KEYSER - The buildup to the 44th Mineral Bowl, and 45th time that Keyser and Frankfort have played all-time, made clear that the 2019 edition of this great rivalry game had everything the two schools and fan bases could ask for. Both teams entered the contest with identical 8-1 records and deadlock tied for fourth place with Bluefield in the West Virginia class AA playoff ratings.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - The buildup to the 44th Mineral Bowl, and 45th time that Keyser and Frankfort have played all-time, made clear that the 2019 edition of this great rivalry game had everything the two schools and fan bases could ask for. Both teams entered the contest with identical 8-1 records and deadlock tied for fourth place with Bluefield in the West Virginia class AA playoff ratings.  
It’s always a big one when these two lock horns, but this one was bigger than most.
So with a buildup like this, the question is, would the game deliver and live up to the billing? In a word, the answer is, absolutely.  
The scoreboard shows the final tally as 35-0 in Keyser’s favor, and the Golden Tornado certainly deserve a huge amount of credit for the dominant nature in which they played the game, particularly in the fourth quarter when they were able to comfortably put things out of reach. Up until that point, however, the score and quality of play were close. It was a real physical battle back and forth between two forces not willing to budge.
Consider that despite ultimately winning by five touchdowns, Keyser held only a 7-0 edge at the end of one quarter of play. Consider also that when the horn sounded to send the teams to the locker room at halftime, that Keyser lead had grown only to 13-0. Consider also that twice during the first half, Frankfort entered scoring position, making it as far as the Keyser 10-yard line, before having one opportunity snuffed out by a turnover on downs and the other on a missed field goal.
After Keyser took the 13-0 lead with 5:45 remaining in the second quarter, a full 19:39 seconds of game play would commence before Keyser would score again to begin to put things out of reach. This included the 5:45 second balance remaining in the second quarter, the entire 12:00 of the third quarter, and nearly two minutes of fourth quarter of play.
In the end, the dominant play of Keyser’s offensive line and the entire defensive unit, aided by a few Frankfort mishaps, sprung Keyser to 22 fourth quarter points, giving the Tornado the 35-0 victory, their fifth straight and 14th in the last 16 games over the Falcons.
What will be remembered, more so than the 35-point margin of victory, however, is the hard fought, back and forth battle between two of the Mountain State’s top AA teams, two teams we can claim as our own. It was a battle that remained close until Keyser was ultimately able to open the floodgates late in the contest.  
“I knew Frankfort was a good football team and I knew they were going to come out and play hard. I just felt like we kept shooting ourselves in the foot. It was like, hit the reset button, then hit the reset button again. But credit to Frankfort, they’re a good football team, they’re 8-1 for a reason,” Keyser coach Sean Biser stated after the game.  
According to Frankfort coach Kevin Whiteman, “I’m proud of the way the team battled, and we did battle. When we got opportunities to get down there and score, we didn’t score. We can’t blow those opportunities, we need to punch the ball in. But I give Keyser credit, I said coming into it, they have a good team, and they deserved to win the football game.”
Frankfort would receive the opening kickoff and start their first drive from their own 16-yard line. Five plays later, the Falcons would be forced to punt.  
Keyser would take possession inside Frankfort territory at the 47-yard line and waste no time in putting their first points on the board. On the first play from scrimmage, Keyser’s Caden Biser would race 47 yards for the touchdown. With Seth Earnest’s extra point, the Golden Tornado held a 7-0 lead, just 2:12 into the contest.
After the kickoff return, Frankfort would start their next possession off at their own 29-yard line. The Falcons would go 60 yards in nine plays, aided mainly by a 41-yard run by JJ Blank, before ultimately turning the ball over on downs to Keyser at the Black and Gold’s 11-yard line.
Six plays later, Frankfort’s Brock Robinette blocked a Keyser punt, giving the Falcons possession well within Keyser territory at the 39-yard line. The Falcons would get as close as the Keyser 10-yard line before opting for  a 27-yard field goal try. Brady Aldridge’s kick would fall short, turning the ball back over to Keyser with 17 seconds remaining on the first quarter clock. The first quarter would end with Keyser leading 7-0 and with Frankfort having  threatened twice in the quarter.
“That’s a credit to our defense, our backs were against the wall a couple of times. We had a punt blocked and that normally doesn’t bode well for your team. But they bowed their backs and held them out. It was just a great team effort, and I tell you what, these kids, they just play for each other,” Biser explained.  
According to Biser, “They did a couple different things, they ran an over-slot which is what we call it. That first big run they had, that’s what they jumped into. We tried to make an adjustment with that, I thought we did a pretty good job. They had a couple little runs here and there and hit the flat with the pass, and most of that was early.  Other than that, I thought our kids played fairly well.”
As the second quarter began, Keyser and Frankfort would exchange a pair of punts. With 7:26 remaining in the first half, Keyser would begin their next scoring drive from their own 35-yard line. Eight plays into the drive, Caden Biser would scamper 25 yards into the end zone for Keyser. The extra point was no good, and with 5:45 remaining on the first half clock, the Golden Tornado extended their lead to 13-0.
It was Caden Biser’s second touchdown of the game. Biser would go on to lead all runners with 166 yards on 17 carries to go along with his two touchdowns.  
“My team and coaching have helped me to play the way I play.  Our offensive line and lead blockers opened the seams and as soon as I saw them I was able to score,” Caden Biser explained.
In the third quarter, Keyser would open with a nine-play, 65-yard drive that would end in a punt. Frankfort would then take the ball 61-yards on ten plays before being forced to punt as well. After only five plays, Keyser would punt again; Frankfort would do the same after only six plays on their next possession.
