To date, Keyser and Frankfort have done battle 45 times on the varsity gridiron, with Keyser holding a 30-15 advantage all-time, winning two-thirds of the games played.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
To date, Keyser and Frankfort have done battle 45 times on the varsity gridiron, with Keyser holding a 30-15 advantage all-time, winning two-thirds of the games played.  
Keyser has won nine of the last 10 contests and 17 of the last 20.  Prior to that, in the first 25 games played in the rivalry, the two were near dead-even, with Keyser edging Frankfort 13-12 in those first 25 games.
Regardless of who has held the upper-hand at certain points in the rivalry, it has remained a much-anticipated, very intense, very emotional series that is looked forward to every year. Today, we look back to the first-ever Keyser versus Frankfort varsity gridiron matchup, and in doing so, it’s clear to see that things couldn’t have gotten off to a hotter, more action-packed, dramatic start in the rivalry.  
This game, a 39-21 Keyser victory, snapped what was a 23-game win streak for Frankfort dating back to their Ridgeley High School days. Under legendary coach Jim Fazzalore, the Ridgeley Blackhawks closed out the 1974 season with three straight victories, went 12-0 and won the class A state championship in 1975, and then ran off eight straight victories as the new school Frankfort in 1976.
While speaking of the Ridgeley/Frankfort win streak heading into the 1976 Keyser versus Frankfort matchup, it is important to note that “Tack” Clark’s 1955-1957 Golden Tornado squads held the area’s longest win streak at that time at 26 games. That streak began with a 29-0 win over LaSalle on Oct. 14, 1955 and continued until Huntington Vinson defeated Keyser 14-13 on Nov. 23, 1957 in the state championship game.
Therefore, though Keyser’s area-record win streak was some 20 years old at that point, with Ridgeley/Frankfort standing at 23-straight wins entering the contest, there was certainly incentive for the Black and Gold to try and snap the streak and keep that record in Keyser.  Other than an area-best win streak at play, and of course bragging rights, especially in the first meeting between the two schools, there was something else very big on the line that night.
In those days, only four teams qualified for the state football playoffs, and Frankfort was currently ranked fourth in the point standings entering the contest, with absolutely zero margin for error. Basically, a loss would likely knock Frankfort out of contention for a playoff spot, one year after winning the state championship as Ridgeley in 1975. One big difference is that Frankfort, a newly consolidated school, was now competing at the class AA level as opposed to class A level.
So the stage was set with a tremendous amount of excitement surrounding this, the first matchup between the two schools. The date was Nov. 5, 1976, the place was Falcon Stadium in Short Gap.  One interesting side note is that this would be the very first varsity football game played under the new lights at Falcon Stadium, despite being the ninth game of the season. The actual first football game played under the new lights occurred earlier in the week on Monday, Nov. 1, as Keyser’s JV’s topped Frankfort’s JV’s 12-7 in the first night meeting.
According to the Nov. 8, 1976, game story in the Mineral Daily News-Tribune, “It was cold in the new stadium where the first varsity game was being played under the lights in sub-freezing temperatures. However, the players gave the fans enough thrills to keep their minds off the cold. Some fans arrived at the battle scene as early as 5:30 to claim a choice seat.”
The host Falcons entered the contest with an 8-0 record and had outscored their eight opponents 217-33, for an average victory of 27-4 per game, and fresh off a 14-0 victory over Valley the week before.  
The visiting Golden Tornado entered the contest with a 6-3 record and had outscored their nine opponents 189-79, for an average score of 21-9 per game, and fresh off a 6-0 victory over Southern Garrett the week before.
While both teams were best-described as ground and pound, run-first teams entering the contest, it would actually be Keyser’s passing game, particularly the Black and Gold’s trick-passing game that would prove to be the difference in the 39-21 Keyser victory.
From a statistical standpoint, Frankfort and particularly the Falcons’ running attack dominated the contest. Frankfort would finish with a total of 536 all-purpose net yards compared to 336 all-purpose net yards for Keyser. The Falcons ran 81 offensive plays compared to 41 for Keyser. Frankfort rushed for 438 net yards compared to 132 net rushing yards for Keyser. Frankfort obtained 23 first downs, more than double Keyser’s tally of 11.
