KEYSER, W.Va. — Gavin Root hit Sammy Bradfield for three first-half touchdowns on the same play design and Keyser used a pair of onside kicks to open the second half to flip a 30-28 deficit to a 42-30 lead, en route to a 63-44 victory over Jefferson on Friday night at Alumni and Friends Field at Tornado Alley.
Root finished 14 of 18 through the air for 290 yards, with Bradfield hauling in six passes for 169 yards. Keyser ran 60 times for 395 yards to outgain the Cougars 685-377.
“We saw that on film early on this week,” Keyser head coach Derek Stephen said of the Root-to-Bradfield play design. “It was a play we already had in our playbook, so we practiced it a bunch. We knew we were going to have it and it just kept being there for us, so we just kept going back to the well.”
Drae Allen led the ground game with 19 carries for 150 yards. Root added 76 yards on 11 carries and Bradfield had 9 rushes for 64 yards. Powell finished with 165 offensive yards, catching seven passes for 96 yards and rushing 14 times for 69.
After the Golden Tornado fumbled on their second play from scrimmage, Jefferson made them pay as it took over at the Keyser 36 and scored six plays later on a 6-yard pass from quarterback Samuel Roberts to Spencer Powell. The two-point pass failed, giving the Cougars a 6-0 lead at 9:53.
It didn’t take long for Keyser to respond, however, needing just two plays for Bradfield to run a post pattern out of the slot, as Root hit him in stride for a 59-yard catch-and-run. Seth Earnest booted the point-after try to give the Tornado a 7-6 lead 35 seconds after the Cougars’ score.
Earnest finished a perfect 9 of 9 on PATs, an impressive performance despite two field goal attempts that barely missed — a 29-yard try in the second quarter hit the left upright and a 36-yarder in the fourth hit the crossbar.
“He’s great,” Stephen said of Earnest. “We know if we put him out there, he has a good chance of making it. I feel bad for him because he clinked those two field goals off the posts, but we’re giving him the chance to kick and we know if we get a PAT, he’s pretty much automatic for us.”
Keyser forced a punt and took over at its own 13, embarking on a 13-play drive that was capped off with an 8-yard run from Root at the 4:23 mark to extend Keyser’s lead to 14-6.
Not to be outdone, Jefferson went on a 15-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Evan Tewell rushing in from 2 yards out on the first play of the second period. Roberts hit Isaiah Fritz for the two-point pass to tie the game at 14-all.
Drae Allen returned the ensuing kickoff to the Jefferson 12, but the Golden Tornado walked away without a first down and points when Earnest’s 29-yard try hit the post.
The Cougars took advantage 10 plays later when Roberts hit Caysen Lanza for a 6-yard touchdown pass, then tossing to Powell for the two-point try to give Jefferson a 22-14 advantage.
The Tornado went back to the well on the ensuing drive, as Bradfield ran the same route and Root hit him with a jump pass to get the ball over the onrushing defensive linemen, and Bradfield scampered 40 yards for the touchdown at 5:31.
With a one-point lead, Jefferson extended its advantage to 30-21 when Tewell scored on a 1-yard plunge and Roberts added a two-point pass to Keyshawn Robinson.
Roberts finished 22 of 38 for 214 yards, with Powell catching 11 passes for 151 yards.
With Jefferson set to receive the second-half kick, the Golden Tornado knew they needed a score before the half, so they went with what’s familiar: The Root to Bradfield connection, as Root threw a perfect pass for a 51-yard score at 1:19.
Roger Forshee broke half a dozen would-be tackles on the ensuing kickoff to set the Cougars up at the Keyser 34, but Anthony Mele intercepted a pass on first down to get the ball back to end the threat.
Then came the trickery coming out of the halftime break, as Earnest booted an onside kick that caught everyone in attendance by surprise, with Seth Healy recovering for Keyser.
The Tornado went right to work, with Allen gaining 7 yards before Root got a 6-yard gain. Root then converted on third-and-4 with an 11-yard run, setting up Zion Powell collecting a jet sweep and rushing in from 3 yards out at 10:23 to put Keyser ahead for good, 35-30.
The ensuing kickoff wasn’t meant to be an onside kick per se, but when momentum is on Keyser’s side, it’s hard to stop. The kick bounced off a Jefferson defender before falling right to Benny Oates for the recovery.
“It’s something we practice every single day,” said Stephen. “So it’s nothing new. We just saw a weakness that we thought we could exploit. The second one, we were trying to kick it a little deeper, but it just worked in our favor. We tried to kick it a little deeper, but it bounced off a guy and went right to us.”
The Tornado used an 11-yard pass from Root to Powell to convert on third-and-7. After a 10-yard catch on the next play from Powell, Allen rumbled into the end zone from 21 yards out, plowing over a couple of defenders in the process before scoring at 9:01.
Jefferson scored on its ensuing drive, a 2-yard run by Fritz, but the two-point pass failed and Powell scored on another jet sweep from 9 yards out just over two minutes later to put the game to bed.
Root got his fourth touchdown pass in the fourth quarter when he threw a jump ball to Dameain Emerick from 25 yards out and Bradfield capped off the scoring on a 5-yard run with 2:58 to play.
“Our biggest thing is we just had to play to our potential,” Stephen said. “I know I say that every week, but we came out, we were up and down in the first half, so we challenged them at halftime and they responded.”
Keyser (5-2) hosts Petersburg on Friday.