By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

SHORT GAP - After Ridgeley High School won the West Virginia class A state football championship in the school’s last ever football contest in 1975, the Black and White gave way to Columbia Blue and Silver as Ridgeley and Fort Ashby consolidated to become Frankfort High School.

While Fort Ashby High School only fielded a football team in the 1944, 1945 and 1946 seasons, compiling a combined 2-20 record all-time, Ridgeley High School had a 42-year football tradition (1934-1975) with an overall record 161-178-11.

With an overall winning percentage just shy of .500, Ridgeley’s best stretch of football came in the Blackhawk’s last four seasons, going 7-3 in 1972, 9-1 in 1973, 9-1 in 1974, and a perfect 12-0 in 1975. That four year run of success, culminating with a state championship, gave the Blackhawks a 37-5 four-year record to close out football in Ridgeley.

In the first two years of Frankfort High School, Coach Jim Fazzalore’s Falcons carried on those winning ways on the gridiron carried over from Ridgeley. The inaugural 1976 campaign saw the Short Gap school go a very successful 9-1. In 1977, the second year, the Falcons would finish with a record of 6-4.

With a two year combined starting record of 15-5, things were trending in a positive direction as the Falcons competed in AA as opposed to A classification. In fact, Frankfort won 13 of their first 14 games and 15 of the first 17.

There was, however, something notably missing in those first two years of success, and that was a victory over in-county rival Keyser.

Despite being the favorite in 1976, Frankfort would fall to Keyser in the first ever Mineral Bowl by a score of 39-21 as Keyser, despite being dominated statistically, used big play after big play to topple the Falcons in Short Gap, ending Frankfort’s playoff hopes.

In 1977, in a battle of 7-2 (Keyser) and 6-2 (Frankfort) teams, Keyser again gained the upper hand, defeating Frankfort 14-0 at Stayman Field to take an early 2-0 lead in the new series.

So it was back to Short Gap in 1978 where a 6-2 Falcon squad hosted Keyser’s 2-7 Golden Tornado. Frankfort had earned victories over Petersburg, Hampshire, Musselman, University, Berkeley Springs and Valley, but fell to Moorefield and Beall. Keyser’s lone wins came against Bruce and Petersburg.

Keyser was coming off of successful back to back 7-3 and 8-2 seasons in Coach Jim Thompson’s first years at the helm in 1976 and 1977, but the 1978 season had been a disappointment. What better way to salvage a season than with a season-ending victory over the top rival?

So the stage was set for the third-ever Mineral Bowl, with Frankfort looking to gain their first-ever win in the series with also a slim chance of playoff aspirations, and the Black and Gold looking to continue their two-year run of dominance in the series and end a disappointing 1978 campaign on a high note.

An estimated 2,500 fans watched as Frankfort and Keyser played to a 7-7 tie at the end of regulation, with both teams scoring their touchdowns in the first half. With no scoring by either side in the second half, the game was decided in one overtime period utilizing the Kansas tie-breaker set of rules. Frankfort would come out on top 14-7 in the extra session to score the Falcons’ first-ever varsity football win over Keyser.

In the first quarter, it would actually be Keyser that drew first blood, scoring on a 14-yard run by P.A. Redman and Tom Roy kick with 4:12 remaining in the opening stanza to take the early 7-0 lead.

That first Tornado score was partially set up by an ineffective 18-yard punt from Frankfort that gave Keyser the ball at the Falcon 43-yard line. It took five plays, which included three runs by Redman and a 14-yard penalty by Frankfort for Keyser to punch it in for the game’s first score.

The first quarter for Frankfort was marred by penalties as the Falcons were penalized seven times for 74 yards in the opening frame alone. Frankfort would not reach Keyser territory until early in the second period.

Utilizing a balanced offensive attack that included putting the ball into the air, Frankfort marched down the field in the second quarter to put themselves in scoring position, fighting a stingy Keyser defense and their own mishaps the whole time.

With 4:18 remaining in the second quarter, Falcon quarterback Scott White hit Howie Buser on a perfect 22-yard scoring pass that with freshman Barry White’s kick just crossing the crossbar to tie the game at 7-7.

There would be no additional scoring the remainder of the second quarter, and the scoring drought covered both the third and fourth quarters as well. Frankfort, however, would mount a serious scoring drive late.

The Falcons would cover 58 yards on the final drive of regulation, beginning with a Buser run of seven yards and a pass completion to Buser from White of 25 yards. White then had completions of six yards to Alan Moreland and 20 yards Buser that took the ball all the way down to the Keyser three yard line, with Buser stepping out of bounds with one second remaining on the clock.

Frankfort lined up to kick the potential, game-winning 20 yard field goal with one tick on the clock, but freshman Barry White’s kick sailed wide right, thwarting Frankfort’s hopes of winning in regulation and forcing overtime.

Under the Kansas tie-breaker overtime rules, each team would get four plays from their opponent’s ten yard line. Frankfort won the coin toss, and in a move totally contrary to the norm these days, elected to go on offense first.

Frankfort wasted little time scoring as Buser went off the left side for 10 yards on the first play. With Buser’s touchdown and White’s successful kick, Frankfort held the 14-7 advantage.

Keyser’s first rush by Twyman netted the Black and Gold a two-yard gain. On the second play, Chris Green was thrown for a two-yard loss setting up a third down and goal to go from the 10-yard line. On the third down play, Keyser quarterback Craig Harman was sacked for a 12-yard loss, setting up a fourth and goal from the 22-yard line for Keyser.

On the fourth down play, Harman connected on an 18-yard strike to Jones, but Jones was stopped four yards shy of the end zone, giving the Falcons the 14-7, thrilling, overtime victory.

That concluded the 1978 season for Keyser with a disappointing 2-8 record. Frankfort would go on to lose the next week against Southern (28-0) to conclude their season at 7-3. Nonetheless, the Falcons gained that all-important first-ever victory over Keyser.

One interesting fact is that overtime would become no stranger to the Frankfort/Keyser rivalry in the early days. In the first nine contests played between the two Mineral County schools, three of the nine, one-third, would go into overtime.

The rivalry got off to a hot, tightly contested start, laying the foundation for the intensity that remains to this day.