Thus far in our Flashback Friday series, we've profiled the two most memorable Keyser/Frankfort games from early in the history of the series. Specifically, the first game profiled was in fact the first ever matchup, a 39-21 Keyser victory in 1976. The second game profiled was the first Frankfort win in the series, a 14-7 victory in 1978.
By Chapin Jewell
Thus far in our Flashback Friday series, we’ve profiled the two most memorable Keyser/Frankfort games from early in the history of the series. Specifically, the first game profiled was in fact the first ever matchup, a 39-21 Keyser victory in 1976. The second game profiled was the first Frankfort win in the series, a 14-7 victory in 1978.
For Flashback Friday game No. 3, we jump ahead six years to one of the most thrilling, and definitely the longest ever game played between Keyser and Frankfort on the gridiron, 1984’s triple overtime 9-6 Golden Tornado victory over the Falcons in Short Gap.
What makes this game so interesting and memorable is not simply the fact that it went into three overtimes before a victor could be named, but rather the manner in which regulation play and all three overtimes played out. More about that later, but first, let’s set the scene leading up to the game, the first of the season for both teams in 1984.
First, let’s take a look at the home standing Falcons. The previous year, 1983, Frankfort completed their most successful season up until that point. The Falcons finished with an overall record of 9-2, matching their first year win total of nine games, however, in 1983, the Falcons made their first ever playoff appearance in school history.
Frankfort’s nine wins came over Keyser, Tucker County, Northern Garrett, Hampshire, Beall, University, Berkeley Springs, Central Preston and Bruce. The Falcons’ two losses both came at the hands of the Musselman Applemen, a 22-0 regular season loss and a 28-8 opening round playoff loss, Frankfort’s first ever playoff game.
It’s important to note that Musselman made it all the way to the class AA state championship game in 1983, losing 34-15 to powerhouse Ceredo-Kenova.
If Frankfort was looking for a continuation of their winning ways from 1983 heading into the 1984 season, Keyser was actually in a much different position. The Golden Tornado were seeking a reversal of fortune in 1984 from what was an abysmal 2-8 season in 1983.
1983 was the second season for Keyser under head coach Mike Calhoun. In his inaugural season of 1982, Calhoun’s Black and Gold squad had an impressive 7-3 record, losing only to Frankfort, Allegany and Jefferson. In 1983, however, Keyser couldn’t match the success of the previous season, and the Golden Tornado earned only two wins (Bruce, Beall) to finish 2-8.
Entering the 1984 Keyser/Frankfort battle to begin the season, the Golden Tornado held a 5-3 advantage in the series all-time. In fact, Keyser won five of the first six matchups from 1976-1981, however, Frankfort was in the midst of a two-game win streak in the series, winning both the 1982 and 1983 games.
According to the Mineral News-Tribune’s preview of the game, published Aug. 31, 1984, the day of the game, “The Falcons are led by a pair of returning senior backs in Craig Scott and Robbie Shepherd, the two gaining 214 yards on the ground in last year’s game.”
Also, according to the preview article, “Frankfort, under Jim Fazzalore, the only grid coach the Falcons have had, appears to be healthy for the game, but Keyser is faced with a couple of trouble spots. One is at fullback where sophomore Shannon Vissman will be unable to play because of a leg injury. The other is at running back where junior Sean Hill also is suffering from a leg injury and could be held out.”
In addition to the aforementioned players, it’s important to note that Frankfort’s senior quarterback was current Frankfort head football coach Kevin Whiteman. Among other notable names to the sports world of today, Keyser had current Potomac State softball head coach Craig Rotruck, also a senior, playing split end on offense and cornerback on defense.
It was mentioned earlier that what would make this game so interesting was not simply the fact that it would be decided after three overtime periods, making it the longest ever game played in the series, and the longest played game for both teams ever in their collective histories. What is more interesting, however, is the nature in which the game played out in terms of how the points were scored.
