On Sept. 21, 1996, the Frankfort Falcons made the nine-mile, 15- minute trip to Cumberland's Greenway Avenue Stadium to take on the Allegany Campers, the first ever varsity football matchup between the Falcons and a Cumberland public school in history.
By Chapin Jewell
On Sept. 21, 1996, the Frankfort Falcons made the nine-mile, 15- minute trip to Cumberland’s Greenway Avenue Stadium to take on the Allegany Campers, the first ever varsity football matchup between the Falcons and a Cumberland public school in history.
While the outcome entering the contest was unknown, there was certainly a lot of buildup and excitement surrounding the game. It’s rare that a game like this lives up to the billing, but this one did.
Frankfort invaded the venerable Greenway Avenue Stadium with a massive Columbia Blue and Silver-clad crowd that along with Allegany’s home crowd and the many, many curious onlookers from other schools, it was a Saturday night game mind you, filled the place with a throng of thousands. The Falcons delivered in their first ever matchup with the Campers, not just beating Allegany, but defeating them convincingly by a score of 35-16.
Mark Harris, in the Mineral News-Tribune game story from September 23, 1996, summed up the outcome perfectly, “They said it would never happen. Frankfort would never play Allegany let alone beat the Campers at their own forte. But Saturday evening, when the Falcons soared across the Potomac River, bringing thousands of followers donned in Columbia Blue for an inaugural meeting with the Campers, everything changed.”
In the game story, Harris quotes Frankfort coach Greg Phillips relating to the fan support the Falcons received, “We are very fortunate to compare in numbers with them. The fan support was great. We need to carry this kind of support at home.”
As Harris described, “Frankfort used everything in its arsenal, including 292 yards total rushing to overpower and manhandle Allegany 35-16 at Greenway Avenue Stadium.” Indeed, Travis Lynch finished with 19 rushes for 142 yards rushing and two scores. Josh Bradburn rushed eight times for 116 yards rushing and a score. Grant Noel was 5-11 passing for 96 yards, with one touchdown through the air and one more on the ground. The Falcon’s balanced offensive attack did the home standing Campers in.
Frankfort absolutely dominated play, racing out to a 28-0 lead before Allegany put their first points on the board late in the third quarter to bring the score to within 20 points, 28-20. Both teams would score an additional time in the fourth quarter to give Frankfort the resounding 35-16 victory.
It was a battle of unbeaten teams entering the contest. Frankfort blasted class AAA Jefferson 35-7 in their week one season opener in Short Gap. The Falcons then took to the road and throttled Archbishop Spalding of Maryland 33-0. With a combined score over their first two opponents of 68-7, Frankfort had displayed the ability to have success both through the air and on the ground.
In the season opener against Jefferson, it was Grant Noel’s more than 200 yards passing that led the Falcon attack. Against Archbishop Spalding in week two, it was Travis Lynch’s more than 200 yards rushing that led the way. It’s no surprise that Frankfort was able to incorporate both their passing and rushing attack to dominate the Campers.
Allegany, however, was also 2-0 entering the game against Frankfort. Allegany knocked off a stout Southern squad 16-8 to open the season. The Campers then traveled to Romney in week two and defeated the Hampshire Trojans by a score of 27-12. Neither team, however, prepared Allegany for the offensive firepower and solid defense Frankfort would bring to Greenway in week three.
Entering the contest, Frankfort coach Greg Phillips, while confident in his team, expressed some concerns about how well Allegany was playing, and about how his team might respond on the big stage for this highly anticipated game.
According to Phillips, “We’re in for a football game. What concerns me the most about this team (Allegany) is the fact that they are playing together as a unit and aren’t making mistakes. Another concern for us is composure. If we go out there focused, we’ll be okay. But if the kids come out staring into the stands at the crowd, we could be in for a long night.
One team certainly was in for a long night, it turns out, however, it wasn’t Phillips and his Falcons. Frankfort set the tone quickly, scoring early and often, shocking the Campers and putting Allegany in a position they didn’t often find themselves in, particularly in the eighties and nineties, and especially at home.
On Allegany’s first possession of the game, the Campers managed one first down, then had two separate runners stuffed at the line of scrimmage to force a punt.
