KEYSER - “You can't overstate the importance of this game. This is probably the most important regular season game we've played around here in years.”
By Chapin Jewell
KEYSER - “You can’t overstate the importance of this game. This is probably the most important regular season game we’ve played around here in years.”
These words were spoken by Travis Jones, host of “The John Cole Show” on the Bridgeport Indians Radio Network on Monday night.
Wait a minute. Did he literally just say that the Bridgeport Indians haven’t played a bigger regular season game than the one against Keyser on Friday in years?
Bridgeport, winners of all those state championships, in fact the only program in the state to win football state championships in all three classes. The same Bridgeport that hasn’t had a losing season in over 50 years. The same Bridgeport that has run off six straight victories over Keyser after losing the inaugural two games in 2012 against the Golden Tornado.
It is high praise indeed for the people involved so heavily with Bridgeport’s football program to hold this game, and this opponent (Keyser), in such high regard. Let’s face it, there are two reasons: 1) The implications, what’s at stake essentially, is nothing other than home field advantage for the entirety of the playoffs if the winning teams wins out, and 2) Bridgeport recognizes that the Golden Tornado has made quite a name for themselves this year by outscoring their opponents 397-7.
Look, we already know this game is a huge deal around these parts. The people of Keyser always circle the Bridgeport game on the calendar as a big one even before the season begins. This year, as the wins and crazy point differentials starting growing week after week, excitement in Keyser for this game has grown to a fever pitch.
Keyser people are as excited about this game, about this team, and about this golden opportunity as they are about John Kruk’s career .300 batting average and 100 home runs, about claiming Jack Rollins’ “Frosty the Snowman” and “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” as their own...and about the Castiglias’ returning home from their annual vacation.
This game is a big deal. No, this game is the biggest of deals. If you can think of a more anticipated, important regular season game for Keyser, at least in recent memory, then your memory is better than everyone.
Keyser enters this contest with an undefeated record of 7-0, and as mentioned, the Golden Tornado have outscored their opponents by a margin of 390 points (397-7). As the wins, and the gigantic point spreads have continued to mount week after week, the Black and Gold has opened eyes not only locally but throughout the Mountain State.
Currently, the Golden Tornado are ranked third in both the West Virginia Metro News Power Rantings and more importantly, in the West Virginia class AA playoff ratings. Poca leapfrogged Keyser this week for the all-important second spot, but what awaits Keyser in their remaining three games is more than enough for the Tornado to regain that second spot should they win out. Finishing in the top two would ensure home games throughout the playoffs.
Make no mistake about it, while this year’s Bridgeport squad would like to a make a name for themselves by beating the hot and widely talked about Golden Tornado of Keyser, it the possibility of home games throughout the playoffs that most excites Bridgeport.
Currently, the Indians (7-1) are ranked number five in the West Virginia MetroNews Power Ratings but again, more importantly, the Indians are ranked fourth in the West Virginia class AA playoff ratings. They know that should they win out, which would mean beating Keyser, would secure for them that coveted home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
This is a matchup of two teams who are similar in that they live and die primarily with the success of the offensive and defensive lines and strong running games. Both teams no doubt have game planned to gain advantage where they can, but when it comes right down to it, it’s going to be an old fashioned slobber knocker and more than likely won or loss in the trenches.
Bridgeport head coach John Cole says, “They are strong up front. Their two inside linebackers are really good; they play downhill. It is going to be tough because we can’t be someone we’re not. We’re not going to try and do a bunch of things that we don’t normally do.”
Ground and pound, win it in the trenches, nothing flashy, just consistent, hard-nosed, physical football.
“Bridgeport is Bridgeport. They’re big up front, they’re physical. They’ve got probably five backs that carry the football, and they do a really nice job. They mix it up between their Stick I and two tights. There will be some double splits, there will be some trades, they try to get you out of your comfort zone with more of a T. But it’s the same thing, there putting more people at the point of attack then you can handle Then when you come up, they’re going to throw the ball,” Keyser coach Sean Biser explained.
According to Biser, “They’re more of a grinding team. They’re going to wear you out with some four-yard runs and then turn them into six-yard runs and try to stay ahead of the chains. Defensively they are sound, their kids run to the ball well, their linebackers fly to the ball and they tackle well. There is a lot to prepare for with these guys.”
It’s the game everyone has been waiting for, in Keyser, around the state, and as we’re now finding out, in Bridgeport as well. It is indeed a 2019 version of a “Clash of the Titans.” The stakes are high, and the annual scheduling of this game, particularly this year, falls into the “high risk, high reward” category.
To date, Keyser has given their opponents way more than they can handle. That’s a trend the Golden Tornado want to see carried into tonight’s game. There will be two communities and rally an entire state watching.