Here is the gist of the game. Despite Keyser having two potentially close scoring opportunities in regulation play, the clock expired at the end of the fourth quarter with the teams deadlocked at 0-0. In the first overtime, the two teams matched field goals to tie the game at 3-3. In the second overtime, the two teams again matched field goals to tie the game at 6-6.
Then came the third overtime in which Keyser went first in the Kansas overtime and opted to kick the field goal to take the 9-6 lead. Frankfort then got the ball and marched down to the two-yard line in three plays. Facing a fourth down and goal from the two, Frankfort coach Jim Fazzalore, rather than opting for a third field goal to tie the game and force a fourth overtime, opted to go for the win.
On the fourth down play, Frankfort running back Craig Scott was stopped just one yard short of the goal line, ending the marathon game and giving Keyser the dramatic 9-6, triple overtime victory.
While it was mentioned in the preview that Keyser’s Shannon Vissman and Sean Hill might be out for the game, it turned out that both saw action. In fact, Hill was Keyser’s workhorse in the contest, rushing 32 times for a total of 203 yards. While Vissman saw action, it was not until very late in the game.
Keyser’s first scoring opportunity in regulation occurred early in the game and was initiated when Keyser’s Pat Nield nailed Frankfort punter Robbie Shepherd before he could get the ball off, giving the Black and Gold the ball at the Frankfort 20 yard line. Keyser would advance all the way down to the two yard line where on fourth down Tornado kicker Tom Harman missed a 19-yard field goal.
The second scoring opportunity for the Golden Tornado in regulation came at the beginning of the second half. After receiving the second half kick, Keyser got a huge boost on a 52 yard run by Sean Hill that took the ball to the Frankfort 20. Keyser would get all the way down to the four yard line when Frankfort’s Shane Browning picked off a Keyser pass to halt the scoring opportunity.
In regulation time, the closest Frankfort advanced towards the end zone was to the Keyser 29 yard line.
While Keyser’s Tom Harman may have missed a field goal in regulation, he went a perfect three for three in the overtime sessions, making kicks of 21, 29 and 21 yards to give Keyser all nine of their points.
Frankfort kicker Chris Buser made two overtime field goals of 20 yards each to give Frankfort all six of their points. Buser very well may have matched Harman’s total of three made field goals had he been given the opportunity. With Coach Fazzalore opting to go for the win and not the tie in the third overtime, however, we’ll never know if the game could have been sent to a fourth overtime.
Overall, the game was relatively free from penalties, with the Falcons flagged four times for 30 yards and Keyser once for five yards. Keyser held the advantage in total offense with 196 yards to Frankfort’s 158. 171 of Keyser’s yards came on the ground, compared to 110 rushing yards by Frankfort, led by Scott’s 69 yards along with 44 from Shepherd.
Frankfort did possess a 47 to 21 yard passing advantage over Keyser, with the Falcons completing four passes compared to only two for Keyser.
Keyser would go on to win seven of their remaining nine games to finish an impressive 8-2, exactly reversing their 2-8 record from the year before. The Golden Tornado would notch wins over Frankfort, Bishop Walsh Hedgesville, Bruce, Beall, Hampshire, Fort Hill and Jefferson. Keyser’s lone defeats were to Southern Garrett and Allegany in back to back weeks in games five and six.
Frankfort would go on to win five of their remaining nine games to finish an even 5-5 on the season. The Falcons notched wins over Northern Garrett, Beall, Berkeley Springs, Central Preston and Bruce. Frankfort’s defeats came at the hands of Keyser, Tucker County, Hampshire, Musselman and Grafton.
With the 9-6 opening game victory over Frankfort, Keyser snapped a two-game win streak by Frankfort in the series and gave the Golden Tornado an early 6-3 advantage in the series. Of those first nine games, three went into overtime, with this game extending into three overtimes. In addition, six of the first nine game were decided by a touchdown or less.
Of those early, exciting, dramatic matchups in the series, nothing could top 1984’s triple-overtime, all 15 points scored by field goals thriller.