“We just kept killing ourselves, and everything came from that side over there. I think we had two, maybe three big runs called back. On that one play back here, it was a knucklehead move by our guy, and I thought to myself, we just changed the whole complexion of the drive by not being smart. Being aggressive is one thing, but you can’t do that, you’ve got to be smart,” Sean Biser explained.
After relative gridlock and two punts apiece in the third quarter, Keyser would begin their next scoring drive from their own 23-yard line with 2:20 remaining on the third quarter clock. That drive would last 4:14 seconds, spill into the fourth quarter, span 18 plays, cover 77 yards, and culminate with quarterback Ryan Shoemaker plunging one-yard into the end zone on a quarterback sneak. Shoemaker would follow that up by finding Aaron Lyons wide open in the end zone for the two point conversion. Lyons also had a key 31-yard run on the drive.With just over 10 minutes remaining in the contest, the Keyser lead grew to 21-0.
Shoemaker’s touchdown began Keyser’s 22-point, fourth quarter scoring onslaught. Three plays and 36 seconds into their next drive, Frankfort fumbled, handing the ball over to Keyser at the Falcons’ 20-yard line.  
Just two plays later, Shoemaker scored his second touchdown of the game on an 18-yard scamper that along with Seth Earnest’s kick gave the Tornado a 28-0 lead.
Shoemaker would finish as Keyser’s and the game’s second leading rusher, running 12 times for 83 yards to add to his two touchdowns.
“The first touchdown I scored was a one-yard quarterback sneak, which our center Adam Kephart led the way on and I just followed him. The second one Don Woodworth had a huge block to free me to the end zone. Our offensive line played unbelievable all night and gave all us backs running lanes,” Ryan Shoemaker said of his team’s efforts.
Keyser’s defensive play all night, but particularly in the fourth quarter, was dominant. In four fourth quarter possession for the Falcons, two ended by fumble, one ended in a punt return for a touchdown for Keyser, and the final one ended on a turnover on downs.  
That punt return for a touchdown occurred with 3:26 remaining in the contest when Zion Powell returned Jansen Knotts’ punt 52 yards, and along with Seth Earnest’s extra point, gave Keyser the 35-0 victory.
Tristin Fox led the Keyser defense with seven tackles and one fumble recovery; Don Woodworth added five tackles and a fumble recovery; Caden Biser added five tackles; Aaron Lyons and Philip Biser contributed four tackles each.
According to Caden Biser, “On defense, it was definitely a team effort to stop their offense. Our coaches always prepare us for what the next team is about to bring and we just have to execute. Frankfort has a good team and the game was well played by both teams.”
Offensively, Keyser outgained Frankfort in total offense 363 yards to 207. All of Keyser’s yards came on the ground, 363 yards on 45 attempts for an average of eight yards per carry. Frankfort gained 172 yards rushing on forty carries for an average of a little over four yards per carry.  In addition, the Falcons added 35 yards through the air, completing two passes in seven attempts. The Falcons turned the ball over twice on fumbles while Keyser failed to yield a turnover.
Keyser’s Ryan Shoemaker talked about what the Mineral Bowl victory meant to him, its importance, and along the way, was quick to point out Frankfort’s outstanding effort as well, “This Mineral Bowl definitely means more to me than any other one I’ve played in because it’s my last Mineral Bowl and it also played a crucial role in the playoff ratings for both of us. Frankfort is a really good football team that is well coached.”
Keyser won the game and a lifetime of good memories Friday night.  Ultimately, the Golden Tornado also earned bragging rights for the year, unless the two should meet again, which is theoretically possible.  For that to happen, however, there would be some significant hurdles for both to clear. It would take first round wins by both, and then a Keyser defeat of their likely second round opponent Bluefield, along with a Frankfort defeat of their likely second round opponent, top-ranked Fairmont Senior.  
Of course, for both head coaches, that scenario is the furthest thing from their minds, with plenty of work to do in the here and now in preparing for next week’s playoff opponent. As the eight seed, Frankfort will host nine seed Nicholas County in Short Gap on Friday at 7:30.  As the five seed, Keyser will host 12-seed Liberty-Harrison, also on Friday at 7:30.
“We’ve got to put this one behind us, and we’ve got to get ready to move on into the playoffs. We’re playing pretty good football, again, we lost to a good team tonight. There’s definitely things we could always improve on, but I’m proud of them. Like I said, we battled, we battled for four quarters and didn’t quit. We just need to get ready for the playoffs,” Frankfort’s Kevin Whiteman explained.
“It was a tough game. The plan for this week will be the same as always, of course, with the injury we have, we may have to go back and make some adjustments. But the good thing is, we’ve had a lot of kids playing, and now those kids will get more reps, and somebody else will step up, that’s what you do,” Sean Biser stated.
With great fanfare, this year’s Mineral Bowl was billed as extra special in the sense that both teams entered with identical records and deadlocked at fourth place with Bluefield in the West Virginia class AA playoff ratings. This game needs no added help in terms of hype, but this year it had it. In the end, the kids delivered in a hard-fought contest, certainly through the first three quarters, that will be remembered as Mineral County’s version of a clash of the titans.
The beauty of it all is that with the Mineral Bowl secured in history, both teams still have a chance to complete their ultimate goals as both will not only play in, but host, playoff games this Friday.  
Bob Hope would say “thanks for the memories.”  Others might say, “the memories are just getting started.”