Stephen earns first win as Keyser routs Berkeley Springs 61-33
By Chapin Jewell
BERKELEY SPRINGS - Things had a bit of a different feel to them Friday night in Berkeley Springs. Then again, everything seems to have a different feel to it in 2020.
It wasn’t just the COVID-19 related restrictions, however, that felt a little off as the Golden Tornado squared off against the Indians in Morgan County.
What was different? For starters, the fact that Berkeley Springs scored at all against Keyser. It had been longer than four games, 17 quarters to be exact, since the Indians had hit the scoreboard against Keyser. Coming to the table this year with more tools in their arsenal, more experienced tools at least, Berkeley Springs mustered a total of 33 points in the contest.
To Keyser’s credit, however, the Black and Gold unleashed an offensive attack of their own that allowed them to be twice as productive offensively than Berkeley Springs , outscoring the Indians with points coming on the ground and in the air to earn the 61-33 victory.
It may have been the second most points Keyser ever gave up to Berkeley Springs, but that’s countered by the fact that it’s the second most points Keyser has every scored against the Indians as well.
The win, Keyser’s 18th straight against Berkeley Springs, also marked the first in the head coaching career of Derek Stephen, no stranger to the program as a long-time assistant, but new to being the head man in charge of the Golden Tornado.
“The football aspect hasn’t been extremely hard. It’s all the other stuff that’s the pain in the butt stuff. I texted Coach Biser the other day and said, ‘Hey, you didn’t prepare me for how to take over in a pandemic’,” Stephen laughed.
According to Stephen, “That first victory is always a good thing to get under your belt. “Like I told the guys earlier, we saw a lot of things that we did well and a lot of things that we need to work on. It’s the first game of the year, we’ve got a lot of green guys, so it’s to be expected. We know we have our work cut out for us to get better.”
Keyser accumulated nearly 700 yards of offense, the vast majority, over 600 yards, coming on the ground. Drae Allen racked up 222 of those yards, Zion Powell 141, 126 of which came on two touchdown carries. Keyser quarterback Gavin Root went 4 for 7 through the air for 64 yards as well, throwing two touchdown passes in the second quarter.
“I thought all our backs ran hard, they weren’t shying away from contact. We kind of got on them a little bit, telling them if you can make that guy miss, make him miss, instead of trying to get that extra yard or two, I’d rather you try to get in the end zone. But, all our backs ran well when they had the ball in their hand, I think four or five of them scored tonight, which is a good thing,” Stephen explained.
According to Stephen, “Drae (Allen) and Zion (Powell), we were counting on those two to carry the load, because we know they’ve got that experience, especially Drae, getting us those tough yards when we need them, and Zion being able to turn on the burners outside, which he got to do a couple times today.”
While the offensive production was good, despite the fact that Keyser isn’t use to giving up 33 points to Berkeley Springs, or many teams for that matter, Stephen sees positive progression from his defense day by day, and knows that the experience of today will pay dividends tomorrow.
Most of Berkeley Springs’ offensive damage was done through the air as quarterback Gavin Barkeley completed 10 of 20 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns.
“We got beat a couple times deep, but we have a lot of young guys out there that haven’t played a lot. We return Gavin (Root) on the defensive side and that’s it, we’ve got 10 other guys that haven’t had a lot of experience. So, I wasn’t pleased with the 33 points, but it’s okay because we’re getting the good experience that we need and it will benefit us later on. From the very first practice to the scrimmage to today, you can see us getting better,” Stephen detailed.
Keyser scored the first four touchdowns of the game to open up a 27-0 lead before Berkeley Springs could post a score. Anthony Mele scored the first Keyser touchdown from three yards out with 3:32 remaining in the first quarter.
The next two Keyser touchdowns came on Gavin Root touchdown passes, a two yard toss to Malachi Blowe and 30-yard pass to Sammy Bradfield, both in the second quarter. Bradfield then scored on a 26-yard scamper to give Keyser the 27-0 head start.
Then came a Gavin Barkley 15-yard pass to Evan Thompson to bring Berkeley Springs to within three touchdowns (27-6). Zion Powell responded for Keyser with a 63 yard scoring run off on a criss-cross play that with Seth Earnest’s kick upped Keyser’s lead to 34-6.
After a 70-yard touchdown run by the Indians’ Peyton Thompson brought Berkeley Springs back to within three touchdowns of Keyser again, Zion Powell would again respond with an identical 63-yard scoring run on the criss-cross to elevate Keyser to a 41-point lead. Gavin Barkley’s 84-yard touchdown pass to Tymir Ross brought the halftime score to 41-20 in favor of the Golden Tornado.
In the second half, Keyser would get three touchdown runs out of Drae Allen (20 yards), Gavin Root (32 yards) and Chayse Evans (46 yards). Berkeley Springs would add a 58-yard touchdown pass from Barkley to Ross and a two-yard run by Evan Thompson in the second half to bring the final tally to 61-33 in favor of Keyser.
The win marks the seventh straight opening game win for Keyser, with the Golden Tornado also capturing nine victories in their last 10 lid-lifters.
Next up is the most formidable of foes. It’s not often that it can be said you’ve replaced Fort Hill on the schedule with a team of equal or similar caliber. This year, however, Maryland’s cancellation or postponement of fall sports ultimately resulted in the Golden Tornado gaining, in replacement of the Sentinels, a formidable Oak Gen Golden Bears squad from the Northern Panhandle.
Oak Glen ran off 12-straight victories in 2019 before falling to eventual state champion Bridgeport in the state semi-finals 38-7. The Golden Bears return the large majority of key contributors from that 12-1 team. The three-hour trip to Hancock County is also a long haul.
“We had a dry run going to Weir last week, Oak Glen is a little bit farther, so we’ve made that trip, they know what to expect in terms of how we’re going to travel. We’re going to go in and evaluate film and see what they do, and see what we can do to combat that, and just go out and do what we can control. If we can stop them, great, if they can’t stop us, good, we’re just going to go out and play football,” Stephen stated.