SHORT GAP - On a cold and rainy Friday night in Short Gap, the visiting Golden Tornado utilized a punishing ground game, a stifling defense, and a four play chain of events that saw two turnovers lead immediately to two touchdowns to defeat Frankfort 27-13.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
SHORT GAP - On a cold and rainy Friday night in Short Gap, the visiting Golden Tornado utilized a punishing ground game, a stifling defense, and a four play chain of events that saw two turnovers lead immediately to two touchdowns to defeat Frankfort 27-13.  
Frankfort put up a valiant fight, and was successful in bringing respectability back to the rivalry. After being outscored 156-7 the last three years, Frankfort found themselves down only 14-7 after three quarters in a game that at that point felt like it could go either way.
Keyser sophomore Caden Biser led all players with 149 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Fellow sophomore Drea Allen would add 98 yards and score one touchdown on 16 carries, and Brady Clay 75 yards on 10 rushes. Junior Aaron Lyons would add the other touchdown. Keyser quarterback Ryan Shoemaker showed up big on both sides of the ball, making a key fourth quarter interception and adding 35 yards on the ground on 10 carries.
Frankfort was led by quarterback Colton McTaggart’s nine completions for 104 yards and one touchdown, Dalton Pollock’s 61 yards on 14 carries, and Nick Marley’s 52 yards and one touchdown on 10 rushes.
Frankfort began the game with an impressive ten-play, six-minute drive, capped off with a 19-yard touchdown run by Nick Marley. On the drive, the Falcons methodically marched down the field, mixing it up with Dalton Pollock carrying the ball five times, Marley with four carries and Peyton Shanholtz once.  
Marley’s touchdown came with 5:53 to go in the first quarter on a 4th and 2 just inside the red zone.  With the Braden Aldridge kick, Frankfort took an early 7-0 lead.
Falcon Coach Kevin Whiteman felt that first drive was just what the doctor ordered for his team.  “I was very happy with the drive, it was what I was hoping we could do the entire game,”  he said, “but I knew we were facing a very good team with a good defense and I knew it would be a struggle.”
It would indeed turn out to be a struggle, as the Golden Tornado defense largely contained Frankfort’s rushing attack for the remainder of the game.
Keyser responded to Frankfort’s initial scoring drive with a 13-play, 5 1/2- minute touchdown scoring drive of their own.  The Black and Gold used five different ball carriers in a multi-pronged attack to cover the 80 yards.  With 1:17 to go in the first quarter, on third and goal from the five-yard line, Keyser’s Aaron Lyons put Keyser on the board with a touchdown plunge.  Seth Earnest’s extra point tied the game at seven apiece.  
For Keyser Coach Sean Biser, this scoring drive was key. “It was important that we gained confidence that we could move the football in those conditions and we were able to take away some of the momentum that they gained on their first drive,” he said.
On the next drive, Frankfort would be forced to punt after five plays and Keyser received the ball at the 31 yard line.  On the fifth play of the Keyser drive, quarterback Ryan Shoemaker would be intercepted by Frankfort’s Chandler Rhodes, who took the ball to the Golden Tornado 22 yard line.  After three straight Falcon runs took the ball to the Keyser 16 yard line, Frankfort faced a fourth down and four inside the red zone.  Quarterback Colton McTaggart’s pass on 4th down fell incomplete, however, and the Falcons turned the ball over to Keyser deep within Golden Tornado territory at the 16.
This stalled drive within the red zone was a key missed opportunity for the Falcons. Coach Whiteman explains, “I wish we could have capitalized after our interception, they made a nice play on fourth and four and got the ball back. A score there would have been nice for us,” he said.
Keyser then took advantage of Frankfort’s inability to punch one in after the interception. The Golden Tornado would eat up nearly four minutes of clock on a ten-play scoring drive. The drive was kept alive by an 11-yard scramble on fourth and four from the Frankfort 47 by quarterback Ryan Shoemaker.  Three plays later, in what was the run of the game, sophomore Caden Biser broke several tackles en route to a 27-yard touchdown run with 2:21 remaining in the first half.  Seth Earnest’s second kick of the night gave Keyser a 14-7 lead.
Keyser quarterback Ryan Shoemaker commented on the scramble and his team’s play in general, “I thought we handled the weather conditions well and we started rolling and did everything right with just a few mistakes, but we executed well and Frankfort did too.”  
On his touchdown run, Keyser’s Caden Biser comments, “We just kept running the ball and running the ball; the weather didn’t help much but we just kept trying and trying and then finally we scored.”  
The young Biser gave credit to Frankfort’s defense, citing that “they were a good challenge, they were reading good, wrapping up good, they weren’t stopping.”
After Keyser’s go ahead touchdown just before halftime, Frankfort mustered up eight plays on the next drive until being forced to punt.  On Keyser’s first play of the drive, Reggie Redman raced 38 yards into the endzone for what looked like a Golden Tornado touchdown with 28 seconds to go in the half, but Keyser was called for two penalties on the play (blindside block, personal foul), negating the score. Keyser elected to kneel down and run out the waning seconds of the half, being up 14-7 at that point.
His team having been outscored 156-7 in the last three Mineral Bowls, Frankfort’s Kevin Whiteman was satisfied and “felt pretty good” with his team being down only 14-7 at the half.  Keyser’s Sean Biser credited the Falcons with an inspired first half performance during post-game radio comments, “Early on credit them, they came out and ran right at us.”
