CUMBERLAND - When Keyser rolled into Greenway Avenue Stadium on Sept.11, 2015, their record was 3-0, but they were facing a 1-0 Fort Hill program that had won an area record 29 straight games, and the last two consecutive Maryland class 1A state championships.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
CUMBERLAND - When Keyser rolled into Greenway Avenue Stadium on Sept.11, 2015, their record was 3-0, but they were facing a 1-0 Fort Hill program that had won an area record 29 straight games, and the last two consecutive Maryland class 1A state championships.
When Keyser rolled out of Greenway Avenue Stadium on Sept. 11, 2015, the Golden Tornado was still undefeated at 4-0 and host Sentinels saw their record drop to 1-1, and that 29-game win streak snapped. It was a huge victory for Keyser, and one deserving of the police and fire escort they were given as they crossed the Potomac back into Keyser.
Leading up to the game, Fort Hill held a decided 39-7 advantage in the series, and only three of those Keyser victories had taken place at Cumberland’s Greenway Avenue Stadium. Two of those Keyser wins against Fort Hill at Greenway were all the way back in the 1930’s (1937, 1938), with the most recent one being 13 years earlier in 2002.
Keyser’s 48-41 victory in 2015 produced a combined 89 points, the most ever scored by both teams in their 47 prior matchups.  Keyser’s 48 points was the second most points the Black and Gold had ever scored against Fort Hill, with the most being 51 points in 2012.
In terms of actual game play the 2015 Keyser at Fort Hill contest can best be classified as a game of two halves. Fort Hill controlled the first half of play statistically, including the most important statistic, the scoreboard. At the end of the half, the Sentinels took a 28-12 lead into the locker rooms at the half.
In that first half of play, Fort Hill outgained Keyser in total yardage 209-106. While the numbers look lopsided, it is important to note that Fort Hill’s Brayden Brown had long touchdown runs of 62 and 92 yards respectively that somewhat skewed the numbers.
If the first half belonged to Fort Hill, the second half belonged to the visiting Tornado. Facing a 28-12 deficit after halftime, the Keyser would need three scores, all the while holding Fort Hill scoreless to earn the victory.
Well, Keyser would not hold Fort Hill scoreless in the second half, in fact, the Sentinels would go on to score two more touchdowns after the break. Keyser countered those two touchdowns with a total of five touchdowns of their own to earn the 48-41, epic, come from behind victory.
In the contest,  Fort Hill drew first blood.  Fort Hill and Keyser, in that order, each had an unproductive offensive series to start the game. As Keyser was punting on their first possession, Fort Hill’s Brayden Conley blocked the punt and returned it for a touchdown.  With Austin Farrell’s extra point kick at the 7:11 mark of the opening quarter, the Sentinels had grabbed the early 7-0 lead.
In a post-game interview, then Keyser head coach Sean Biser stated, “I was frustrated by the blocked punt right off the bat and things we had worked on but did not execute the way we should have.”
On their next drive, Keyser punted but drew both a roughing the kicker and personal foul penalty to total 30 yards, giving Keyser the ball at Fort Hill’s 22-yard line. Three plays later, Cody Rodeheaver scored but had the touchdown taken away on a penalty.  On the next play, Rodeheaver delivered a 16 yard rushing touchdown that counted. As the extra point was no good, Keyser had inched to within one point (7-6) at the 3:16 mark of the opening frame.
On Fort Hill’s ensuing possession, facing a third down with 13 yards to go from their own 38, Brayden Brown broke loose for the first of his two long touchdown runs, this one a 62-yard sprint that along with Farrell’s kick, extended the Sentinels’ lead to 14-6 with 2:04 to go in the first quarter.
Keyser’s next possession produced only a punt, but the Golden Tornado were able to secure a fumble two plays into Fort Hill’s next possession to begin the second quarter. Behind the running of Rodeheaver and Brady Ours, Keyser marched 68 yards down the field, with Ours scoring from five yards out. A diving Rodeheaver was stopped inches short on the two point conversion try. With 7:16 remaining in the first half, Keyser closed the gap to two points, with Fort Hill holding a 14-12 lead.
Less than one minute later, Brayden Brown again worked his magic. Facing a second and 22 yards to go situation from his own eight yard line, Brown took off on a jaw-dropping, highlight reel, 92 yard touchdown run. Farrell’s kick extended the Fort Hill lead to 21-12 with 6:26 remaining in the half.
With 2:41 to go before halftime, the Sentinels’ Luke Hamilton scored from five yards out, and along with a Farrell extra point pushed Fort Hill’s lead to 16 points, 28-12.
In one of the game’s post-game interviews, then Keyser coach Sean Biser stated, “We had miscues here and there, and right before halftime we had some miscues on offense that were frustrating because I thought we were right there with them, and yet we found ourselves down by two scores. The blocked field goal right before half was huge.  It kept us in the game and gave us a little momentum.”
That blocked field goal came as Keyser’s Erik Wills thwarted Farrell’s 45-yard attempt on the half’s final play. If Keyser needed something to go in their direction entering halftime, Willis’ block did just that, and perhaps offered a foreshadowing of good things that lied ahead for the Black and Gold.
