BRIDGEPORT - The game, in terms of the spectacle, went off as planned. By game time, a large throng of red and white and black and gold-clad spectators had gathered in their respective bleachers. Both sidelines were filled as well, with local media outlets from Mineral and Harrison counties, as well as statewide media organizations, gathered, pen, paper and cameras in hand. There were also fireworks, a Bridgeport tradition.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
BRIDGEPORT - The game, in terms of the spectacle, went off as planned. By game time, a large throng of red and white and black and gold-clad spectators had gathered in their respective bleachers. Both sidelines were filled as well, with local media outlets from Mineral and Harrison counties, as well as statewide media organizations, gathered, pen, paper and cameras in hand. There were also fireworks, a Bridgeport tradition.
Unfortunately for Keyser, fireworks weren’t the only Bridgeport tradition on full display Friday. So to was the Indian’s signature tradition - winning.  There’s a popular song that was released a couple of years ago by DJ Khaled, in it, the words “All I do is win, win, win, no matter what” resound. Sure sounds a lot like Bridgeport.
Fifty-two years have passed since Bridgeport had a losing season. In that span, the Indians have amassed nine football state championships; the only school to win at least one banner in each of the Mountain State’s three classification levels.
That being said, Bridgeport knew it was in for a challenge when Keyser came rolling into town with an undefeated 7-0 record, having outscored their opponents up until that point, by a margin of 397-7.  
For the final 32:38 of the 48:00 contest, Keyser played Bridgeport to a 7-7 tie and statistically, for the entire game, many of the stats were fairly even. In fact, Bridgeport’s 222 net rushing yards compare to 173 for Keyser.  Also, while Keyser failed to complete a pass, Bridgeport only had one completion for 28 yards.
The difference in the game, what Keyser just couldn’t shake despite their best efforts, was Bridgeport’s lightning-fast start that saw the Indians jump out to a 21-0 lead just minutes into the second quarter.  Lightning-fast may not be the best words to describe what really looked more like an unstoppable, slow moving river of flowing lava.
Indicative of this image is Bridgeport’s first possession of the game.  The Indians received the opening kickoff and returned it inside Keyser territory to the 46-yard line. Bridgeport then mounted a 14-play, near eight-minute scoring drive, with Trey Pancake’s one-yard touchdown plunge putting Bridgeport on the board first.
Fourteen plays and nearly eight minutes to cover 46 yards?  Slow moving lava is indeed the image that comes to mind. After forcing Keyser to a three and out punting situation on the Black and Gold’s first offensive possession, Bridgeport again began it’s second drive from inside Keyser territory at the 44-yard line.  
Six plays later, the Indians again found the end zone, this time with Carson Winkie racing to the pay dirt from 22 yards out. With 26 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Bridgeport had jumped out to a 14-0 lead.
Keyser would fumble the ensuing kickoff return and the Indians would regain possession once again inside Keyser territory at the Keyser 33-yard line. Eight plays later, the Indians’ Carson Winkie would score his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard touchdown plunge, putting Bridgeport up 21-0 with 8:38 remaining in the first half.
It total, by this point, Bridgeport had scored three touchdowns in a span of time that saw Keyser run only three offensive plays, not counting the punt. Certainly not the start Keyser had hoped for.  
From that point forward, however, Keyser would battle, going even with the Indians at one touchdown apiece the remainder of the way.  Bridgeport, with their slow, methodical style of play, is not the type of team you can dig yourself out of a hole against. The Indians, with their long drives, essentially are able to play keep-away. Nonetheless, Keyser tried, valiantly, they just couldn’t gain any ground once they fell behind on this night.
Bridgeport’s final touchdown of the game came with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter, when, after forcing Keyser to punt on their first possession of the second half, the Indians drove 76 yards successfully in 10 plays. Carson Winkie capped off the drive with his third touchdown of the game, a three-yard run to put the Indians up 28-0.  
With 1:16 remaining in the game, Keyser’s Zion Powell would thwart Bridgeport’s shutout attempt with a 78-yard touchdown run to inch Keyser a little closer at 28-7.  Also, as time was winding down, a dropped touchdown pass would have inched the Golden Tornado closer, to within two touchdowns.  It was not, however, meant to be, not on this night.
In nine offensive possessions, Keyser was forced to end six by punting, one ended as time expired in the first half, one ended with a turnover on downs, and only one with a touchdown. By contrast, Bridgeport scored touchdowns on four of their possessions, punted only twice, had one end on a turnover on downs, and the other as the game expired.
“That was a good football team, a well-coached team, and they’re senior-laden just like we are. They capitalized on our mistakes and we didn’t do that on theirs.  Part of their game plan was waiting to snap the ball until three, four, five seconds on the play clock was left every time.  When they did that, that just limited our possessions.  We couldn’t get our tempo going, and they did a nice job, hats off to them.  As a coaching staff, we need to just go back and get ready for next week, that’s what we do,” Keyser coach Sean Biser said after the contest.
According to Biser, “At times, we were our own worst enemy, we hit a guy right on the out of bounds, and that’s an effort play, the kids coming down, the kid is running down the sidelines and he hits him as he is stepping out of bounds.  It’s bang-bang, but they’re going to throw the flag every time.”
Despite the fact that the chips were down when Bridgeport jumped out to the early, 21-0 lead, there was no giving up for Keyser.  “I’ve said all along, and I’ll still stand by this after tonight, our kids don’t quit, they just keep playing,” Biser explained.
“Is it disappointing? Absolutely.  Is it season-ending? Absolutely not.  Knowing these guys and the team we have, they’re going to come to work on Monday and they’ll get ready to go. We’ll look at the film and say, what did they do good against us and what did we do well, and we’ll evaluate that. You know what, we may play these guys again down the road.  Everybody hyped this game up and it was a big game, but you know what, it wasn’t the be all, end all,” Biser explained.
In the end, it was a matchup of two ground and pound teams.  Bridgeport out-grounded and out-pounded Keyser on Friday night.  The Indians executed the “three yards and a cloud of rubber pellets” game to perfection, successfully mounting long scoring drives of their own early, playing keep-away with the ball, and capitalizing on every Keyser mistake.
Keyser lives to fight another day, and fight they will. The Golden Tornado can still lay claim to an impressive record of 7-1 and even after tonight, have still outscored their opponents an impressive 404-35 on the season. In addition, the Tornado are currently ranked fifth in the West Virginia MetroNews Power Rankings and are likely going to slip only to the fifth position in the West Virginia class AA playoff ratings.
Things could have gone better for the Black and Gold Friday night, much better. Nonetheless, valuable life lessons come to the individual and the team when they are forced to struggle through adversity.  While that was a big loss on a big stage at Bridgeport, it all comes down to how you handle things moving forward. Already, Coach Biser and troops have things mentally headed in the right direction.  
Rest assured, there are other big game opportunities ahead.