KEYSER - The 2012 version of Keyser Golden Tornado football will forever rank near the top of the better teams in KHS history. If for no other reason than by default, the 2012 team has to take a back seat to Tack Clark's state championship teams of 1956, 1962 and 1969. And if we're being fair, and because it is near impossible to compare teams from different eras, the 1957 state finalist team on paper ranks alongside the 2012 squad in that they both made it to the title game.
By Chapin Jewell
KEYSER - The 2012 version of Keyser Golden Tornado football will forever rank near the top of the better teams in KHS history. If for no other reason than by default, the 2012 team has to take a back seat to Tack Clark’s state championship teams of 1956, 1962 and 1969. And if we’re being fair, and because it is near impossible to compare teams from different eras, the 1957 state finalist team on paper ranks alongside the 2012 squad in that they both made it to the title game.
There have been other great teams that rank alongside the 2012 squad, and over a few cold refreshments sitting around a campfire, it might be a fun topic of debate. What we know for sure, however, is that in 2012, Keyser came the closest to winning a football state championship than they have since their last one in 1969.
The 2012 team finished the regular season with a record of 9-1, there only blemish a close, 14-12 defeat to Allegany in Cumberland. The Black and Gold then ripped through their first three playoff opponents, beating Mingo Central 61-14, Scott 53-8 and Bridgeport 42-14, before falling to Wayne 35-0 in the state title game at Wheeling Island Stadium. Still, finishing the season 12-2 and second to a Wayne squad that’s in the debate for the greatest AA teams of all time was quite an accomplishment.
As a Keyser fan, what if you were guaranteed before the season that the Golden Tornado would topple Bridgeport twice and Fort Hill all in the same season? You’d take it, right? Well that’s exactly what happened the accomplished 2012 squad, with one of the biggest wins of the season coming in week two over Fort Hill at home. In fact, it wasn’t just a win, it was in fact a shellacking, a convincing 51-22 rout. That early win helped set the tone for the successful season.
Going into the Sept. 7, 2012 contest at Keyser, both the Golden Tornado and Sentinels were 1-0 and had demolished their first game opponents. Two weeks prior, Keyser opened the season with a 60-12 clobbering of Petersburg at Petersburg. Keyser then enjoyed a bye week in preparation for the Sentinels. Fort Hill opened the season with a 63-18 clobbering of Silver Oak in week one.
Also entering that game, between the two teams, Fort Hill had won three-straight in the series, eight of the last nine and 15 of the last 17. Keyser’s lone victories over Fort Hill in that stretch came at home in 2008 (13-7) and on the road in 2002 (22-21). Heading into the game, Fort Hill led the series all-time with a record of 6-37-1. Keyser’s largest ever margin of victory over Fort Hill was 26 points, thanks to a 1984 Golden Tornado shutout of the Sentinels (26-0).
At kickoff, the excitement had risen to a fever pitch among the large crowd assembled, with each side having high hopes of a victory. Fort Hill had defeated Keyser soundly the season before (42-0), and finished their 2011 campaign with a record of 12-1, losing only in overtime in the state semi-finals. Keyser finished with an overall record of 7-5 in 2011, making it all the way to the second round of the playoffs.
After a hard-fought, competitive first half, the two teams entered the locker rooms deadlocked at 14 points apiece. Keyser, in what would be one of the most memorable stretches in Golden Tornado football history, would then rattle off 37 consecutive points to take a commanding 51-14 lead. Fort Hill would muster one more touchdown late, and when the final buzzer sounded, Keyser had soundly defeated the visiting Sentinels by a score of 51-22.
In the words of then Mineral News-Tribune sports editor Michael Minnich from the game story, “It’s just the seventh time Keyser has won in 45 meetings, and the largest margin of victory in the series for KHS. It’s also the worst loss that Fort Hill has suffered to a school in the current AMAC (Allegany, Bishop Walsh, Northern, Southern, Hampshire, Keyser and Frankfort) in the program’s 66-year history.”
