After winning Mineral Bowl, Frankfort is playoff bound

Chapin Jewell
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Frankfort's Parker VanMeter receives the handoff for the Falcons against Keyser in the Mineral Bowl. VanMeter scored two rushing touchdowns as Frankfort topped the Tornado and qualified for the state playoffs. Frankfort travels to Lincoln Friday.

SHORT GAP - Frankfort coach Kevin Whiteman, his fellow coaches, his team, and the Frankfort community in general, are still on cloud nine after last Friday’s 41-35, overtime Mineral Bowl win over Keyser. They’re excited because it was a win a long time coming in a rivalry game, and excited for what else that win meant - eligibility for the West Virginia class AA playoffs.

“It still feels real good. It was a rival game, it was for the playoffs, and just the fact that we hadn’t beat them since 2014, it was a big win for the whole Frankfort community,” Whiteman explained.

In many mays, as the Mineral Bowl was essentially a play-in game for the playoffs, you could say that the Falcons’ Friday night playoff matchup at Lincoln really feels like the second playoff game of the season for Frankfort. It’s the second consecutive week that the Falcons have been in survival mode. Win and stay in. Lose and you’re done.

“Yes, it does actually kind of feel that way, because of all the pressure that was on us last week to win to get into the playoffs, it did really feel like a playoff game,” Whiteman agreed.

Frankfort (6-4) will square off against a Lincoln Cougars squad that is 8-2 on the season. Lincoln earned six of those victories on the field of play and were awarded forfeit, COVID-related wins over Elkins and North Marion. The Cougars’ two losses came at the hands of Robert C. Byrd (13-35) and Bridgeport (7-38).

Lincoln is making their first playoff appearance since 2016. From what Whiteman sees on field, Lincoln has a great deal of size and depth, making them a formidable opponent.

“I see a lot of size. That’s always a concern because we aren’t the biggest team in the world, up front on the line. I watched an interview with their coach today and he was talking about all the depth they have. They have depth at running back, and they have depth on the line,” Whiteman explained.

According to Whiteman, “The size is my main concern, the kind of push they might get. But our guys, we’re not the biggest team around but they battle, and they’ve proven that they’ll fight and battle for the whole game.”

The keys to the game? Play with intensity for four quarters and minimize mistakes.

“We’ve got to come out and play with the same kind of intensity for the whole game as we did against Keyser. Last week, we were able to minimize some of the mistakes that we’ve been making in previous games, like fumbles and penalties, things that would kill us in the past. We eliminated all of that Friday night.”

Whiteman worries somewhat that this week is not a traditional school week, with Mineral County students having both Thursday and Friday as days off. That loss of routine, and the injection of free and idle time, doesn’t sit well from a head football coach’s perspective.

“I don’t like it, especially Friday. I’m going to encourage them to get out of bed early and make it a normal day, but it’s tough, because they are teenage boys. They’ll probably be up late, then they will lay in bed half the day. That can make them sluggish. So, I’m going to encourage them to get out of bed and get moving. It’s definitely a concern,” Whiteman detailed.

Every year, at the beginning of the year, Frankfort football sets many goals, at the forefront is to have a winning season and make the playoffs. Mission accomplished. Once there, anything can happen.

“We’re very fortunate and blessed to be able to say we’ve been in the playoffs three of the last four years. When I was talking to Lincoln’s coach today, he told me that the school is 45 years old and this is only the eighth time they’ve been in the playoffs. This is my 12th season, and this is the eighth time I’ve been in the playoffs.”

The secret to success? Getting buy-in from coaches, players, even the community alike.

According to Whiteman, “I’ve been blessed with players and coaches that work hard, set goals, and work hard to reach them.”

The winner of the 13 seed Frankfort versus 4 seed Lincoln game will get the winner of the 12 seed Liberty Raleigh versus 5 seed Poca game in the second round next weekend.