Keyser lights up the scoreboard in 63-44 victory of Jefferson

Staff Writer
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Gavin Root looks to throw the ball as the Golden Tornado hosted Jefferson at Alumni Field. Tribune photo by Barbara High

By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

KEYSER - The thought going through everyone’s mind in attendance, listening on the radio, or watching the Internet Live Stream Friday night was, ‘When was the last time a Keyser quarterback passed for nearly 300 yards and four touchdowns in a game?’  

Off hand, nobody could seem to remember.

That was, however, one of the deciding differences in the shootout as Keyser outgunned Jefferson 63-44 on Friday night at Tornado Alley. Quarterback Gavin Root passed for four touchdowns and ran for another. Running back/receiver Sammy Bradfield was the recipient of three of Root’s touchdown passes, and Dameain Emerick the other. Bradfield also rushed for a touchdown. Zion Powell had two rushing touchdowns and Drae Allen one for the Tornado.

“We were talking down there on the sidelines, when was the last time we had four touchdown passes in a season, let alone in a game. We were wondering how many yards he was up around, we really weren’t sure. It worked out good.  We saw some things, and it worked out in our favor.  If he’s going to sling it like that, we’re going to keep throwing it,” Keyser coach Derek Stephen stated.

Defensively, Keyser struggled at times, giving up 44 points in total. They did, however, come up big at times with timely turnovers and making just enough stops for the win.

“Defensively, we played okay. I’ve talked about it all year. We have these lulls where we’ll have one good series and the next two are really bad. We just have a letdown, and we need to correct that,” Stephen expressed.

According to Stephen, “One of the things we’ve been stressing the last few weeks is our tackling. We’ve upped our tackling in practice, just our form tackling and our one-on-one tackling.  We’ve been trying to work on getting better at that aspect.  That’s one thing that we see we are struggling with.”

“The very first onside, it was actually planned, we talked about it, we knew we were coming out with that. The second one, it was supposed to be just a squib down the field. It hit the guy and bounced to us, so that worked out in our favor. We caught them cheating up and we got one over their heads later on. We are trying to keep them off balance.”

Keyser took possession at their own 22-yard line to start the game. Two plays later, they fumbled, giving Jefferson the ball at the Black and Gold 36-yard line. Six plays later, Jefferson quarterback Samuel Roberts found Caysen Lanza in the back right corner of the end zone for a six-yard touchdown completion. At the 9:53 mark of the first quarter, with the two-point conversion attempt no good, Jefferson took a 6-0 lead.  

Keyser took possession at their own 39-yard line.  In a foreshadowing of the Keyser aerial attack that would assault Jefferson all night, two plays later Gavin Root hit Sammy Bradfield on a beautiful catch and run touchdown good for 59 yards. Seth Earnest’s kick put Keyser on top 7-6 with 9:18 remaining in the opening frame.

Keyser would then force a Jefferson punt and take possession deep in their own territory at the 13-yard line. Eighty-seven yards later, facing a fourth down and two at the Jefferson nine-yard line, quarterback Gavin Root scrambled off the left side into the endzone for the touchdown.  At the 4:23 mark of the first quarter, Earnest’s kick elevated the Keyser lead to 14-6.

Jefferson began the ensuing possession at their own 25-yard line. Seventy-five yards later, and on the first play of the second quarter, Jefferson’s Evan Tewell busted up the middle for the two-yard touchdown run. Samuel Roberts connected with Isaiah Fritz on the two-point conversion pass to tie the game 14-14.

On the kickoff, Keyser’s Drae Allen carried bodies and raced 71-yards on a kickoff return to the Jefferson 11-yard line. Four plays later, the Tornado opted for a 29-yard field goal on fourth down but it bounced off the left upright and was no good.  

The Cougars resumed possession at their own 20-yard line. Eighty yards later at the 7:57 mark of the second quarter, Samuel Roberts hit Caysen Lanza for his second touchdown reception on a 6-yard touchdown pass. Roberts then connected with Spencer Powell on the two-point conversion pass to put Jefferson on top 22-14.

On the ensuing possession, Gavin Root hit Sammy Bradfield on a beautiful 40-yard catch and run scoring strike, his second of the game. Earnest’s kick cut the Jefferson lead to one point (22-21) with 5:31 to go in the first half.

After Jefferson assumed possession, a downfield jump pass from Samuel Roberts to Spencer Powell put the ball all the way down to the Keyser two-yard line. Two plays later, Evan Tewell scored from two yards out, and another successful two-point conversion pass from Roberts to Keyshawn Robinson lifted the Jefferson lead to 30-21 with 2:37 to go in the first half.

Keyser began their next possession at their own 36-yard line.  A few plays later, with 1:19 remaining in the half, Gavin Root hit Sammy Bradfield on a 51-yard scoring strike, his third of the half. Earnest’s extra point kick brought the score to within two points (30-28).

With 59 seconds remaining in the half, Sammy Bradfield intercepted a Jefferson pass at the Keyser 10-yard line to thwart a Jefferson scoring attempt. At the halftime buzzer, Jefferson had edged Keyser 30-28.

The tale of the second half, and what allowed to ultimately give Keyser separation from Jefferson, would be back-to-back successful onside kicks.  The first one definitely planned as an onside kick, the second more of a squib kick that played out like a successful onside kick. The first was recovered by Seth Healy. The second kick was recovered by Benny Oates.  

According to Stephen, “The very first onside, it was actually planned, we talked about it, we knew we were coming out with that. The second one, it was supposed to be just a squib down the field. It hit the guy and bounced to us, so that worked out in our favor. We caught them cheating up and we got one over their heads later on. We were trying to keep them off balance.”

After the first onside recovery, Keyser ultimately scored on a four-yard run off the right side by Zion Powell and Seth Earnest kick.  After the second onside kick recovery, the Golden Tornado scored from 22 yards out on a delayed handoff to Drae Allen who bounced off defenders while making his way into the endzone. Seth Earnest’s kick elevated the Keyser lead to 42-30.

But Jefferson wasn’t done. They would respond with a two-yard touchdown run by Christian Blowe. The two-point conversion pass attempt was no good, but the Cougars had cut the Keyser lead to six points (42-36) with 7:04 remaining in the third frame.

Zion Powell’s touchdown off the left side and kick on the ensuing drive by Seth Earnest put Keyser back up two scores (49-36).  A few drives later, Gavin Root would hit Dameain Emerick on a thrilling, bobbling catch on the left side of the endzone that along with Earnest’s kick put Keyser up by 20 points (56-36) with 7:12 remaining in the game.

Each team was good for one more touchdown. With 5:56 remaining, Jefferson’s Keyshawn Robinson stripped the ball and raced 49 yards for a touchdown. Samuel Roberts then hit Caysen Lanza for the two-point conversion to cut the Keyser lead to 12 points (56-44).

Keyser’s final score would come as Sammy Bradfield received a Gavin Root lateral and shoot into the endzone off the right side from five yards out. Seth Earnest brought the final tally to 63-44 in favor of the host Tornado.

Keyser (5-2) will next play Petersburg on Friday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. The Golden Tornado are currently ranked number seven in the WVMetroNews class AA power rankings, and are likely to be rated number seventh in the WVSSAC class AA playoff ratings released later today.