Of Frankfort’s total 81 offensive plays, 75 were on the ground with their six passes netting zero completions and one interception.  Keyser, comparatively, ran 41 total offensive plays with 38 being on the ground and only three through the air.  However, all three of Keyser’s attempted passes resulted in touchdowns, the true decider of the game.  
Two of Keyser’s three completed touchdown passes were on identical “double pass” plays that saw Golden Tornado quarterback Quentin “Butch” Sayers pass to right end Jerry Shank, who then tossed the ball downfield to halfback Gary Hamman for the catch and run touchdowns.
Frankfort drew first blood in the contest when Steve Fridley scored on a one-yard touchdown run and Paul Hardy converted the extra point kick, giving Frankfort an early 7-0 lead, 3:18 seconds into the game.  Keyser had received the opening kickoff and ran to the Frankfort 39-yard line before fumbling. After Keith Payne’s fumble recovery, the Falcons, mostly on the back of Fridley, drove 61 yards for the first score.
Keyser was forced to punt on the next possession and Frankfort drove all the way down to the Keyser 15-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. Three plays later, from their own 20-yard line, Keyser scored on their first Sayers to Shank to Hamman double pass touchdown, this one good for 80 yards.  Sayers’ two-point conversion attempt was stuffed and with 50 seconds remaining in the first quarter the Falcons held a slight, 7-6 advantage.
Frankfort would move the ball to the Keyser 31 but again lost it on downs. After three running plays, Keyser took to the air again on second and eight as Shank hauled in a pass he tipped over a Frankfort defender from Sayers and raced 54 yards to pay dirt.  The two-point conversion failed and Keyser held a 12-7 advantage 2:53 into the second quarter.
Keyser’s Craig Warnick then picked off a Frankfort pass on the first play after the kickoff, taking the ball to the Falcons’ 41-yard line. Three plays later, on a draw play John Fazzalore took a handoff from Sayers and raced 43 yards for the touchdown.  Sayers’ two-point conversion run gave the Golden Tornado a 20-7 lead with 7:26 remaining in the first half.
Frankfort then orchestrated a 75-yard drive, all on the ground, capped off with a Donnie Wolford 28-yard touchdown run. Paul Hardy’s second kick of the game cut the score to 20-14 with 4:21 remaining in the half.
Three plays after the Frankfort score, John Fazzalore again took a draw handoff from Sayers and rushed 59 yards for a touchdown.  The two-point conversion pass attempt failed and with 2:48 remaining before halftime, Keyser upped their lead to 26-14.  The first half would conclude with Keyser leading 26-14.
The Falcons took the second half kickoff and marched down the field 66 yards in a drive capped off with a Steve Fridley two-yard touchdown run and Hardy kick to inch Frankfort closer (26-21), just 3:33 into the second half.
On the ensuing Keyser drive, the Golden Tornado would again use the double pass connection of Sayers to Shank to Hamman to score again with a 34-yard touchdown completion, that, along with the failed conversion attempt, gave Keyser a 32-21 lead with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter.
The final score of the game came when Treutle from Keyser scooped up a Frankfort fumble and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown. Cecil Hollingsworth’s successful kick conversion gave Keyser the 39-21 lead for good.
Down 18 points, Frankfort was able to move the ball on the ground, but Keyser’s bend but don’t break defense kept the Falcons out of the end zone, clinching the huge 39-21 point victory for Keyser.
Keyser would conclude the season with an overall record of 7-3.  Under first-year head coach Jim Thompson, it was the best Keyser had finished since the 1970 squad went 8-2.
Frankfort would go on to defeat Southern Garrett 31-0 the next week to finish their inaugural season as a school with a 9-1 record.  Nonetheless, in their first season in class AA, the Falcons failed to make the playoffs thanks to the Keyser loss.
Mineral Countians have come to love, enjoy and look forward to the Keyser versus Frankfort gridiron rivalry year in and out.  After looking back to the inaugural meeting between the two schools in 1976, it’s clear to see things started with a bang in the rivalry and the energy has carried over each year ever since.
This is the first in what will be a series of articles highlighting classic games among Mineral County schools.