Keyser, Frankfort football: What could have been this weekend
By Chapin Jewell
Everybody’s bummed that neither 7-2 Keyser or 7-1 Frankfort had the chance to compete in the WVSSAC’s football playoff in 2020. Bummed isn’t a strong enough word, on the ground, for coaches, players, their parents, etc.. Devastation might be a better descriptor.
What might have been? Well, both were favorites in their opening round playoff games. Things would have got interesting for both in the second round, however. Had they earned a win over Independence, Frankfort would have hosted the sixth seed Fairmont Senior Polar Bears. Had they earned a win over North Marion, Keyser would have traveled back to second seeded Bluefield for the second round.
Fairmont Senior and Bluefield are both juggernauts. In fact, especially now that Bridgeport has been elevated to the AAA ranks, if we’re being brutally honest, the Polar Bears and Beavers are at the top of the food chain in class AA.
Did Frankfort lose to Fairmont Senior in the second-round last year? Yes, and it was on the road at Fairmont’s East-West Stadium. Did Keyser lose to Bluefield on the road at Bluefield not just last year but also the year before? Also yes.
Both would have been tough outs. In fact, it is safe to say that on paper and/or on the computer screen, both Frankfort and Keyser would have actually been second-round underdogs. Safe to say because well, when running the numbers through the www.calpreps.com simulator, on a neutral field, the way the projections are run, Fairmont Senior was a 35-21 favorite over Frankfort and Bluefield was a 40-31 favorite over Keyser.
But those are mere projections based on numbers, scores, etc. In a normal, non-COVID year, those playoff games would have actually had to have played out and been won on the field. If you spent as much time watching both the Golden Tornado and Falcons as I did this year, you’d know that both absolutely would have had a fighting chance.
We’ll never know what might have happened if both those games could have been played. But for both teams, losing that opportunity to band together for one more week as brothers and give it their all against tough odds is what leads to that devastation.
Frankfort won games they weren’t projected to win this year, and all the ones they should have.They won those games first and foremost with defense, limiting their opponents to only 16 points per game on average. They also won those games because their overwhelming run to pass ratio that saw opponents packing the box against them, Frankfort masterfully distributed the ball to a stable of running backs, enough so that the defense was kept guessing.
The Falcons had six separate running backs score rushing touchdowns on the season, with the ball distributed between Cole Hiett, Jansen Moreland, Peyton Clark, Parker VanMeter, Andrew Westfall and Logan Kinser. No doubt the game plan would have been a heavy dose of the running game, we’re talking ground and pound-style long drives designed to keep the ball away from Fairmont Senior and their talented quarterback Gage Michael.
The Keyser offense without a doubt was the story of 2020 for the Golden Tornado. The defense did give up points, 28 points per game on average in fact. Understandable when you consider that Keyser’s defense returned only one starter, Gavin Root, from the season before. They were improving, however, and in the final game of the regular season, the Keyser D played without a doubt their best game of the season.
As much as Keyser’s defense gave up points, Keyser’s offense countered that week in and week out with offensive explosions. The Golden Tornado offense scored 53 points or more in seven of their nine games, averaging 51 points per game on average. You can give up 28 points a game when you are scoring 51 points. Keyser did their damage with a masterful mix of the run and pass, something that absolutely kept their opponents off balance.
Quarterback Gavin Root was effective running the show. Root finished ninth in the state with 18 touchdown passes. Ten of those 18 touchdown passes went to Sammy Bradfield, who finished tied for third in the state in touchdown receptions. Then of course you had a diversified rushing attack led by Drae Allen, Zion Powell and Bradfield among others. Drae Allen led the way, finishing 10th in the state in scoring with 116 points on 19 touchdowns and one two-point conversion. Powell was a threat to score on offense and on defense and special teams.
No doubt the game plan for Keyser facing Bluefield would have been to use a much more diversified offensive attack compared to their last two meetings against the Beavers to keep Bluefield off balance. With the defense’s improvement by years end and this more diversified offensive attack, Keyser/Bluefield may have come down to the wire.
2020 was a year full of excitement for both Keyser and Frankfort and they both absolutely would have had a fighting chance, despite their likely facing juggernauts Fairmont Senior and Bluefield in the second round of the playoffs that would have been this weekend.
Excitement would have built to a fever pitch to see what both of these teams could have done this weekend. By the second round of the playoffs, they both would have faced the tallest of tasks. But around these parts, we would have liked their chances.
But alas, we’ll never know.