KEYSER - When Keyser hosts Hampshire tonight for Homecoming, the Golden Tornado will take to the field with a record of 3-1. Those three wins include dominating performances over Berkeley Springs (61-33), Washington (55-35) and Nicholas County (70-19). Keyser's lone loss was to Oak Glen in New Cumberland 35-12.
By Chapin Jewell
KEYSER - When Keyser hosts Hampshire tonight for Homecoming, the Golden Tornado will take to the field with a record of 3-1. Those three wins include dominating performances over Berkeley Springs (61-33), Washington (55-35) and Nicholas County (70-19). Keyser’s lone loss was to Oak Glen in New Cumberland 35-12.
Oak Glen currently sits number two in the WVSSAC’s class AA playoff ratings, and remains a favorite to advance deep in to the post season.
The Golden Tornado offense is flying high, having just set the all-time school record for points in a single contest in their 70-19 tally over Nicholas County. Offensively, Keyser is averaging 49.5, rounded up to 50 points per game. The Black and Gold have shown that they can get it done both on the ground and through the air. On the ground in particular, running backs Drae Allen and Zion Powell are putting up video game type numbers, particularly in terms of what they have produced with rally a limited amount of touches.
On defense, Keyser’s young squad is still a bit of a work in progress but progress is indeed the name of the game as they continue to get better game in and game out. Currently, the Black and Gold defenders are giving up on average 24.75 or rounded up 25 points per game. More than Keyser is used to, but that was expected with a defensive unit that returned only one starter in defensive back Gavin Root. Still, the defense has done enough working in tandem with the offense for Keyser to still on average double up their opponents by an average score of 50-25.
In Hampshire, Keyser faces an opponent they hold an all-time advantage of 39 wins to 17 losses against. The Golden Tornado have defeated the Trojans in four straight years, and in 17 of the last 18 and 21 of the last 23 tries.
Hampshire comes into tonight’s contest with some momentum, having just snapped a 13-game losing streak that stretched across three seasons with back to back victories over Buckhannon-Upshur (58-6) and Brooke (21-0). Earning victories in and of itself was a great accomplishment to turn the tide. Earning victories with a 52 and 21 point spread respectively has given the Trojans some confidence.
“There’s no doubt that Hampshire has gained some confidence in winning the last two games and putting up some good points along the way. I think 21 is the lowest they’ve scored in the last couple of games, so they’re putting some points on the board, they’re slinging the ball, and they’ve got some confidence. That’s going to help them a long way if they get a couple scores on us or they score first, it could be a game changer with their momentum, Keyser coach Derek Stephen stated.
According to Stephen, “We know that we need to be able to match their intensity and match their emotions in the game on Friday, and while we’re doing that, we need to play our game as well.”
With Keyser having demonstrated their ability to score points with relative ease, the question of the day becomes the Golden Tornado defense and their ability to limit Hampshire offensively.
“They like to throw the ball a bunch and we’re still green in the secondary and trying to find the pieces. We have the pieces, we’re just trying to find the right way to combine them. So, our biggest thing is that we’re going to have to slow them down on the passing side. If we can do that, and force them to run the ball or even into long-yardage situations, I think that will go in our favor a lot,” Stephen explained.
Adding to the spectacle that is already a rivalry game between neighbors, tonight is Homecoming night in Keyser. Despite some limitations associated with COVID-19, those in charge have done all in their power to put on a productive week for the kids.
“We’re trying to make it that special night that Homecoming normally is. We are doing the dress up days at school, the cheerleaders were trying to get to all the senior’s houses to decorate. We’re trying to make it that special time but a little bit will be taken away because of the crowd restrictions and atmosphere. We normally have a lot of alumni come back for the game. But, I look for our kids to come out ready to play,” Stephen stated.