The third quarter was essentially uneventful, with no scoring and each team having the ball twice but to no avail. The quarter would end with Keyser clinging to a 14-7 lead; the Falcons still within striking distance. At that point, despite Keyser largely having shut down Frankfort’s offense, it had the feel of a game that could go either way. That feeling would change on the next four plays, as Keyser would score two touchdowns in less than 30 seconds, the direct result of two Frankfort turnovers. The scores would extend the Golden Tornado lead to 27-14, just inside the fourth quarter.
The first Falcon turnover that led to a score occurred with 11:51 to go in the game, when Frankfort, facing a third and 14 from their own 22, had a pass intercepted by Keyser’s Ryan Shoemaker at the Falcon 22.  On the very next play, Keyser sophomore Drae Allen would race straight up the gut for a Tornado 32-yard touchdown run. Seth Earnest’s extra point gave Keyser the 21-7 lead.  
Shoemaker described the interception, “I was just in the right place at the right time. I followed the guy and he threw it and I came down with it.”  Drae Allen, on his touchdown, “I just saw an opening and I just had to execute it and keep it going all the way to the end zone.”  Despite his impressive performance in the mud, Allen insisted that he would much rather play on turf, “I do not like playing in the mud; I’d rather play on a dry field or turf.”
Up 21-7, Keyser squibbed the kickoff, the ball bounced out of the Falcon player’s hands and into the waiting arms of the Golden Tornado’s Samuel Perry. On first and 10 from the Frankfort 40, Keyser would again take the ball to the house on the first play from scrimmage following the turnover, when Caden Biser raced up the middle 40 yards for another Tornado touchdown.  
Biser’s second touchdown of the day, with a missed extra point, put Keyser up over Frankfort 27-7 with over 11 minutes left to play.  Those two quick touchdowns put Frankfort in the unenviable position of having to play catch-up against a stout Keyser defense.  
In the remaining 11 minutes of the game, Frankfort and Keyser would exchange a total of four punts, with neither having much offensive success and Keyser still up three touchdowns.  
Finally, in the final seconds of the game, Frankfort’s Colton McTaggart would find Logan Crock in the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown pass. The game would end with the Golden Tornado on top 27-13, resulting in four straight Mineral Bowl wins for Keyser.
 This game, however, certainly had a much, much different feel than the previous three Mineral Bowl blowouts. Also of note is that for the first time since 2014, this game had meaningful playoff implications, as the two were playing for much more than just bragging rights.
Frankfort’s Kevin Whiteman sees some victories, even in defeat. “Those four plays changed the entire complexion of the game. I knew at that point it would be difficult to battle back.” But, Whiteman continues, “We made a respectable showing, the last three losses were by large margins. I’m happy that the boys battled and did not quit.”
A Frankfort victory this week would likely result in the Falcons making the playoffs for the first time since 2014.  This possibility is exciting for the Falcon faithful, and Coach Kevin Whiteman thinks his boys are deserving. “They have worked really hard this year and I’m happy for them to be 7-2, the seniors have not had a winning season during their high school career so it’s great for them,” states Whiteman.
“Their playoff hopes are still alive and that would be great for them to make the playoffs,” he said.
 Whiteman points out that after having three head coaches the last three years, “which was difficult on them, but to work hard and finish the way they are finishing says a lot about them.”
In Keyser’s victory, the Golden Tornado was able to essentially shut down Frankfort’s potent rushing attack after the first drive. For Coach Sean Biser, no one individual stuck out. “I believe our entire defense just upped their level of intensity, early I thought we were a little flat but that changed as the game went on.”  Biser credits that four play/two turnovers/two touchdowns chain of events as the difference maker, “those sudden changes are important and being able to capitalize on them helped to create that steamroll of momentum.” Biser adds, “one unit feeds off the other and gets that attack mentality going.”
On the other side of the ball, Keyser continued to utilize a stable of backs to be effective in their running game. Due to the muddy field conditions, Keyser even abandoned their usual outside/jet sweep attack in favor of pounding the ball up the middle.  Despite the change, the Tornado was successful, out gaining Frankfort considerably on the ground.  
“We are blessed with several quality backs at each position and being able to have each of them play important roles in our offense has been huge for us this year,” according to Biser.  He also adds that it “helps to create depth and keeps everybody fresh,” continuing with “I have total confidence in all of them in what we ask them to do because we practice and prepare like they are all starters.”
Yes, this Mineral Bowl was a far cry from the previous three blowout victories by Keyser. Each team came into the contest with legitimate playoff implications at stake and each team performed like a playoff caliber team. In the end, Keyser’s punishing, multi-pronged rushing attack (326 yards on 53 rushes), a stifling defense, and that four play chain of events proved too much for Frankfort.
As they’ve done all year, however, Frankfort’s effort and performance helped bring respect back to the program and their rivalry. Both head coaches were impressed by the other team’s performance.
On Frankfort, Sean Biser feels they are “a quality team with quality coaches, they played hard and didn’t give up.” Kevin Whiteman offers that “Keyser has a very good team and will do well in the playoffs.”  
Playoffs, did somebody say playoffs? Indeed, now that the Mineral Bowl is behind them, BOTH Frankfort and Keyser enter the final week of the regular season with the playoffs on their minds. It’s been a long four years since that was the case.
Stay tuned, we haven’t heard the last from either team.