On the ensuing possession, a clipping penalty sent Frankfort all the way back to their own 11 yard line. A few plays later, 220-pound fullback Josh Bradburn struck pay dirt, taking a handoff up the middle and racing 79 yards for Frankfort’s first score of the game. With the extra point no good, Frankfort gained an early 6-0 advantage with 6:51 left in the game’s first quarter.
Three plays into Allegany’s second possession of the game, Falcon defender Adam Pyles intercepted a pass and returned it to midfield. Seven plays later, Travis Lynch ran the ball 18 yards off the right side for the score with just under two minutes to go in the opening frame. The point after attempt was faked as Noel sprung up and hit Pyles off the right side for the two point conversion to make the score 14-0.
In the second quarter, Frankfort’s stubborn defense forced another Allegany punt. This time, the Falcons produced a 14-play, 6:20, 81 yard drive, punctuated by a one yard touchdown plunge from Noel. The highlight play of the drive was a screen pass to Lynch who slipped through would be tacklers, making something out of nothing, racing 19 yards to the Allegany 13. The extra point kick on the score gave Frankfort a 21-0 lead, still before halftime.
Allegany finally threatened just before halftime, taking the ball all the way to the Frankfort 27 yard line. On fourth down, with only four seconds remaining however, Frankfort’s Brian Plummer intercepted a Matt Kalbaugh pass near the end zone to conclude the half with the Falcons holding a commanding 21-0 lead.
Frankfort scored once again on the opening drive of the second half. After Lynch returned the second half kickoff out to the Frankfort 41. After a few plays, the Falcons converted a third down and 18 into a 57 yard touchdown as Noel hit tight end Chris Rhodes on a catch and run all the way in for the score. Noel’s extra point ballooned the score to 28-0 in favor of the invaders from the Mountain State.
Allegany would finally get on the board late in the third quarter after a nine-play, 65-yard drive capped by Kalbaugh’s keeper around the right end. A successful two-point conversion made the score 28-8.
Frankfort responded on its first drive of the fourth quarter as Lynch scored from eight yards out, and along with Plummer’s kick, extended the Falcon lead to 35-8.
Allegany scored again with 3:53 remaining in the contest after a six-play, 61 yard drive, with Joe Cunningham scoring from five yards out. A second two point conversion made the final score 35-16 in favor of the Falcons.
While Grant Noel and Travis Lynch led Frankfort’s balanced offensive onslaught on the ground and through the air, much credit was given to the offensive line on a solid performance. The Falcons’ defensive performance was stellar in the victory as well. Brian Ely led the Falcon defense with 12 tackles, Sam Albin contributed 11 tackles and a sack, and Billy Andrews tallied nine take downs. In addition, Pyles and Plummer each had an interception.
It was a night to remember, the highly anticipated matchup that delivered, much to the delight of the majority Falcon crowd in attendance. The game also spurred a nice rivalry that would ultimately become a 14-game series.
The final tally of that 14-game series currently stands at 11-3 in favor of Allegany, with the Campers winning the final eight games of the series, with the last one being in 2011. That final tally, however, is not indicative of how competitive the series was in the beginning, particularly through the first six games.
After losing to Frankfort with much fanfare at home in 1996, the Campers won the next three meetings in the series in 1997, 2001 and 2001 by an average score of 24-14, with one being a three-point contest. Frankfort, however, won both the 2002 and 2003 contests by shutout, 10-0 in 2002 and 31-0 in 2003. At the conclusion of the first six games in the series, things were tied at three games apiece.
That 1996 Frankfort team had a very talented roster, highlighted of course by Grant Noel who would go on to quarterback Virginia Tech, and Travis Lynch who had a remarkable career as running back at Shepherd.
The 1996 Falcon squad, with Noel and Lynch as juniors, finished the regular season a perfect 10-0 and hosted Ravenswood in the first round of the playoffs. Frankfort would fall to the Red Devils in a close, 14-8 contest to finish the season with a 10-1 record.
The following year, 1997, with Noel and Lynch as seniors, the Falcons finished the regular season with a 9-1 record before hosting and falling to Keyser 7-3 in the first round of the playoffs to finish with a 9-2 record overall.
With Frankfort going a combined 19-3 in the 1996 and 1997 seasons, the Falcons produced a tremendous amount of memories over the span of two seasons. Perhaps no memory was greater, however, than the Falcons invasion of Greenway Avenue Stadium with thousands of fans on September 21, 1996 to clobber Allegany 35-16 in their first ever matchup.