“Blake Ravenscroft rushed for 89 yards, all but seven in the second half, on 11 carries, finding the end zone three times after intermission and also rushing for a two-point conversion. Danny Fife carried 18 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns for KHS, who racked up 399 yards of offense,” Minnich detailed.
After Keyser was forced to punt on their first offensive possession the Golden Tornado defense drove Fort Hill backwards on three consecutive plays and forced a Sentinel 12-yard punt, giving Keyser the ball at the Fort Hill 28-yard line. Keyser took advantage of the excellent field position.
Cody Eversole, Garrett Crites and Danny Fife immediately went to work on the ground, taking the ball back down to the five-yard line and setting up a first and goal situation. It took Fife two carries to get the ball into the end zone. With Fife’s missed extra point, Keyser struck first blood and gained the early 6-0 advantage with 24 seconds left in the first quarter.
Fort Hill fumbled on the first play of the next possession, but three plays into their subsequent drive, Keyser gave it back as Fort Hill’s Travis Bush grabbed the pick and returned it to the Keyser 31-yard line. Four plays later, Fort Hill’s Devin Shreve ran it in from six yards out for the score. With Chris King’s extra point, the Sentinels gained the 7-6 lead with 10:28 remaining in the second quarter.
Crites, Blank Ravenscroft and Danny Fife went back to work on the ground. Eight plays later, and with 7:29 remaining in the opening half clock, Fife pounded it in from 12 yards out and Crites ran it in for the two-point conversion to give Keyser the 14-7 lead.
After an exchange of possessions, Fort Hill’s Zack Elbin scored on a 70-yard touchdown run that was initially ruled out due to a flag. After some consultation, the officials picked up the flag and the play stood. With the successful conversion kick, the Sentinels tied the game at 14-14 with 1:51 remaining in the first half.
In the second half, the Keyser onslaught began, 37 consecutive points, owed to a successful ground attack and a tenacious defense that kept forcing Fort Hill turnovers.
The onslaught began when Keyser defenseman Josh Coffman took the ball out of the Fort Hill punters hands for a Black and Gold touchdown with 6:48 remaining in the third quarter. Fife’s two-point conversion run gave Keyser a 22-14 advantage.
On the ensuing possession, Fort Hill fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. Three plays later, Blake Ravenscroft took it in from four yards out, and with the two-point conversion attempt no good, Keyser extended their lead to 28-14 with 5:37 remaining in the third frame.
Another Fort Hill fumble gave Keyser the ball at their own 45-yard line. Fife and Ravenscroft took turns, with Ravenscroft scoring from 10 yards out and getting the two-point conversion to propel Keyser’s lead to 36-14 with 44 seconds remaining in the third.
Keyser’s Eric Wilt then intercepted a Fort Hill pass for the Sentinel’s third turnover in a row. Ravenscroft scored on the next play from 28 yards out. Eversole found Dakota Proud for the two-point conversion to extend the Keyser lead to 44-14 with 11:10 remaining in the contest.
At the 5:43 mark of the fourth quarter, Garrett Crites scored on a 26-yard run, and with Zack Johnson’s extra point, Keyser’s 37th unanswered point drew the score to 51-14 in favor of the Golden Tornado.
With 3:02 remaining in the contest, Fort Hill finally answered back with a Travis Bush 10-yard touchdown reception, but it was way too little and way too late. At the final buzzer, a good Fort Hill team was walloped by an even better Keyser squad for the first time Keyser has ever put a “running clock” against Fort Hill.
Three years later, Keyser would roll into Cumberland and break Fort Hill’s then area record win streak, causing the Sentinels their only blemish in a 55-game span that saw them win four straight state championships, and ultimately five in six years.
While that game remains one of the biggest, most thrilling victories in the history of Keyser High School football. For Golden Tornado fans, there was just something special about that 2012 victory over Fort Hill. Because it was at home? Because of the spread? I mean it’s the only time an area school, including Keyser, has put a “running clock” on Fort Hill. Maybe because it was part of a run that took Keyser all the way to the state title game at Wheeling Island Stadium?
In any event, we remember.