SHORT GAP - 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003. In an eight-year stretch spanning 1996 to 2003, the Moorefield Yellow Jackets claimed six West Virginia class A state football championships and made eight straight title game appearances. While it's been a decade and a half since Moorefield hoisted a state football banner, the fact that the Yellow Jackets' baseball team is back to back state champions keeps Moorefield's image as “Title Town” alive.
By Chapin Jewell
SHORT GAP - 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003. In an eight-year stretch spanning 1996 to 2003, the Moorefield Yellow Jackets claimed six West Virginia class A state football championships and made eight straight title game appearances. While it’s been a decade and a half since Moorefield hoisted a state football banner, the fact that the Yellow Jackets’ baseball team is back to back state champions keeps Moorefield’s image as “Title Town” alive.
While the Frankfort/Moorefield rivalry dates back to the inaugural season of Falcon football in 1976, the most interesting stretch of games occurred during Moorefield’s successful run of six state championships in eight years. Though the teams didn’t play each other in that first state championship year (1996), they did for the remaining five. Despite the fact that Moorefield was enjoying state championship success, Frankfort actually held a 3-2 advantage over the Yellow Jackets in the years in which they won a state championship.
In fact, the two teams have played a total of 30 times, with Frankfort holding a decided 23-7 advantage, winning 77 percent of the contests played with an average score per contest of 27-16. Over the last four seasons, the Falcons and Yellow Jackets have actually split the contests 2-2.
In 2015, Moorefield defeated Frankfort at home 41-31; in 2016, the Yellow Jackets topped the Falcons in Short Gap 25-14. Frankfort, however, has defeated the Yellow Jackets in each of the last two seasons by large margins, outscoring the boys from the South Branch Valley 89-7 in that time; 47-7 under Coach Kevin Watson at Moorefield in 2017; 42-0 under Coach Kevin Whiteman in his inaugural game back in 2018.
As the head coach at Frankfort, Kevin Whiteman has a combined record of 7-2 against Moorefield all time, for a 78 percent winning percentage.
On the topic of coaches, Moorefield is led by Keyser native and Marshall graduate Matt Altobello. Altobello, a two-time all-state offensive lineman at Keyser, went on to play offensive guard for the Thundering Herd. After serving as an assistant coach in Kentucky, West Virginia and South Carolina, Altobello served as athletic director and dean of students at Petersburg.
Altobello is entering his second season as the head coach at Moorefield with an overall record of 2-8 from a year ago. In that 2-8 season, the Yellow Jackets earned wins over 1-9 South Harrison (46-7) and 0-10 Berkeley Springs (30-6). Those consecutive victories broke what had been a 20-game losing streak. Despite the 2-8 season, the Yellow Jackets made marked improvements over the season before, in terms of both points scored and points allowed.
For the 2019 season, on offense, Moorefield returns senior quarterback Brent Moran and junior running back Matthew Jenkins; Moran and Jenkins have started since their freshman seasons. Also on offense, 10 of the 11 starters were starters in some capacity a season ago. Defensively, Moorefield returns last year’s leading tacklers Vincent Cyrus and Brent Funk, as well as host of returning starters.
Moorefield has struggled mightily the last few seasons but did so with a wealth of underclassmen in key starting positions. While they took their lumps early due to age and inexperience, that youthful inexperience from seasons past has now become experienced, bigger, faster, stronger, upperclassmen, something that should pay dividends for Moorefield.
Frankfort will combat Moorefield’s experience with experience of their own, as the Falcons return as many as 10 starters on offense and nine on defense. Not only does Frankfort have this long list of returning starters, these starters also come equipped with an impressive resume of work.
This year’s returning group were last year’s group that finished 8-3, returning Frankfort to the playoffs after three straight losing seasons. While the Falcons fell to Bridgeport 49-13 in opening round playoff action, the season overall, including a return to the playoffs, set the course for continued success in 2019.
Offensively, Frankfort’s strength is an inexperienced offensive line with nice size, and a stable of running backs led by senior Nick Marley, the area’s second leading rusher in 2018 and a first-team All-Area running back, finishing with 1,281 yards and 19 touchdowns. Marley will be joined in the backfield by Peyton Shanholtz, JJ Blank, Jansen Moreland and Connor Parish.
Defensively, with nine returning starters, Frankfort returns leading tackler Jansen Moreland at linebacker, second leading tackler David Blanco on the defensive line, and third leading tackler Peyton Shanholtz at linebacker as well.
“I am very pleased with the effort during the summer and August. These boys got a good taste of success last year and what hard work can do. Their goal is to do even better than last year, so they have been working really hard. As long as we continue to embrace the team concept, we should have a good season,” Frankfort coach Kevin Whiteman explained.
As for Frankfort’s week one opponent? “Moorefield is much improved; they have some starters that are seniors that have started for several years at the varsity level. They have had a year to get acquainted with the new coach and his system, and I know they are very confident about having a winning season,” Whiteman stated.
Frankfort and Moorefield’s traditional season opener has produced some great contests, despite the lopsided Frankfort victories the last two seasons. While the two compete in different classifications. Moorefield has traditionally been one of the better class A teams and a good measuring stick for class AA Frankfort to see where things stand to begin the season.
This year, Frankfort will look to get out of the gate strong enroute to what they feel will be another playoff season, with an eye on advancing out of the first round. Moorefield, with what is now a wealth of experienced upperclassmen, looks to build on the slow but positive progression that has brought the program out of the depths of a 20-game losing streak. Both things will know where things stand when the dust clears in the South Branch Valley Friday night.