In theory, playoff football is not supposed to be this easy.
Sure, on paper, the No. 2 seed should defeat the 15th. But these are the top 16 teams of each class in West Virginia and therefore the games should be competitive.
On paper, Mingo Central looked like it would be more of a test for the Golden Tornado than it proved to be Friday night in Keyser.
The Miners, led by talented running back Joe May, finished the regular season 5-5 and got help to make the playoffs, rising from 20th to 15th to make the postseason for the first time in its two-year history. An argument could have been made that their 5-5 record was deceiving. Of their five losses, four came against current playoff teams and Logan, who missed the postseason, finished 7-3. One of Mingo’s five victories was over River View, which lost at third-seeded Bridgeport Saturday afternoon.
May entered the game with over 1,200 yards rushing and had scored 18 touchdowns.
So what happened in the first 12 minutes of Friday’s game had to be a surprise to everyone involved, especially the Miners.
In a span of five minutes and nine seconds, Keyser, leading 7-0, went on a 33-point onslaught that put the game out of reach with 21 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
So will this make it tougher for Keyser head coach Sean Biser and his staff to get the team prepared for Scott, the seventh seed that beat No. 10 Wyoming East 46-16 Friday?
He doesn’t think so.
“I think a lot of it is our experience,” he said. “Most of these kids played two rounds last year, so they know what it’s like to be in the playoffs. They understand that every round gets tougher depending on whom you draw. They also know that we talked about Scott being the number-one team for a while before they ended up losing to Wayne. So they know it’s going to be a ball game.”
Keyser will host Scott on Saturday at 1:30.
Against Mingo Central, the surge began on the Miners’ second possession when quarterback Matthew Lester dropped back to pass under pressure. He was hit in such a way that the ball went airborne backwards and Austin Ravenscroft, who had a good defensive game, picked it up after one bounce at the 33 and took it to the three. Danny Fife scored from the one two plays later.
On the ensuing kickoff, Fife, by design, once again booted it hard and low causing the ball to bounce past the returner, who had to fall on it at the five-yard line. (Of Fife’s six first-quarter kickoffs, only one was returned and his sixth went out of bounds. Two had to be fallen on and Keyser recovered another.) Two plays later, Keyser’s Christian Smith recovered Mingo’s second fumble at the Miner seven. Blake Ravenscroft scored from the three.
Deondre Williams then recovered the next kickoff return attempt at Mingo’s 22. Fife scored on a six-yard run with 1:42 showing on the clock.
The Miners went three-and-out and punted for the first time only to see Amonte Turner field it at the Tornado 43, run toward the right sideline, pick up a punishing block and race down the sideline to score with 34 seconds to go.
Six ticks later, after Fife’s kick went out of bounds, Lester was intercepted by Harley Yader at the Miners’ 36 before he ran out of bounds.
Fife then went untouched between the left guard and tackle for the last touchdown of the quarter and the 40-0 lead.
With the game in hand, Keyser began to control the clock offensively and applied more pressure defensively.
Fife ran only twice more for 16 yards, both in the second quarter, before getting the rest of the game off — except for kickoffs and punts — along with quarterback Cody Eversole and Blake Ravenscroft. He finished with 67 yards on 10 carries and had one reception for seven yards.
Keyser fans then got a glimpse of the future as Hunter Kasmier, a sophomore, got the bulk of the work the rest of the game. He finished with 180 yards on 15 carries and scored two touchdowns, a 33-yarder in the second quarter that gave Keyser a 54-0 halftime lead, and on a 69-yard run on the second play of the second half off of a miss-direction play.
“He just finds the hole,” Biser said. “He doesn’t look like he has anything special speed-wise but then, boom, he goes into another gear. He’s only a sophomore and that’s a good thing.”
Austin Ravenscroft intercepted Alex Lee early in the second quarter on a fake punt and returned it eight yards to the Miners’ 40. He capped the 10-play drive by carrying the ball the last two plays from the five, scoring from the one to give Keyser a 47-0 lead.
Keyser (10-1) scored on its first eight possessions and nine out of 10. At halftime, it had outgained Mingo Central 199-45 and finished with 352 yards — 318 rushing — to Mingo’s 188. The Miners ran for 187 yards, much of it coming in the second half with the first-team Tornado defense on the sideline.
The Miners committed six turnovers — three fumbles and three interceptions, the last by Zack Johnson in the fourth quarter. Keyser had one turnover, a lost fumble, also in the fourth.
Jeff Landes is a sports writer for the Cumberland Times-News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.