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The 2020 Mineral Bowl: What might have been

Staff Writer
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Mineral Daily News-Tribune

By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

MINERAL COUNTY - The news everyone feared might be coming broke at 10:17 a.m. on Wednesday in the form of a media advisory from Mineral County Schools.  “Mineral County Schools and the Mineral County Health Department have received confirmation this morning of our district being designated as RED on the daily DHHR County Alert System. The RED designation will immediately impact in-person learning and extra-curricular activities.”

With this announcement, any chance of the highly anticipated 2020 Mineral Bowl between host 7-1 Frankfort and 7-2 Keyser was killed. With a steady, if not dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Mineral County on the rise for a week, the news, though unwelcomed, really wasn’t a surprise.  

Nonetheless, it stings. It stings for two communities at opposite ends of Mineral County eagerly anticipating what by all indications was going to be a spectacular matchup of two very solid and accomplished teams. It stings for the coaches who have put so much time and energy into making their teams the best they can be. Most importantly, of course, it stings for the kids, who will forever wonder what might have been had the game been played.

Let’s be clear, the designation of RED not only ended the Mineral Bowl, but also in-person instruction, and with respect to sports, it affects volleyball, and it affects cheerleading, both of which had post-season activities scheduled for the week.

In football, the Mineral Bowl would have been a clash of two highly ranked West Virginia class AA teams. In the latest WVSSAC class AA playoff ratings released on Tuesday, the 7-1 Frankfort Falcons were rated third in class AA, and the 7-2 Keyser Golden Tornado were rated sixth. In the opinion-based WVMetroNews Power Rankings, in class AA, Frankfort was ranked fourth and Keyser eighth.

Frankfort, in compiling their 7-1 record, earned victories over Hampshire (46-0), Weir (36-27), Berkeley Springs (41-0), Spring Mills (21-20), Jefferson (28-19), Petersburg (42-20), North Marion (36-19). The Falcons’ lone defeat was at Washington by a score of 20-19 in a game in which Frankfort had a chance to win the game with a field goal at the buzzer that was blocked. Frankfort’s scheduled week nine contest against Oak Glen was cancelled for COVID-related issues, and now, so too has been the Mineral Bowl contest with Keyser.

The Falcons have accumulated 270 points through eight games and yielded only 124. This results in an average score per game of 34-16 in favor of Frankfort.  

Keyser, in compiling their 7-2 record, earned victories over Berkeley Springs (61-33), Washington (55-35), Nicholas County (70-19), Hampshire (54-0), Jefferson (63-44), Petersburg (62-26), John Marshall (53-21). The Golden Tornado suffered losses at Oak Glen (35-12) and Point Pleasant (38-28). The only game cancelled for Keyser this season was today’s scheduled Mineral Bowl.

The Black and Gold have accumulated 458 points through nine games and yielded 251. This results in an average score per game of 51-28 in favor of Keyser. Keyser’s 458 points scored is the most by any team in the entire state of West Virginia, regardless of class.  

By all accounts, the expectation was that the Mineral Bowl would have been a hotly contested battle between two excellent squads. While it’s looked forward to every year, there was definitely some added excitement this year with both teams posting quality results week after week, not to mention the very high rankings enjoyed by most.

While there was a sense by both coaches early on that the season might not happen at all, or that if it did, once started, it would quickly come to an end, making it this far, while a blessing, makes it worse when the carpet is now pulled out from under them.

“I really didn’t think it would get this far, but after we got rolling and got so many games in, you start thinking wow, maybe this thing will last until the end of the season. I’m kind of shocked really, that it got to this point, because once we got rolling, I didn’t think this point would come to where we would turn Red and not be able to play. It’s definitely a kick in the guts and a horrible feeling, I’m really struggling with it for the kids,” Frankfort coach Kevin Whiteman stated.

According to Keyser coach Derek Stephen, “Even though making it this far was a good thing and it showed what our kids are capable of. They did everything that we asked them to and took everything in stride. It just stinks that we get to this part in the season and, we’ve made it this far but we’re not able to finish. If this would have happened earlier in the season, it still would have been hard to take, but it would have been easier. But when you get to within one week of the playoffs, it just makes everything so much harder to take.”

