CUMBERLAND, Md. — Every great ride has to come to an end sooner or later.
The Boonsboro football team would have preferred later to Friday night.
The Warriors struck first against highly touted Fort Hill on its home field, but Garrett Clay took the game over in the second quarter, rushing for 269 yards and three touchdowns to lift the top-seeded Sentinels to a 26-7 victory over Boonsboro in the Maryland Class 1A West final at Greenway Avenue Stadium.
Fort Hill (12-0) will host a state semifinal game next weekend. Boonsboro ends its season at 10-2, one year after going 2-8.
The disappointment was palpable on the Boonsboro side of the field after the loss. Seniors who had played their last high school games embraced one another, some trying to hide tears, others letting them flow openly.
“This is a special group,” said Boonsboro coach Clayton Anders. “To come off a 2-8 season and look around and see two kids over 200 pounds, only one who would be a starter, defensive linemen at 175 pounds, a tackle who’s 5-foot-6, 185 pounds, you just think, ‘How is this going to work?’
“It’s a great testament to these kids that they were willing to be coached, willing to improve and to be unselfish. That’s how they got as far as they did.”
The Warriors weren’t supposed to have put up such a fight. But in the first quarter, Boonsboro did what no other team had done against Fort Hill this season — take a lead.
An intentional grounding penalty pinned the Sentinels deep in their own territory, and Boonsboro took advantage of good field position following a Fort Hill punt.
Taking the same tack they’d used all season, the Warriors spread the ball around offensively, giving carries to five players on the drive. A personal foul penalty on the Sentinels for a hit below the knees helped the Warriors, and Zach Poffenberger gave them a 7-0 lead with 5.4 seconds left in the first quarter on an 8-yard touchdown run.
“It was so important to score there,” Anders said. “To get the short field and stick it in was so important. I think it showed that we came to play.”
The Sentinels wasted no time answering, however. After a good kickoff return gave them the ball near midfield, Fort Hill looked to the Clay twins to ignite the offense.
Garrett Clay ran on three consecutive plays to take the ball from the Boonsboro 49 to the 12. After a holding penalty moved the ball back, Dylan Clay scored from 22 yards out to tie the score just two minutes after the Warriors’ tally.
But the Warriors responded, too. Starting from their own 40, Boonsboro drove the ball down to the Fort Hill 16, where the Warriors faced third-and-1.
Quarterback Ryan Ruiz was stuffed for no gain on third down and Justin Jardeleza collided with Ruiz taking a handoff on fourth down, leading to Jardeleza being taken down for a 5-yard loss and a change of possession.
From then on, Fort Hill became the Garrett Clay show. Clay carried all six times on the Sentinels’ next possession, ending the drive with a 27-yard scoring run that gave them a 14-7 lead they would take into the intermission.
“That was one drive we left on the field, we should have finished it,” Anders said. “If we punch that one in to give us a 14-7 lead, it probably helps us a lot.”
Fort Hill’s defense tightened in the second half, keeping the Warriors in their own territory for most of the third and fourth quarters, while on the other side, Clay continued to run wild.
He scored on an 8-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter to give the Sentinels a 20-7 lead, then had another “solo” possession, carrying all seven times in a seven-play, 68-yard drive, capping it with a 7-yard touchdown run.
“They move him around a lot to put him in spots where he can get the ball,” Anders said. “We knew he’d be trouble if they got him into space. He’s a heck of a player.”
J.T. Rice led the Warriors with 50 yards rushing and Gunnar Whipp had 49.
Fort Hill 26, Boonsboro 7
Boonsboro 7 0 0 0 — 7
Fort Hill 0 14 0 12 — 26
B – Zach Poffenberger 8 run (Calleb Yurish kick)
FH – Dylan Clay 22 run (Cullin Brown kick)
FH – Garrett Clay 27 run (Brown kick)
FH – G. Clay 8 run (kick failed)
FH – G. Clay 7 run (run failed)
First downs 16 21
Rushes-yards 47-176 55-426
Passing yards 35 0
Comp-Att-Int 5-10-0 0-4-0
Total offense 57-211 59-426
Punts-avg. 6-30.8 3-37.3
Penalties-yards 3-25 11-105
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-1
RUSHING – Boonsboro, Ruiz 15-29, Rice 11-50, Whipp 12-49, Jardeleza 6-33, Poffenberger 3-15. Fort Hill, G. Clay 30-269, D. Clay 10-85, Briner 5-68, Fullwood 3-28, Armentrout 1-0, Austin 5-(minus-5), Team 1-(minus-19).
PASSING – Boonsboro, Ruiz 5-8-0-35, Cowen 0-1-0-0, Whipp 0-1-0-0. Fort Hill, Austin 0-4-0-0.
RECEIVING – Boonsboro, Turner 2-21, Rice 1-11, Jardeleza 1-3, Poffenberger 1-0.