Fort Hill brings No. 8 team, fans to face No. 1 Aberdeen 2A playoff pits Eagles against W. Md. contender

November 15, 1996|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

An old Shepherd College buddy, Mike Calhoun, is coming to visit Aberdeen coach Kevin Reilly tonight. And he's bringing some friends. Thousands of them.

At 7: 30, No. 8 seed Fort Hill (8-2) of Cumberland makes its 14th playoff appearance under Calhoun (96-27), and its fifth straight. Calhoun led Fort Hill to a 12-0 record and a state title in 1975, and a runner-up spot in both '86 and '94.

"He's a great coach," said Reilly, who is 65-18 over 12 seasons (33-8 in four years at Aberdeen). "And typically, Fort Hill has a lot of fans at their games -- busloads."

A crowd of over 2,100 attended last year's first-round, 42-12 rout of Forest Park at Poly -- 2,000 of whom were Fort Hill supporters. And some 13,000 -- 10,000 in Sentinels red and white -- watched Dunbar win the 2A title, 30-15, at South Hagerstown High in 1994.

But No. 1 seed Aberdeen (10-0), ranked No. 3 in the Baltimore area, is undaunted, entering the tournament as unbeaten Harford County champions for the first time this decade.

The Eagles shared the previous two county titles with C. Milton Wright -- including last year's three-way tie with Havre de Grace. But the Eagles were eliminated by Dunbar in the first round in 1994 and did not qualify last year despite being 8-2.

"Missing the playoffs really disappointed the kids," said Reilly, who returned 12 starters.

Though Aberdeen reversed last year's losses, defeating Oakland Mills, 34-6, and C. Milton Wright, 29-14, Reilly said: "Last year hasn't been a tremendous motivator."

Instead, Reilly credits his four assistants: line coach Macon Tucker, who is Aberdeen's vice principal; Steve Davis (quarterbacks, defensive backs); Tory Gasdia (linemen); and Kevin Ewing (running backs, linebackers).

"We've just told our players to take every game one at a time. Every Monday, we're 0-0. Every Saturday, we're 1-0," Reilly said.

Led by quarterback-defensive back Andy Gasdia (5 feet 10, 150 pounds), the Eagles average 27 points offensively, and yield 7.7 defensively. Gasdia has thrown for 427 yards and seven touchdowns, rushed for six more, and has intercepted six passes.

Running back Tommie Mims exemplifies the team's unselfishness, Reilly said. After moving from wide receiver four games into the season, Mims, also among Aberdeen's best defenders (80 tackles, 40 solos), has rushed for 702 yards and 13 touchdowns.

"Tommie had the game of his life against C. Milton Wright -- 181 yards and four touchdowns," Reilly said. "But the next week against Fallston, it didn't bother him that he didn't score. With these kids, it's never, 'Hey, you're not getting me the ball.' "

Mims' backfield mate, E. J. Henderson (6-2, 206), has rushed for 788 yards and nine touchdowns. Clearing his path are three-year starter and two-way tackle Scipio Osborne (5-11, 235), and guard Garry Simms (5-10, 195), whom Reilly calls "our best trap blocker."

Henderson is the team's top tackler at linebacker with 118 (53 solos). Junior tight end-defensive end Mike Harris (6-3, 215) has eight sacks.

But Aberdeen faces a couple of 200-pounders in the Page cousins, Fort Hill running backs Josh (1,633 yards, 22 touchdowns) and Rashad (800, eight). "It's just the typical Fort Hill program, and we'll have our hands full," said Reilly. Not to mention their stands.

Pub Date: 11/15/96

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