Adding insult to injury for both Frankfort and Keyser is the fact that both have done so well that they have positioned themselves for a good chance at a playoff run that may or may not happen. Having this happen in any year is bad, having it happen in a year where both teams really had a shot at making their mark makes it doubly disappointing.

“It for sure makes it worse. We came into this year unsure about COVID and the coaching change and losing a bunch of players. Now that we see how our kids responded, and how they came together, and how our seniors led us on the field and off.  Having that chance at a playoff game and especially at home means a lot to us, but having that chance taken away really, really stinks,” Stephen stated.

According to Whiteman, “It definitely makes it worse, just knowing that we’re sitting at 7-1, I’m certain win or lose Friday night we would have got at least one home game in the playoffs. I just think that we would have had a great opportunity to make the playoffs and advance once we got there, so having a successful season adds a lot more to it.”

As expected, this has dealt a horrible blow to the kids.

“It’s horrible for them, how else could you expect them to be? They come out here everyday and work their tails off and go to war for you everyday as a coaching staff, and that’s what breaks your heart the most. All sports are difficult, but football is a very difficult, physical, brutal game. You watch these kids come out here day in and day out and bust their tails for you and try to get prepared, get excited. Especially the seniors, to have this taken away from them. They wanted a chance to get the Mineral Bowl back. It just unfortunate,” Whiteman stated.

“It’s unfair to the kids because they’ve worked hard, they’ve tried to do the right thing. They’ve been together out here working hard and I don’t think it’s fair to take this away from them. It’s a horrible shame,” Whiteman continued.

According to Stephen, “I’ve only talked to a few of them over text message, but I think they are taking it every bit as bad as we are. I know they want to play, and they would do anything we could do to play. Being Red, I’m not allowed to get them together and talk to them. I would really like to get them together and tell them what is going on, and get them together and let them air their grievances as well.”

“I haven’t talked to all of them but I know they are taking it hard, especially the seniors, because they’re getting a season cut short once again that they won’t be able to replace,” Stephen explained.

Despite the fact that the game won’t be played, both head coaches were gracious enough to give their thoughts on what they would have expected of the game. Both praised their own teams and were quick to heap praise on their opponent as well. There is certainly a feel from both sides that all signs pointed to a tight, competitive contest.

“It was going to be a really good game. We were coming in at 7-2 and they were coming in at 7-1, so we were both highly ranked teams. I think MetroNews picked it as the game of the week, which actually hadn’t boded well for us in the past, we usually lose those games,” Stephen jokingly stated. But, they’re defense is pretty stingy and would have been going up against our high scoring offense, I think it would have been a real good game, Stephen explained.

According to Stephen, “I don’t know what Coach Whiteman does to them down there but he always gets them fired up for this game and I know our kids were ready to play as well. It’s the only week of the year where you don’t have to get that little extra excitement going during practice or the game, because everybody knows it’s Mineral Bowl week. These are the kids you see the most, and they get to interact with them the most in school, especially at the Technical Center, so it’s always a big game every year.”

“I think it would have been a close game.  I think it would have been a Mineral Bowl to remember,” Stephen stated.

“First of all, I think it would have been a very good game.  The last several years there have been some lopsided games that aren’t really fun, because once it gets out of hand it’s not fun anymore.  But, I think this year would have been different, I think it could have went either way,” Whiteman stated.

According to Whiteman, “I think they are very explosive on offense, they score a lot of points, they keep you on your toes with their no huddle. They have multiple threats on offense.  I think it would have been a big challenge to try and slow down their offense. They would have scored some points, it’s just a matter of how many.”

“But I think we have a good offense too, and we have a good defense too. I just think it would have been a really good battle and one to remember in the future,” Whiteman stated.

It would indeed have been a Mineral Bowl to remember, but alas, we’re left with wondering what might have been.