SHORT GAP - Despite being 200 miles and a three-hour car ride away, Nicholas County is no stranger to Mineral County sports fans. For starters, the Grizzlies and Keyser squared off against each other in the 1962 class AAA state championship game at Weston, with the Golden Tornado winning 35-20.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
SHORT GAP - Despite being 200 miles and a three-hour car ride away, Nicholas County is no stranger to Mineral County sports fans.  For starters, the Grizzlies and Keyser squared off against each other in the 1962 class AAA state championship game at Weston, with the Golden Tornado winning 35-20.  
Next came a playoff game between Keyser and Nicholas County in 2016, again won by Keyser (50-12). Most recently of course, the Golden Tornado traveled to Summersville this season and shellacked the Grizzlies 63-0.
How about Frankfort? For the Falcons, Nicholas County came to Short Gap in 2014 during the Falcons’ magical run to the state championship game. In fact, of their three opponents leading up to the title game matchup with Bridgeport, Nicholas County proved to be the Falcons’ biggest test by far, with Frankfort edging the Grizzlies in a close, 26-20 contest.
In that 2014 title game run, Frankfort beat their first-round opponent Wyoming East 39-0, and their third-round opponent Westside 49-16.  Sandwiched in between in the second round, Nicholas County gave the talented Falcons a battle.  
So there is some familiarity between Frankfort and Nicholas County, and between the Grizzlies and Keyser. But enough about the past. All that really matters this week is that Frankfort and the visiting Grizzlies will square off in first-round playoff action tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Short Gap.
Frankfort coach Kevin Whiteman has studied all ten of Nicholas County’s games on film, as such, Whiteman has a good feel for what Frankfort is facing from the 2019 rendition of the Nicholas County Grizzlies.
“On offense, they are going to spread things out and throw the ball a lot. Their quarterback has a decent arm and he likes to throw to number five who is very speedy and athletic. They also mix the run in there with different formations. We have to get pressure on the quarterback and naturally our pass coverage is going to have to be there,” Whiteman explained.
“Defensively, they will be in some type of odd front. Their man defense looks to be a 5-2 but they also get into an odd stack and walk the outside linebackers up on the line looking like a 5-3. They are going to pack it up into the box so we are going to have to throw some to loosen it up. Their nose guard could cause some problems. He’s a big boy and moves fairly well,” Whiteman further stated.
In looking at Nicholas County’s schedule, the Grizzlies finished with a record of 8-2 overall and squared off against three playoff teams, Shady Spring, Wyoming East and Keyser. According to Whiteman, “They beat Shady Spring (19-13) who finished 9-1; They lost a close one to Wyoming East (22-18) who finished 8-2; Keyser handled them from start to finish (63-0) of course.”
With a record of 8-2, the Grizzlies can claim victories over Oak Hill, Shady Spring, Lincoln, Roane County, Braxton County, Independence, Westside and Princeton. In total, Nicholas County has outscored their opponents 342-163 on the season for an average margin of 34-16 per game.  
In assessing Frankfort’s schedule, the Falcons have played four playoff opponents, Moorefield and East Hardy in class A, Northern Garrett in Maryland’s 1A West, and class AA Keyser.  The Falcons defeated Moorefield 35-3, East Hardy 41-0 and Northern 28-21.  Last week, Frankfort fell to Keyser in the Mineral Bowl 35-0.
With a record of 8-2, the Falcons can claim victories over Moorefield, East Hardy, Berkeley Springs, Northern, Mountain Ridge, Washington, Petersburg and Hampshire, with losses to Weir and Keyser.  In total, Frankfort has outscored their opponents 358-162 on the season for an average margin of 36-16 per game.
Frankfort and Nicholas County will square off with identical 8-2 records, and nearly identical average scores per game against their opponents, 36-16 for Frankfort and 34-16 for Nicholas County.  In the playoff ratings, the Falcons and Grizzlies are separated by only one seed, number eight for Frankfort and number nine for Nicholas County.
According to Whiteman, “Of course, Keyser is our only common opponent, but I don’t put too much into that because I think teams match up differently. Both teams are 8-2 and I look for a good ball game. I think it boils down to who wants it the most.”
Nicholas County enters the playoffs following a 36-6 defeat of AAA Princeton. Frankfort enters the post-season looking to bounce back from a 35-0 defeat at the hands of cross-county rival Keyser. In reviewing film from the Mineral Bowl, Coach Whiteman sees both negatives and positives in the Falcons’ performance.
“We can’t turn the ball over and we can’t get in the red zone and fail to score.  But after watching the film there were a lot of positives and things we need to learn from. Now we just have to focus on Nicholas County and come out prepared to go at it again and do the best we can,” Whiteman explained.
One thing in Frankfort’s corner is the opportunity to play host to Nicholas County within the friendly confines of Falcon Stadium in Short Gap.  According to Whiteman, “Unless there is some major upset, this will be our last game of the season on our own field, so we have to go out and embrace the evening.”
A reminder that the action will kickoff tonight at 7:30 p.m., not the usual 7 p.m.