Jaylan Atkinson, Bryson Metz and Steven Spencer, among others.
"He's been one of the most important players in Fort Hill history," Alkire said of Hess. "Not just the last four years. He's done it all since his freshman year (during COVID).
"In my head, he is the Player of the Year this year. I think Jabril is giving him a run for his money lately, but Carter has been really dominant both offensively and defensively."
The senior Fordham commit and his Big Red buddies prevented the Campers from running between the tackles. They rushed for 166 yards on 34 tries — just 60 on 15 touches before halftime.
"There was way more talk than there usually is going into this game, and we kind of knew what was going to happen," Hess said. "But it feels pretty good to kind of quiet them up."
After an illegal block below the waist set up a Fort Hill 3rd-and-22, Deshaun Brown hooked up with Carson Bender for a 41-yard gain.
Two plays later, and it was 14-0 Fort Hill.
"They're a team that plays off momentum," Allegany head coach Bryan Hansel said. "As soon as they converted that, I remembered in the headsets like, 'Oh no.' Because they're going to ride that forward. ... And on the the 4th-and-(7) draw play, we need to get off the field."
Allegany then went three-and-out — a long pass on second down slipped through the intended target's hands down the visitor's sideline — and a short punt gave Fort Hill the ball back on the Campers' 36.
When it rains it pours, and suddenly it was 21-0 early in the second quarter after the short field set up Daniels' third touchdown.
Allegany never gave up, but its disastrous first quarter was far too much to overcome.
"There were seven plays we didn't make in the first quarter, and we need to make at least half against a good football team," Hansel said. "It was kind of decided there."
The Campers' fourth drive was much of the same, as Williams — who was 9 for 18 passing for 165 yards and two touchdowns — threw an incompletion on 4th-and-6 at the Fort Hill 25.
Allegany also had Zach Michael in man coverage with no safety help on what could've been a touchdown, but the throw was behind the big tight end.
Fort Hill quickly moved down the field, and Allegany had a chance to intercept a pass in the end zone; however, a defensive back, possibly thinking of a long return, couldn't come up with it.
Daniels jogged into the end zone two plays later for an eight-yard score to make it 27-0 Sentinels with 2:24 left in the half.
Even after Allegany benefitted from a muffed punt at the end of the second quarter, it missed a 47-yard field goal in the waning seconds.
Momentum was scarce on one end; on the other side, it was bountiful.
This Fort Hill team has hung its hat on controlling the line of scrimmage with all senior starters on both sides of the football. It was much of the same Saturday.
"I think we just dominated up front like we've been doing all season," said Fort Hill senior lineman Brayden Sines.
"We've been in the weight room since January working out. That gives us a big advantage, I think, working out all year long."
Fort Hill scarcely lined up in a traditional Wing-T.
The Sentinels operated almost exclusively out of the Maryland I with Carson Bender, Nick Willison and Daniels lining up behind Deshaun Brown at quarterback, or out of the shotgun with Ross at halfback.
Defensively, Fort Hill took a chance and played without a safety to stop the run and dare Allegany to pass, which it couldn't do until it was too late.
Allegany finally found the connection it was looking early in the third quarter on a 47-yard pick and catch for a score from Williams to Michael — who caught three passes for 65 yards.
The Campers, trailing 27-7, had one final glimmer of hope at a comeback when Fort Hill had a 4th-and-2 at the Allegany 48; who else but Daniels gained three yards and the first down.
After a 43-yard Ross run down to the Allegany two, Daniels notched his record-breaking touchdown a play later for an insurmountable 34-7 lead after three quarters.
Each team added two more scores in garbage time. Williams tossed a 20-yard touchdown to Dae Dae Smith and Jackson Resh scored on a two-yard tote; for Fort Hill, Braelyn Younger and Ross found the end zone on runs of 33 and 1 yards, respectively.
Allegany's Amanni Blowe made nine tackles, Kane Williams tallied seven and Sundiata Chavis had six. Fort Hill's Logan Vanmeter and Allegany's Nathanial Younger recovered fumbles.
Both squads now turn to the Class 1A West Region playoffs.
Allegany will be seeded third in the region and host Smithsburg (3-6) in its first-round game, and the winner will take on No. 2 Mountain Ridge (8-1) the following week.
The Miners were initially slated to play Hancock, which informed Mountain Ridge early in the week it would compete in the playoffs, but the Panthers opted out of the playoffs on Saturday morning to give the school from Frostburg a first-round bye.
Fort Hill also has a bye as the top seed with only seven teams in the region.
There has been discourse in the week leading up to Homecoming on whether the Allegany and Fort Hill game is still a rivalry due to Fort Hill's 15 straight wins in the series and 19 in a row, including the playoffs — it was easy to find the answer on the field following the game.
The outcome wouldn't inspire such jubilation or misery, both juxtaposed in the postgame huddles, if it were any other game.
"Growing up, this was the premier game on the schedule," Alkire said. "I'm pretty sure my eighth-grade year whenever we won the championship, Mike Calhoun said, 'This is almost as good as beating Allegany in Homecoming.'
"That goes to show what this game means for your community."