The key to Keyser’s comeback and successful second half centered around a dominating performance by their big and strong offensive line. According to Biser after the game, “Our line, center Jared Smoot, guards Dylan Edgar and Cole Weaver, tackles Darren Bishop and Gage Canan, and tight end Jacob Biser, did a heck of a job coming off the ball and executing our schemes we were working on.”
“And also on believing in each other. You have to believe in the guy next to you, you can’t do it all yourself.  You have to believe in your teammates and that’s what they did, Biser explained.
Keyser took the ball to open the second half and marched deep into Fort Hill territory before Rodeheaver was stopped short on a fourth and one play. Fort Hill, however, was unable to capitalize as the Keyser defense held the Sentinels, forcing them to punt.  
Rodeheaver began the next drive with a long run to take the ball across midfield. From there, a dump pass to Rodeheaver god for 16 yards kept the Keyser drive alive on a third and seven play, putting the ball at the Fort Hill 27-yard line. Deavonta Johnson would ultimately take the ball in for the score from the eight yard line.  Ours converted the two point play and with 4:33 remaining in the third quarter, Keyser cut the Sentinels’ lead to one touchdown (28-20).
On their next possession, Fort Hill fumbled and Keyser took over at the 50-yard line. According to the News-Tribune’s game story, “The Golden Tornado didn’t mess around, (Amonte) Turner, 50 yards on the first play from scrimmage, touchdown.  Ours run was no good, though, and Fort Hill retained the lead, 28-26, with 2:31 to go in the third quarter.”
After holding Fort Hill to no first downs yet again, Keyser took over and Ours had a 39-yard scamper that took the ball all the way down to the Fort Hill six yard line. With 11:32 to go in the game’s final frame, Keyser took their first lead of the contest when Rodeheaver punched it in from the one. Turner’s run for two put Keyser on top 34-28.
Fort Hill responded in less than two minutes, tying the game at 34-34 on a Luke Hamilton one yard touchdown with 9:11 to go in the game. A bad snap on the extra point try stopped Fort Hill from re-taking the lead.
Then, with the game tied at 34 apiece, what was no doubt the play of the game occurred.  According to the News-Tribune game story, Keyser kicker Aaron Miller spotted something. According to Biser, “He noticed that the kid switched tees. We kind of thought he was going to go onside, but when he saw that and pointed that out to us, we just called it out,” said Biser.
Keyser’s Zak Kerns was waiting, scooped the ball up, and raced all the way to paydirt for the go-ahead touchdown. Keen-eyed Aaron Miller’s extra point took the new Keyser lead to 41-34.
Biser told the News-Tribune at the time, “It bounced right to him. And he just looked up and went. They gave him the game ball and said, ‘This is yours.’ That was a momentum-changer.  It just changed the whole complexion.”
Five and a half minutes later, Rodeheaver would race 40 yards to the end zone and along with Miller’s kick, Keyser had the momentum and a 14 point lead (48-34) with only 3:31 to go in the contest.
At this point, Fort Hill made a quarterback switch from Lennon Squires to Nathaniel Graves that would not win them the game, but put them on a course thereafter that would prove to be extremely fruitful. Graves used his legs and his arm to march Fort Hill down the field, ultimately connecting with Brayden Brown on a 22 yard touchdown pass that, along with Farrell’s kick, narrowed the gap to one touchdown (48-41).
It was too little too late, however, as there was only 28 ticks left on the clock. Fort Hill’s ensuing squib kick was recovered by Keyser, and with one kneel down, the Golden Tornado snapped Fort Hill’s area best 29-game win streak by securing the epic, 48-41 victory.
Biser told Michael Minnich, then sports editor of the News-Tribune, the following, “It’s a credit to our kids and the way we play. The kids didn’t give up. They didn’t quit. They just kept playing and playing and playing.  And that’s what it boils down to.”
Fort Hill was by Brayden Brown’s 290 yards of total offense; Brown accounted for 76 percent of Fort Hill’s 382 yards of total offense. Brown rushed 16 times for 243 yards and hauled in 3 passes for 47 yards.  In total, Brown scored three of the Sentinels’ six touchdowns.
Keyser was led by Cody Rodeheaver who rushed for 174 yards and three of Keyser’s seven touchdowns.  In total, Keyser had 403 yards rushing.  In 25 running plays in the game’s second half, 24 went for positive yardage.
Fort Hill would go on to run the table in 2015, finishing 12-1, their only blemish being to Keyser, and defeating Havre de Grace 44-14 to win their third consecutive Maryland class 1A title. Likewise, while Keyser snapped Fort Hill’s 29-game win streak, after the loss, the Sentinels immediately began another win streak, this one stretching to 32 games.  
Keyser would ultimately finish the season 9-3, advancing to the state quarterfinal round of the playoffs after defeating Westside 45-14 in opening round playoff action. Keyser would fall to Fairmont Senior in the quarterfinals 58-42.  Fairmont Senior would go on to a state title game appearance where they fell 28-20 to Bridgeport. Two of Keyser’s three losses in 2015 were to the state champion and runner up in West Virgnia’s class AA.
How big was this win?  In a 55-game stretch from 2013 through 2016, Fort Hill compiled a record of 54-1, winning 98 percent of their games, including four straight state championships.  That one loss, the only blemish during a run of unprecedented success for the Sentinels, was at the hands of Keyser, and on Fort Hill’s home turf.
If you were there as a player, coach or fan, and you probably were based on the huge crowd that night, it’s a game you’ll never forget.