Tornado takes Weir 27-7 in first and only scrimmage

Staff Writer
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Keyser's Drae Allen is shown taking the handoff from quarterback Gavin Root.
Tribune photo by Chapin Jewell

By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

WEIR - Keyser football last visited Hancock County at the tip of the northern panhandle to take on the Weir Red Riders two years ago. In that now famous and epic, come from behind victory, the Black and Gold overcame a 19-point halftime deficit (33-14) and outscored Weir by 20 points in the second half to claim the dramatic win.

Fast forward two years and gone is the vast majority of the personnel on each opposing team, even the head coaches are different. Weir’s Tony Filberto is replaced by Frank Sisinni at the top. Keyser’s Sean Biser is replaced by Derek Stephen in command. With Stephen now in charge, the Golden Tornado did to Weir on Saturday what they’ve done three of the last four years, and that’s claimed victory, this time by a tally of 27-7.

There were no fans beyond just parents, a few school officials, and a handful of media guys. There was no band, no fanfare, but there was real, hard-hitting football action between two schools, something all involved have yearned for.

“It felt good finally to get out there and play football. When you can actually get out there against another team, you can get the kids a little more fired up. It makes it easier to see everything.  We got a good look at the kids, we’re young this year, so we got a good look at a bunch of different people, that was the main thing we needed to see.” Keyser coach Derek Stephen explained.

It’s been a long, difficult, and abnormal off season. Both programs were excited to actually strap it up against a different opponent, and according to Stephen, Weir couldn’t have been better hosts.

“I didn’t think the day would come after being quarantined this summer, but I’m grateful it did and still knocking on wood and crossing my fingers that we still get all ten games in. Weir was very forthcoming about how things we’re going to be, even at first stating there would be no fans but then that changed,” Stephen stated.  “They were gracious hosts, they sent nine or ten pizzas home with us, there was water and Gatorade. They made sure anything we needed on the sidelines that we got.”

With both Weir and Keyser being traditional opponents of the last four years, and with the excitement associated with cracking pads against an actual opponent and not just each other, the scrimmage, played mostly under “game play” conditions, had the feel of a real game. It would have made for an appropriate lid-lifter for both new head coaches.

“Their new head coach is stepping into the same situation as I am, going into a storied program that is consistently good every year, and replacing a coach that has been there awhile and did things the right way.  So, I felt the same anxiousness that he did,” Stephen stated.

According to Stephen, “It would have been nice to have that as a week one game, but we needed that scrimmage game to get our kids in the mode. We saw a lot of things that we did well, and we saw a lot of things that we need to work on. It opened some of the kids’ eyes.  Some of them were ready, some of them are still struggling.”

Each team opened with a 10-play series. Keyser had a touchdown called back for a penalty and ultimately advanced to the Weir 15-yard line. Weir only advanced to about midfield on their 10-play possession.

Then “game play” began and Keyser couldn’t have started any better, with speedy running back Zion Powell rushing 80 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. The extra point was no good and Keyser led 6-0 right out of the gate. Weir would get a touchdown and missed their extra point to tie it 6-6.

From there on out, it was all Keyser, with Drae Allen scoring the next three touchdowns and Seth Earnest hitting three straight extra points to lift Keyser to a 27-6 “victory.”  The JV squads then took it from there, with each getting two offensive possessions.

The takeaways from the Coach Stephen and the Keyser coaching staff are that the area’s they expected to excel in they did.  Likewise, the areas with which they thought would be question marks due to youth and experience did somewhat remain questions marks. Overall, Stephen was pleased as he saw some younger guys start stepping up in the roles they’ll need to fill.

“We saw things that we know will work.  We know that Drae (Allen) our new fullback is going to be a horse, and we have some speed with Zion (Powell), but we knew that coming in.  Some of our younger guys stepped up and filled in roles that we were hoping they could fill in.  But in that same token, we’re really young across the board so we saw a lot of young guy mistakes,” Stephen stated.

According to Stephen, “Hopefully we can get gone and throughout the year those things will correct, that’s what we’ve been working on this week, trying to correct those mistakes.  But for the most part, we saw a lot of things that we like, and we saw a lot of things we need to work on.”

“It goes back to the old adage, you’re never as good as you think you are and you’re never as bad as you think you are.  I think we’re somewhere in the middle right now.  We’re working towards getting better,” Stephen explained.