KEYSER - In assessing the first half of Keyser's schedule before the season, three of the first five contests were circled as big games. Big games because it was thought the Golden Tornado would be mightily tested; big games for the fact that each of the three opponents (Robert C. Byrd, Weir, Nicholas County) are perennial AA winners capable of producing major playoff points.
By Chapin Jewell
KEYSER - In assessing the first half of Keyser’s schedule before the season, three of the first five contests were circled as big games. Big games because it was thought the Golden Tornado would be mightily tested; big games for the fact that each of the three opponents (Robert C. Byrd, Weir, Nicholas County) are perennial AA winners capable of producing major playoff points.
What each of the three had in common was not just a 2018 West Virginia class AA playoff appearance, but at least one playoff win. Byrd defeated Shady Spring before falling to Bridgeport in the quarterfinals, Weir defeated Poca and Nicholas County before falling to Fairmont Senior in the semifinals; Nicholas County defeated Petersburg before falling to Weir in the quarterfinals.
Those available playoff points are still on the table as Byrd, Weir and Nicholas have each only recorded one loss on the season. In terms of the challenge each of the three teams were to present to Keyser, thus far, Byrd and Weir offered little resistance to the Golden Tornado, with Keyser outscoring both by a combined score of 105-7.
What remains to be seen is what type of challenge the Nicholas County Grizzly Bears will present.
In Nicholas County, Keyser faces a team with a record of 3-1 on the young season. The Grizzlies opened the season with a 41-7 rout of still winless Oak Hill, then edged a now one-loss Shady Spring quad 19-13. In week three, Nicholas fell 22-18 to still undefeated Wyoming East; last week, the Grizzlies mauled now two-loss Lincoln 34-7.
Nicholas County is led by head coach Gene Morris, who is in his 22nd season captaining the Grizzlies’ ship. Under Morris’ leadership, Nicholas has qualified for the playoffs in 10 of those 22 seasons and compiled an overall record of 131-86, winning 60 percent of games played. The Grizzlies have qualified for the playoffs in 10 of the last 12 seasons.
A season ago, Nicholas County finished the regular season undefeated, then defeated Petersburg 41-10 in first round playoff action. After falling to Weir 63-43 in a shootout, the Grizzlies finished the 2018 campaign with a record of 11-1.
All-time, Nicholas County has an overall record of 517-288-24, with the Grizzlies winning 57 percent of their games since beginning play in 1921.
Head-to-head, Keyser enjoys a 2-0 record all-time against Nicholas County. The first meeting between the two occurred in the 1962 West Virginia AAA state championship game at Weston. Legendary Keyser coach Fred “Tack” Clark’s Golden Tornado squad defeated Nicholas County 35-20 on that day to win the AAA football state championship.
Fifty-four years later, the two schools would meet again in a 2016 playoff game in Summersville. Keyser entered the game as the tenth seed, host Nicholas County was seeded seventh. Behind Brady Ours’ five-touchdown, 387 total yards performance, Keyser crushed Nicholas County 50-12. Devonte Johnson set the tone right away by intercepting a Nicholas County pass on the first play from scrimmage.
In four games, the Golden Tornado has outscored their opponents 223 points to 7, for an average score of 56-2 per game. In four games, Keyser has now out-gained their opponents in total offense 1,979 yards to 406, an average of 495 yards to 102 per game. Nicholas County (3-1), by contrast, has outscored their opponents 112-49.
Keyser currently sits in sole possession of second place in the latest West Virginia class AA playoff ratings; Nicholas County sits in 11th place. The Golden Tornado are currently ranked third in the MetroNews Power Ratings; Nicholas County sits outside of the top ten but has received the most votes of unranked teams.
To date, Keyser has passed every test thrown their way, and done so in dominating fashion. A win, particularly another dominating win at Nicholas County, would set the Golden Tornado up nicely for the second half of the regular season. Kickoff from Summersville tonight is at 7 p.m.