KEYSER - Like Frankfort, the Keyser Golden Tornado finds themselves facing a familiar playoff foe, and a AA juggernaut at that.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - Like Frankfort, the Keyser Golden Tornado finds themselves facing a familiar playoff foe, and a AA juggernaut at that.
Saturday, at 1:30 p.m.,  8-2 Keyser plays host to 8-2 Wayne at Alumni and Friends Field at Tornado Alley.  With their dramatic 35-34 overtime victory over Mountain Ridge, Keyser finished seventh in the final WVSSAC rankings, Wayne tenth.  Keyser has qualified for post-season play for eight consecutive years.
Saturday’s matchup will be the fifth meeting between the two schools. They first played a regular season home and home series in 2009 and 2010, then again in 2011 in a playoff game, and finally in the 2012 AA state championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium.  Wayne defeated Keyser in all four matchups, 22-0 in 2009, 26-12 in 2010, 38-8 in 2011 and 35-0 in 2012.  
In Wayne, Keyser faces a Pioneer program that while eight and two, has won the last eight games straight. The Pioneers started the season with a 49-8 drubbing at the hands of Spring Valley, the now number two ranked AAA team in the state. That next week, they lost to Mingo Central 29-24, with Mingo scoring with 17 seconds remaining in the game to get the win. That eight-game winning streak contains wins over Winfield, Nitro, Scott, Herbert Hoover, Chapmanville, Sissonville, Logan and Poca.  
Wayne’s success extends back two decades, as since 2000, the Pioneers have appeared in seven state championship games, winning three of the seven. Those three state championships came at the hands of Tolsia in 2006 (33-6), Point Pleasant (34-7), and Keyser in 2012 (35-0). Their four championship game losses were composed of two losses to Bluefield and two losses to Bridgeport.
Under the direction of coach Tom Harmon, Wayne has won 211 games since he took the helm in 1997.
Keyser’s success also extends back decades, however.  The Golden Tornado has also won three state championships, all under the legendary “Tack” Clark. Those three championships have come at the hands of Mullens in 1956 (12-0), Nicholas County in 1962 (35-20), and Winfield in 1969 (21-20).  Keyser’s state championship losses are to Vinson in 1957 and Wayne in 2012.  
Under the direction of coach Sean Biser, Keyser has won 116 games since he took the helm in 2004.
Since Tom Harmon took over, Wayne has made the playoffs in 16 of his 22 years, or 73 percent of the time. Under his tutelage, the Pioneers have an astounding 37-13 playoff record, a playoff winning percentage of 74 percent.  
Under Sean Biser, Keyser has made the playoffs in 12 of his 15 years, an impressive 80 percent of the time. With Biser at the helm, the Golden Tornado have a 9-12 playoff record, a playoff winning percentage of 43 percent.
Keyser and Wayne do not share a common opponent. The closest they get is this. Keyser defeated Man in convincing fashion, 50-8 on Oct. 5.  Wayne defeated Chapmanville in a close, 20-14 contest on Oct. 12.  Chapmanville narrowly lost to Man 18-14 in the regular season finale for both schools. That’s not much analysis, but it’s something.
Keyser is coming off a week ten performance that saw them defeat a talented Mountain Ridge squad 35-34 in overtime.
That win not only solidified Keyser as the seventh seed, granting them a home playoff game, but it also effectively knocked Mountain Ridge out of a Maryland 1A West playoff spot.
Keyser earned the victory, despite a heroic 266-yard, three-touchdown performance by the Miners’ Sefa Pua’auli.  Coach Biser’s thoughts on the game, “Like we said before the game, he is a great athlete and they have a quality team. We knew they wouldn’t quit with a playoff birth on the line.”
In the win, junior quarterback Ryan Shoemaker and senior running back Brady Clay combined for 331 yards rushing and three touchdowns. On the dynamic duo, Biser commented, “They had the hot hand Friday night, it seems like every week one player or the other stepped up and made plays in our backfield. This week it was Ryan and Brady. They both showed great toughness and poise in pressure situations. They would also be the first to give credit to their teammates, especially the offensive line.”
Mountain Ridge came from behind to tie the game and force overtime, but according to Biser, his team certainly didn’t fold under the pressure, “This group in particular doesn’t ever seem to get rattled.  They love playing and that’s what they do win or lose. I believe it’s a direct reflection of the team chemistry and their work ethic.”
On the decision to go for two and the win, knowing that a home playoff game hung in the balance, Biser reflects, “Go big or go home. The object of the game is to win, not tie. We had a chance to win it, so that’s what we did.”
Wayne is coming off a big 23-0 shutout victory over previously unbeaten Poca. Poca finished the year at 9-1 and as the number five seed in the AA playoffs.  In the win, Wayne’s Michael Bartram rushed for 102 yards and all three of the Pioneer’s touchdowns on 17 carries.  Six different ball carriers carried the ball on 48 rushing attempts for Wayne.  On the defensive side of the ball, Wayne held the Poca Dots to their lowest offensive output of the year, 159 yards.  It was the fourth straight week the Pioneers had kept their opponents to under 160 yards of offense.
For Keyser, perhaps the fifth time will be the charm against Wayne and coach Harmon. The closest game in the series was the only game played in Keyser, the 26-12 Wayne victory in 2010.  Home field advantage certainly accounts for something, that’s why you strive so hard to get it.  
It will be a physical battle of two physical teams, and most likely a chess match.  Adapted from the Buffalo Bills, there’s an expression in Southern West Virginia that says “Nobody circles the wagons like the Wayne Pioneers.”  
On Saturday, who’s to say there won’t be a Tornado circling the whole caravan. Keyser is due.