December 4 – ANNAPOLIS – Legacies are cemented at the Maryland 1A State Title Game. Key players from both sides made a positive impression at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
“I’ve been saying all week as a defensive player, it’s about who wants it first,” said Fort Hill defensive end Landen Keech. “Whoever is going to take it. We took it.”
The Sentinels may have won 16-14, but the Miners also had several players who had big plays on the Midshipmen’s home field.
For Fort Hill, Tavin Willis led all rushers with 88 yards on 13 tries. He scored both of the Sentinels’ touchdowns. His second came in the second quarter, where he made a throw and came in untouched from 27 yards out.
“As soon as Mikey (Allen) gave me the ball I saw wide open (space) and turned it up and knew I had to get into the end zone,” Willis said of his second goal. “I saw wide open (space), so I had to make a play.”
Allen ran 15 times for 59 yards. He joined the Sentinels as a football player after concentrating on basketball with Bishop Walsh. He was one of the area’s top basketball players and hadn’t played football since middle school prior to this season.
“When Mikey came to us and said he wanted to come to Fort Hill, he was (right),” said Fort Hill head coach Zack Alkire. “He wants to come to Fort Hill to win a state championship. … He is not a great talker. He is calm. But I know it means a lot to him. This was one of his goals for the team and personally and he accomplished it.”
On defense, Keech led Fort Hill with nine tackles with 1.5 losses. Bryson Metz had five tackles and Carter Hess finished with four tackles with 1.5 for loss and a sack.
“It’s rough, but it’s my favorite place,” Hess said of playing in the trenches. “It makes everyone else’s job easier. You know that and I know that. It makes me happy to be there.”
Quinn Cohen missed a field goal from 39 yards from the left early in the fourth quarter. He got a second chance from 28 meters two seconds before the end. Cohen made the kick but an offside penalty forced him to try again from 23 yards out.
With a state title at stake, Cohen met him to bring him over to the Sentinels. Cohen also poked four times for 171 yards, including a 65-yarder that assisted the Miners on their own five.
“I was just thinking about the people we’re doing it for,” Cohen said of what went through his mind after his game-winner. “Everyone has family on the team, F Club, Cumberland at home. Especially Quan (Saiquan Jenkins) because he’s not here with us (and) he should be. But we did it for him. At the end of the day, that’s who it’s for.”
For Mountain Ridge, Uma Pua’auli finished 4 of 9 for 71 passing yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 15 times for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Pua’auli’s touchdown pass to Landon McAlpine in the opening game of the second quarter was a record breaker. He surpassed his former Miners teammate Bryce Snyder and Moorefield’s Will Fisher with his 30th passing touchdown of the season, a new area record.
“I think it’s a good thing, but I’m not really focused on it right now,” Pua’auli said of the record. “I’m not going to miss how big the achievement is at the moment because I’m thinking about the loss right now.”
Jaden Lee ran 11 times for 65 yards, leading Mountain Ridge. On defense, Hunter Clise led the Miners with 14 tackles with .5 losses. Jaden Rosales had 10 tackles with two for a loss. Five other Miner defenders ended the game with at least a half tackle for loss.
“They did their best,” Mountain Ridge head coach Ryan Patterson said of his defense. “There are great athletes on this other team and to be able to put margin today, make movement and lead our allies. Really proud of the defensive performance.”
The Miners have reached the 1A finals in consecutive years, having never reached the finals before. Several seniors shared how they laid the foundation for the future of Mountain Ridge football.
“I think expectations are high at the moment,” said Clise. “Everyone expects us to win when we go into the games.”
Since October 2021, Fort Hill has been set in memory of Jenkins. They have worn his jersey to the coin toss at every game since his death. The Sentinels have since won back-to-back titles in memory of their beloved teammate.
“It shows how much we care about him,” Cohen said. “The city as a whole, everyone came together then and came together now. It just goes to show the impact he had on everyone.”
Jordan Kendall is a sportswriter for the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @JKendallCTN.