KEYSER - Unlike the Frankfort versus Nicholas County matchup that pits a Mineral County school against a somewhat known opponent, tonight's Keyser versus Liberty-Harrison matchup will be the first football meeting between the two schools.
By Chapin Jewell
KEYSER - Unlike the Frankfort versus Nicholas County matchup that pits a Mineral County school against a somewhat known opponent, tonight’s Keyser versus Liberty-Harrison matchup will be the first football meeting between the two schools.
Separated by an approximate two-hour drive and with some shared opponents over the years, for whatever reason, the Golden Tornado and Mountaineers have never crossed paths on the gridiron.
Liberty-Harrison is located on Davisson Run Road in Clarksburg, obviously in Harrison County. The school was formed in 1973 through the consolidation of Bristol, Salem and Victory high schools. Despite a Red, White and Blue color scheme, the school mascot is the Mountaineer.
Liberty-Harrison’s most notable graduates are both college athletic coaches, and include Jimbo Fisher, head football coach at Texas A&M, formerly at Florida State, and current West Virginia University women’s basketball coach Mike Carey.
In 47 seasons of playing football at Liberty-Harrison, the Mountaineers have compiled an all-time record of 185-287-2, winning just over 39 percent of all games played. The Mountaineers have qualified for the playoffs in only eight of those 43 years and compiled an overall playoff record of 2-8. In almost a cruel twist of fate, exactly half of Liberty-Harrison’s 10 playoff games have been matchups against perennial power Bluefield.
Most recently, the Mountaineers have qualified for the playoffs three times in the last decade (2010, 2016, 2017), losing to Bluefield 42-0 in 2010, losing to Mingo Central 55-7 in 2016, then defeating Nicholas County 27-7 in 2017 before falling again to Mingo Central 53-22.
Since finding out that Liberty-Harrison would be their first-round playoff opponent, Keyser coach Sean Biser and the Keyser coaching staff have studied film of the Mountaineers with their usual intensity.
“Offensively they are similar to Bridgeport in that they both run the Stick I. They have several good backs and a really nice quarterback that throws the ball really well. Being able to make sure we get the ball in order to run our offense is a priority. The challenge is stopping their rushing attack while at the same time being able to control their passing game,” Biser explains.
According to Biser, the Mountaineers offer a sizable challenge on the other side of the ball, “Defensively they bring a lot of pressure with their slanting front and linebackers blitzing. We have to be really good up front this week to give ourselves a chance to be successful.”
In looking at Liberty-Harrison’s schedule, the Mountaineers finished with a record of 8-2 overall and squared off against three playoff teams, class A South Harrison, Bridgeport and North Marion. They beat South Harrison convincingly (36-6) who finished 6-4; They lost convincingly to Bridgeport (35-7) who finished 9-1; Liberty-Harrison defeated North Marion (21-8), a team that would finish 7-3.
With a record of 8-2, the Mountaineers can claim victories over Elkins, South Harrison, Philip Barbour, Grafton, Braxton County, East Fairmont, Lincoln and North Marion. In total, Liberty-Harrison has outscored their opponents 284-15 on the season for an average margin of 28-12 per game.
Liberty-Harrison plays in the Big 10 Conference. According to Biser, “The Big 10 is a very competitive conference that has great teams in it, so they will have been battle tested.”
In assessing Keyser’s schedule, the Golden Tornado has played three playoff opponents, Nicholas County, Bridgeport and Frankfort, all West Virginia class AA schools. The Golden Tornado destroyed Nicholas County 63-0, lost to Bridgeport 28-7, and defeated Frankfort 35-0 in last week’s Mineral Bowl.
With a record of 9-1, the Black and Gold can claim victories over Robert C. Byrd, Berkeley Springs, Petersburg, Weir, Nicholas County, Hampshire, Allegany, Mountain Ridge and Frankfort.
In total, Keyser has outscored their opponents 500-49 on the season for an average margin of 50-5 per game.
Keyser and Liberty-Harrison will square off with Keyser at 9-1 and Liberty-Harrison 8-2, with each having played three playoff opponents this season. Looking at average scores per game, there is a huge difference with Keyser topping teams by 45 points on average and the Mountaineers having a much closer, 16-point advantage against their opponents. In the playoff ratings, the Tornado and Mountaineers are separated by seven seeds, number five for Keyser and number 12 for Nicholas County.
The only common opponent shared by Keyser and Liberty-Harrison is Bridgeport. Ironically, both teams fell to the Indians and by similar scored, with Liberty-Harrison falling 35-7 and Keyser 28-7.
Liberty-Harrison enters the playoffs following a 21-8 defeat of class AA 14 seed North Marion. Keyser enters the post-season looking to build momentum after a huge 35-0 defeat of cross-county rival Frankfort in the Mineral Bowl.
In reviewing film from the Mineral Bowl, Coach Biser expressed the following about Keyser’s performance, “I would give us a B-. We played well down the stretch and really solid in spots but we also shot ourselves in the foot on offense and special teams by making mistakes that cost us field position and ended promising drives.”
According to Biser, “Defensively, I thought our kids and coaches did a fantastic job with our backs to the wall a couple times.”
The only blemish on Keyser’s otherwise spotless resume for the 2019 season is the 28-7 loss at Bridgeport. Aside from Bridgeport, Keyser has absolutely punished opponents week in and week out, beating them on average by six plus touchdowns. The Golden Tornado looks to build on that success heading into the playoffs.
A reminder that the action will kick off tonight at 7:30 p.m., not the usual 7 p.m.