Keyser vs. Allegany: The Granddaddy of Them All

Chapin Jewell
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
This collage of headlines from previous Keyser-Allegany matchups highlights the history of the two across-the-river rivals.

When Keyser and what is now Allegany High School first did battle on the gridiron, it was over 100 years ago, Woodrow Wilson was the President of the United States, and America had not yet entered World War 1. Eggs were 38 cents a dozen. Milk was 36 cents per gallon. A loaf of bread was 8 cents. The Red Baron was dominating the skies over Europe as a German fighter pilot.

When it comes to a high school football rivalry, Keyser and Allegany have history, major history, way more history than any other local schools have with each other. Consider that arch-rivals Fort Hill and Allegany have only done battle since 1936 when Fort Hill was founded, and the Keyser/Allegany series pre-dates Fort Hill and Allegany by two decades.

For that reason, it’s the ‘grandaddy of them all” in terms of local rivalries.

In 2020, COVID forced the cancellation of the game. Prior to that, Keyser and Allegany had played each other continually, every single year, from 1922 through 2019.  The series actually began prior to that, with two games being played between the two squads in 1916, one game in 1917, no game in 1918, a resumption in 1919 with one game, and then no games in 1920 and 1921.

A rivalry that dates back to 1916 and played continuously from 1922 through 2019 - are you kidding me? It’s safe to say that among other games and opportunities both Keyser and Allegany missed out on in the COVID-impacted 2020 season, missing a chance to play this game dealt a major blow.

More:Crucial timing: Keyser looks to turn season around with win over Allegany

But on Friday, at 7 p.m., at Cumberland’s Greenway Avenue Stadium, Keyser and Allegany will once again square off on the gridiron, as they’ve done nearly every year for over 100 years, and all will be right with the world.

It’s a series current Keyser coach Derek Stephen looks to with fondness, with memories dating back to his own playing days as a Golden Tornado.

“Right off the top of my head, I remember Coach Preaskorn. He was our coach at Keyser my freshman, sophomore, and junior years, then he left to go to Allegany my senior year. That’s the big thing I remember from the Keyser/Allegany rivalry back when I played,” Stephen explained.

How did Keyser do in those years?

According to Stephen, “My sophomore, junior, and senior years, we were 2-1 against them, winning in my sophomore and junior seasons.”

More than just the memories, Stephen cherishes the legacy and history the two schools have. Together with his fellow coaches, they’ve given current players a bit of a history lesson.

“We have played over 100 times. Just being able to carry on a tradition for that long, that’s what we’re trying to put out to the kids. This tradition goes back over 100 years. Your dads, granddads, great-granddads, great-great granddads, your family for over 100 years have been playing Allegany,” Stephen stated.

According to Stephen, “It’s special. There’s not a lot of games, even across the nation, that you’re going to face a team you’ve played over 100 years. To have a rivalry like this against a team 20 miles down the road and across the river is special. We’re both fortunate.”

There’s an extra special element added to the rivalry in recent years. Keyser assistant coach Mike Staggers is married to the former Erin Hansel, sister of Allegany head football coach Bryan Hansel. As such, the two coaches are brothers-in-law. That certainly makes for interesting and friendly banter at family events.

“I like to tell Mike that I’ve known Bryan longer than he has. Bryan came to Shepherd, and we went to Shepherd together. Of course, we played against each other in high school. So, we’ve known each other for a long time and we have a little friendly banter back and forth,” Stephen stated.

“According to Stephen, “In the heat of the moment, we battle, but after the game, we’re friendly of course. It’s just a good, heated rivalry that people on both sides like to get into. We can add that family dynamic, and friend dynamic, and it adds a little extra to it.”

Currently, Allegany holds a 70-33-2 advantage all-time in the series. Although interestingly enough, Allegany has benefited from way more home games in the series than has Keyser. For example, every single game played in the series from 1942-1971 was played in Cumberland at Fort Hill/Greenway Avenue Stadium.

Keyser’s longest win streaks in the series is three games, and that’s happened twice, first in 1968, 1969, and 1970, and then again in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Allegany actually once won 20 straight games in the series, from 1976 through 1995,

Most recently, Keyser is riding a two-game win streak against the Campers, winning 33-20 in 2018 and 49-0 in 2019.

The Golden Tornado is looking to make it three-straight in this latest rendition of the ‘granddaddy of them all” locally.