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Lack of offense costs Jefferson

October 17, 1998

By CURT HORNBECKER / Staff Correspondent

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - If it were a detective story, it might be called "The Case of the Missing Offense."

Without its offense, Jefferson - which kept pace with powerful Fort Hill until early in the second half - could only sputter, making several costly mistakes while searching for its weapons, with the Sentinels taking full advantage.

In the end it was discovered too late that Fort Hill had captured the Cougars' offense, returning it only after securing a 49-22 win Friday night.

Trailing by five at the half, Jefferson drove to the Sentinel 19 on its first possession, only to have Jared Fradiska pick off an Eric Smoot pass, and with it capture the Cougars offense. From that point until the final three minutes of the game, Jefferson (1-6) mustered just 41 yards of offense.

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Meanwhile, Fort Hill (6-1) took advantage of a short Jefferson punt to increase its lead to 35-22 on a Mike Helmstetter 15-yard jaunt.

The Sentinels made it 42-22 on a Nick Pennel-to-Kevin Shupe 45-yard pass with 2:54 left in the game, all but sealing the Cougars' fate.

Just as Jefferson began finding some of its weapons, driving into Fort Hill territory, Fradiska intercepted his second pass of the game, and scooted 71 yards to ice the game.

"We didn't play well in the second half," said Cougars coach Jay Kirby. "I think they physically took it to us. The kids played hard the whole game, but we just made too many mistakes."

The Cougars opened the scoring when Damon McDowell scampered 25 yards late in the first period. But Fort Hill responded with a 13-play, 64-yard drive capped by a 2-yard burst by T. J. Powell with 10:45 remaining in the half. A two-point conversion made it an 8-7 Sentinels lead.

A 62-yard pass from Pennel to Helmstetter made it 15-7 less than two minutes later, but the Cougars marched 62 yards on 10 plays, with Smoot sneaking in from the 1. A Smoot run for the two-point conversion tied the score with 4:01 left.

Pennel then found Shupe on a 50-yard pass, and Ben Lapp rumbled 17 yards with a Smoot fumble for a 27-15 Fort Hill lead before B. J. Mercer hauled in a screen pass from Smoot for a 63-yard touchdown as time expired.

"They're a good football team," said Sentinels coach Mike Calhoun. "If you don't take advantage of their mistakes, it's hard to beat them."

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