KEYSER - After a long road trip, hard-fought battle, and subsequent 38-28 loss to Point Pleasant, Keyser looks to rebound in the friendly confines of home against the visiting Jefferson Cougars.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - After a long road trip, hard-fought battle, and subsequent 38-28 loss to Point Pleasant, Keyser looks to rebound in the friendly confines of home against the visiting Jefferson Cougars.
Keyser is 4-2 with victories over Berkeley Springs (61-31), Washington (55-35), Nicholas County (70-19), and Hampshire (54-0). Their losses have come from Oak Glen (35-12) and now Point Pleasant (38-28). Jefferson is 2-3 with victories over Greenbrier East (42-23) and University (14-13). Their losses are to Musselman (49-6), Spring Mills (52-28) and Frankfort (28-19).
Keyser leads the series all-time with a record of 12-8 against the Cougars.  It’s a series of streaks. The series started with four straight Jefferson wins from 1972-1983, then Keyser claimed four straight from 1984-1987). Jefferson won the next three (1988-1990) and Keyser the three after that (1999-2001).  
Since then, the Golden Tornado has won five of the last six to include five straight from 2011 to 2018.
Keyser comes into the contest rated number eight in both the WVSSAC West Virginia class AA playoff ratings and WVMetroNews Power Rankings. Jefferson is currently rated 20th in the WVSSAC West Virginia class AAA playoff ratings.
Jefferson is led by head coach Craig Hunter who is in his eighth season in charge of the Cougars on the gridiron. Hunter has compiled an overall record of 33-46, with Jefferson making the class AAA playoffs in 2014, 2015 and 2016, but not since. The Cougars have not finished above .500 since 2015.
“We told the kids today that we probably had our best Wednesday practice of the year, which is great, because we didn’t practice very well last week.  But, it’s been a good week so far so we can build off that,” Keyser coach Derek Stephen stated.
“I think some of that is because it’s starting to click that it’s not okay to lose. Losing hurts. We are trying to stress to them that we love to win but we hate to lose more. They’re also starting to pick up the nuances, the little things that we’re looking for, and I think that’s part of the reason we’re getting better too,” Stephen explained.
Currently standing eighth in the class AA playoff ratings, despite taking a week by week approach, certainly the Black and Gold is aware that how they finish down the stretch will dictate their playoff eligibility and standing.
“We’ve been talking to them the last couple of days about how we have to finish because class AA is so competitive. We’re trying to stress to them that every game is important from here on out and that we have to play to our level, and play an A + game every week.  But, we’re focusing on Jefferson now. We know there’s a lot of points hanging out there to get, but right now, we’re going to focus on Jefferson,” Stephen stated.
According to Stephen, “Jefferson is going to sling the ball around a lot, they’ve got a pretty good quarterback who looks good on film and I’ve talked to others who say he looks even better in person.  So, that’s going to be a big thing to deal with.  We have to do a better job this week of getting a pash rush.  Jefferson always has talent and athletes, so we’re going to have our work cut out for us on defense this week.”
“We’ve also got to step up and play better on offense.  Our blocking last week wasn’t great, but at practice we’ve improved this week so hopefully we can build off that and get back to where we can be,” Stephen expressed.
While Keyser has dominated the series, winning the last five matchups, the Golden Tornado and Cougars have produced some memorable contests, with three of those five games being decided by a touchdown or less.  
According to Stephen, “There was one play at Keyser that we won on a trick play in the last drive. One time down there we intercepted the ball in the end zone to hold onto the win.  Another game we busted a big one late. They have played us competitive the last several times.”