Fort Hill lineman Carter Hess wins Player of the Year

Mar. 29—CUMBERLAND — For just the second time in the 50-year history of the award, a lineman has won area Player of the Year.

Carter Hess, standing at 6-foot-2, 295 pounds, kept opposing head coaches up at night over the past three seasons, and he'll likely keep them up in college too, playing for Division 1 Fordham University next fall.

It was unsurprising then, that Hess was the runaway pick for the area's top player by those same coaches.

The right tackle and interior defensive line standout will receive the award at the 75th Dick Sterne Memorial Dapper Dan Sports Banquet on Sunday, April 28, at 4 p.m. in the Ali Ghan Shrine Club Ballroom.

"I would venture to say he's one of the best players to ever play at Fort Hill," his head coach Zack Alkire said. "The more that we asked Carter to do, the better he'd get at it."

Hess received all but two Player of the Year votes, with the other two going to Will Patterson, who shared Offensive Player of the Year honors with Sentinel back Jabril Daniels on Thursday.

The Fort Hill lineman has won an award in every full varsity football season he's played. Hess was area Defensive Player of the Year last year and Lineman of the Year in 2021.

The rest of the state finally realized Hess' dominance this year, something this area's head coaches were already painfully aware of.

He was the recipient of Class 1A state Player of the Year by the Maryland Football Foundation and MPSSAA Defensive Player of the Year, regardless of class, by Baltimore Sports and Life.

It was fitting, then, that Hess ended a 24-year drought since the last time a lineman was this area's Player of the Year, achieving the feat only Moorefield's Justin Williams, who went on to play at West Virginia University, did in 1999.

At the time, Williams was the first lineman in West Virginia scholastic football history to start on four state championship-winning teams.

Hess never got that chance because his freshman year was shorted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but he did star on three Maryland Class 1A champions, and Fort Hill was 38-1 over that span.

While Hess' strength is well-documented, Alkire highlighted his technique and preparation as things that set the senior apart.

"People think about how strong he is, but he has great feet, hands and quickness," Alkire said. "He sees the field well, and that's because of his intelligence. He's always in the right spot because he studies.

"You can see how much film everybody watches, and every day he's the leader, watching 3-4 hours more than the next kid."

Hess finished his final campaign in red and white as the area's leading tackler for a second straight year, racking up 145 of them (74 solos) to go along with an area-best 13 sacks, 23 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles.

For the under-recruited Hess, who would've played Power 5 football if he was three inches taller, it all began in the weight room.

"He's a very self-motivated player. He worked his tail off," said Alkire. "He had to work harder than everybody else because all eyes were on him. Even though he was self-motivated, he expected the same out of everybody else.

"Most of the guys aren't going to work as hard as him, but he expected his teammates to approach that level. He never took plays off, even in practice. When they weren't giving him their best, he'd let them know and when Carter Hess spoke, people listened."

It was difficult for Hess to go 100% in practice all year out of fear that he might injure the players going against him.

Fort Hill had no junior linemen in its program in 2023, prompting Fort Hill to call up a collection of sophomores to groom them for the starting role next year.

"Carter's biggest obstacle is he had put himself in a position where unless we would take one of our starters out, it was difficult for him as the season moved forward to work as hard in practice," Alkire said.

"He was going against much younger, smaller kids in practice. As the season progressed, he found that middle ground again where he could push himself without taking it too far. ... By doing that, he made the whole team better."

Hess' work ethic was instilled by his father, Sam Hess, who still holds the state record for rushing yards in a game after he ran for 446 yards as Hancock's star running back against St. James in 1998.

Carter is now the third person in his immediate family to earn a collegiate sports scholarship. His father went on to play at Shepherd University, and his sister, Chloe Hess, is in her sophomore year as the ace of Lehigh's softball team — she was second-team All-Patriot League as a freshman.

Carter Hess won state championships at Fort Hill across three sports.

Hess became Fort Hill's first individual wrestling state champion since Dave Phillips took home the 189-pound state title in 1990 when he won the 285-pound Class 2A/1A championship this winter to complete an unbeaten 33-0 season.

Hess is also the two-time defending Maryland Class 1A discus state champion, setting a state record last spring with a 168-foot heave.

Coaches in the Western Maryland Athletic Conference can now breathe a sigh of relief because Hess is the Patriot League's problem.

And there's little doubt in Alkire's mind that his prized lineman will be a problem at the next level.

"I think him going to Fordham, he'll see the field sooner rather than later," Alkire said. "It's a good situation. He's going to be the hardest worker in the room. I believe he's going to make his presence felt Day 1 and earn some playing time as a freshman. He's going to be a very good player in that league."

Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.