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Leopards try to attack Fort Hill with perfection

November 13, 2009|By MARK KELLER

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    SMITHSBURG -- Smithsburg football coach Buddy Orndorff makes it sound simple.

    In order for the Leopards to beat Fort Hill tonight in the Maryland Class 1A West semifinals in Cumberland, they'll have to be nearly perfect.

    It's that simple.

    "We're going have to play probably the best ballgame we've played all year long," Orndorff said. "We're capable of that. We've had good practices, we have a good idea of what they do, but we're going to have to play mistake-free football."

    The problem with that game plan is that 10 teams have faced Fort Hill in 2009 -- probably all with similar ideas about what they needed to do to win -- and none have come away with a win against the Sentinels.

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Fort Hill is 10-0, the top seed in the 1A West region and ranked seventh in the Maryland state poll. The general consensus is that this Fort Hill team is one of the best the school has fielded in some time, which is saying something.

"It's football 24/7 up there. It's just a different animal," Orndorff said. "But it's a challenge. Life is full of challenges. You can sit there and be scared or you can go and buckle up, get in people's faces and find out how good you are."

Smithsburg (6-4) is making its third straight playoff appearance in a year many thought would be a rebuilding season.

The Leopards have quickly reloaded by being sound fundamentally on both sides of the ball. The trio of ball carriers they have depended upon all season -- Ben Daniels, Taylor Damuth and Derek Smith -- has been solid if unspectacular all year long, while Nieko Akers has filled the defensive void left by the graduation of his brother, Alex, who led the team in tackles last year.

"If you'd have told anybody who knows football that we were going to be in the playoffs after we lost 20 starters, I think they all would have lost money," Orndorff said. "That's a testament to these guys and a testament to my coaches and how hard we've all worked this year.

"When you've been 10-0 and 9-1 and you're back to 6-4, it's like people forget that you have to work to get there. I'm very happy and proud of these kids."

Orndorff said he's hoping the Smithsburg team he sees at Greenway Avenue Stadium tonight is not the same one he saw last week at Boonsboro, where the Leopards lost 28-15 and dropped from third to fourth in the regional standings.

"I was disappointed that we played one good quarter, maybe," Orndorff said. "We didn't tackle, didn't do our reads well. That's the stuff that aggravates you. The only thing I've tried to impress upon these guys is that it has to mean something to you and you have to give it 100 percent.

"If you're not going to give it 100 percent, why are you here? Why would you be out here to get smacked in the face and not fight back?"

Fort Hill's offense is more diverse this year than in the past, with quarterback Devin Lee a threat to run or pass. Defensively, the Sentinels have allowed only 76 points all season, including just four touchdowns in their last six games.

They have impressive wins over two perennial powers: A 12-0 win at Thomas Johnson and a 41-14 win at home over Martinsburg.

Orndorff expects the Sentinels' home-field advantage to be a huge factor.

"I've told the kids they're going to get to see what it's like to play a team whose county is solely about football," Orndorff said. "They're going to get to see 6,000 people up there, maybe a couple hundred rooting for us. It's going to be a special occasion to see a program of that stature and that'll be something they'll remember for a long time."

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