By Chapin Jewell
KEYSER – As a long-time assistant and now head coach of the Keyser Golden Tornado football program, Derek Stephen has seen the ins and out of every type of schedule for the Black and Gold. He understands what has worked, what hasn’t, but especially, moving forward, what’s in the best interest of the Keyser football program.
As such, Stephen understands that which would be a perfect mix of opponents in terms of scheduling. Taking the entire 10-game slate for 2021 into account, Keyser’s head man likes what he sees.
“This is a schedule we have been trying to work towards the last few years, especially when class AA took on more schools. We always had the mentality that we would play anyone in the state, which led us on countless trips around West Virginia to the likes of Wayne, Shady Springs, Man, and Nicholas County, just to name a few,” Stephen stated.
According to Stephen, “This gave us a good chance to see how the players traveled and gave them the idea of how to travel, which we’ve had to do most years in the playoffs.”
In recent years and for various reasons, Bridgeport, Fort Hill and Petersburg, for example, have needed to be replaced. Ironically, this has provided the Tornado with the chance to introduce new teams and programs from different parts of the Mountain State, adding color, exposure to new people and places, and even adventure to the schedule.
“With the likes of Bridgeport moving up to AAA, Fort Hill who hopefully we will see back on in the future, and Petersburg moving down to class A, the three have come off the schedule in recent years. There has been an ability to reach out to and play schools from other parts of our state that we haven’t played in the regular season before, like Point Pleasant and Oak Glen, which are still a hike on a school bus,” Stephen explained.
It has also allowed for Keyser to reach out to some local teams who had previously been on the schedule and re-establish those connections.
According to Stephen, “This schedule will also include the return of Northern, Maryland, a local opponent that we have a consistent recent history of scheduling and always seems to give us everything we want and then some.
“Along with Moorefield, who also returns, a school that is in the top ten historically for schools that we have played most often. When I played here at Keyser, we played Moorefield when they had Coach Fiddler roaming the sidelines and a guy by the name of Reed Williams wreaking havoc on the field, Stephen stated. “So, I know what they can bring to the table.”
Stephen also notes that Robert C. Byrd returns to the schedule, a team that has been a great pick up for Keyser in recent years, along with traditional opponents like Berkeley Springs and Hampshire.
That leaves of course Keyser’s two biggest football rivals, Allegany and Frankfort. In Allegany, the Golden Tornado has its longest rival, having played each other for over 100 years. The importance of Keyser/Frankfort requires no explanation, as the two county rivals have done battle consecutively since 1976, with the exception of the just completed 2020 season.
“Hopefully by this fall we will be able to play the oldest rivalry in the area, which is back after a one-year break, with Allegany back on the schedule after the cancellation due to COVID-19 in 2020. The Alco matchup even has the family aspect with Coach (Mike) Staggers an assistant coach here versus his brother-in-law Coach (Bryan) Hansel the head coach at Allegany,” Stephen detailed.
According to Stephen, “The much-anticipated Mineral Bowl will also return after a COVID-related cancellation. The Mineral Bowl is a game that is always high on the list every year of big games. This past year would have been a good one and it stinks we couldn’t play it, but that will do nothing to damper the rivalry one bit.”
Coach Stephen says it best, “This schedule gives you a little bit of everything. It has that local flair, the rivalry games, family affairs, and new teams coming to Tornado Alley.”