CUMBERLAND — Top-seeded Fort Hill and fourth-seeded Frankfort open their respective state playoffs at home this evening, while Keyser takes the first step toward its desired return to the state championship game on the road, as the Maryland and West Virginia state football playoffs begin this evening.
Undefeated Fort Hill (10-0), the top seed in the Maryland 1A West Region and the No. 2 seed in the entire field, will host fourth-seeded Manchester Valley (6-4), 7 p.m., at Greenway Avenue Stadium. Frankfort (8-2), seeded fourth in West Virginia Class AA, will host No. 13 Robert C. Byrd (7-3) at Frankfort Stadium, while Keyser (7-3), the No. 10 seed, will take on No. 7 Fairmont Senior (8-2) at East-West Stadium in Fairmont.
In West Virginia Class A, No. 6 Moorefield (9-1) will host No. 11 Meadow Bridge (8-2), while No. 15 East Hardy (7-3) visits No. 2 St. Mary’s (10-0).
All West Virginia playoff games kick off at 7:30 p.m.
at Fort Hill
Fort Hill and Manchester Valley meet for the first time as the Carroll County school opened in 2009.
The Mavericks, who won their final four games to outpoint Allegany for the fourth seed in the West tournament, are making their second consecutive playoff appearance and second in program history. Fort Hill, on the other hand, which just completed its state-record 16th undefeated regular season, makes its 28th state tournament appearance, which ties Seneca Valley and Cambridge-South Dorchester for the most, and has won two state championships (3A in 1975 and 2A in 1997).
Fort Hill has reached the playoffs all six years under head coach Todd Appel and 11 years in a row.
Coached by Tony Shermeyer, the Mavericks defeated North Carroll last week, 27-8, as running back Jake Fernandez, two weeks after setting a Carroll County rushing record of 337 yards at Liberty, gained 167 yards and scored three touchdowns. Zach Heron scored the other Mavericks touchdown on a 13-yard pass from Brody Coleman.
Fort Hill broke open a tight one late in the second quarter last Saturday to beat Allegany, 46-20, in the Homecoming Game. Offensive Player of the Game Ty Johnson returned the opening kickoff 88 yards, scored on a 73-yard run from scrimmage and then on a 45-yard interception return.
Johnson, who rushed for 130 yards, has 779 for the season with 16 total touchdowns, while fullback Dekarai Darr has rushed for 1,212 yards and 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Hunter Squires has completed 44 of 74 passes for 732 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Linebacker Cody Dolly was the Defensive Player of the Homecoming Game.
The winner of this game will play the winner of the North Carroll at Hancock semifinal for the region title.
Robert C. Byrd
Byrd also rallied for four straight victories to end the season to reach the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
Top running Ben D’Annunzio returned from a broken collarbone late in the regular season and has been used at wide receiver since his return. D’Annunzio could return to the running back position tonight. Julian Marino has passed for 776 yards.
Frankfort moved up to No. 4 in Class AA with a 31-24 win over Triple-A Hampshire last week. Fullback Brady Watson had another big night with 146 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Watson has gained 1,131 yards and has scored 23 touchdowns on the season.
Noah Bible has rushed for 503 yards and five touchdowns, while quarterback Gage Shaffer has completed 62 of 111 passes for 978 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Falcons are making their 17th playoff appearance, second in a row and fourth under head coach Kevin Whiteman.
at Fairmont Senior
Coached by J.L. Abbott, Fairmont Senior returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The Polar Bears started the year at 4-0 before losing back-to-back to Bridgeport and Frankfort (21-6), then winning their final four games in averaging 47 points a game.
Conversely, Keyser fell to Bridgeport, 41-0, and beat Frankfort, 42-3, this season.
Fairmont Senior defeated East Fairmont last week, 41-13, in the longest-running rivalry in West Virginia. Luke Hrapchack rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns as the Polar Bears gained 267 yards on the ground.
Bears running back Noah Harmon went down with a knee injury three games ago, but is still third in his league with 1,098 yards rushing. Sophomore Malik Boddy has stepped into the position since then and has rushed for 187 yards in just over two games and is averaging 7.8 yards per carry. For the season he has 310 yards on 52 carries and also excels at cornerback and kick returner.
Quarterback Austin Norman is second in the league with 1,896 yards passing and a conference-high 22 touchdowns.
Keyser, which reached the Class AA state title game a year ago under head coach Sean Biser, has won three in a row and six out of seven, closing the regular season with a 46-0 win over Mountain Ridge.
Quarterback Cody Eversole is the Golden Tornado’s leading rusher with 894 yards and 10 touchdowns for 8.9 yards per carry. He has also passed 390 yards on 31 completions in 67 attempts, with nine touchdowns and three interceptions.
Fullback Danny Fife, the 2012 Times-News Area Player of the Year, has rushed for 872 yards and 11 touchdowns on 129 carries. Blake Ravenscroft has gained 701 yards on 88 carries with six touchdowns.
Biser leads the Tornado into the state playoffs for the eighth time in his 10 years as head coach. Keyser has reached the postseason 14 out of the last 18 years, with 22 state tournament appearances in all.
Keyser won state championships in 1956, ’62 and ’69.
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org