KEYSER, W.Va. — Ty Johnson’s blazing speed created the gale force winds at Tornado Alley Friday evening as he scored the last two of his four touchdowns during the fourth quarter and flirted with 300 yards of offense as the Fort Hill Sentinels sweated out a 28-20 win over Keyser at Alumni and Friends Field.
Johnson scored from 61 yards right inside of the fourth and tacked on his final score with 5:35 to play from eight yards away to give the Sentinels a 28-14 lead. Johnson covered 187 yards on the ground with 15 carries and had both of the Sentinels catches for another 91 yards to finish with 278 total yards.
Keyser got a late touchdown pass between Vinnie Cuthbertson and Ryan Streets, but failed at converting an onsides kick.
“I think we needed a game like this,” said Fort Hill coach Todd Appel. “We don’t necessarily want them, but we need them. We need to know that we can face adversity against a hard-nosed team and come up with a win.”
An uneventful first half turned into an instant classic during the final few minutes of the opening 24 minutes.
The Golden Tornado didn’t put together much of a drive until their final one of the half. Starting from their own eight, Keyser slowly worked its way off of its own front porch and eventually drove into Fort Hill territory to the Sentinels 42. From there, with time running out, Keyser quarterback Ryan Streets heaved a ball towards the end zone. The ball was tipped by a Fort Hill defender, but it was tipped into the waiting arms of Vinnie Cuthbertson, who took the extra few strides needed to reach the end zone and tied the score with 10 seconds remaining in the half.
The drive covered 82 yards over eight plays.
Fort Hill almost answered the Keyser hail mary with a long shot of its own. Rashawn Shives launched a ball up in the vicinity of Johnson, and the reigning Times-News Player of the Year showed why he carries that title by hauling in the long attempt.
Keyser was able to keep it from becoming nothing other than a long completion by tackling Johnson just inches from the end zone as time expired.
Shives and Johnson would hook up again in the third with Johnson reaching the end zone for the go-ahead score.
“Twenty-four (Johnson) beat us,” said Keyser head coach Sean Biser. “We came in wanting to bottle everything up inside and for the most part we did that. But 24 made some plays on the edges.
“We have to tackle better, that’s for sure, but he’s pretty special. He’s a Division I player for a reason.”
Fort Hill had a few break out runs during the first half, getting 31 yards from Alex Barnes on the first play and a 41-yard carry on the first play of the Sentinels third drive.
Johnson completed a 10-play, 79-yard drive by going 35 yards with 3:27 left in the first quarter.
Fort Hill got a big run from Barnes on the first drive of the second half and Keyser set them up inside the 20 with a personal foul penalty called on the Golden Tornado defense. The Sentinels gave the yards right back with a chop block call, and missed a chance at a touchdown with an overthrown ball towards a wide open receiver on second down.
The Sentinels settled on a 42-yard field goal attempt that was doomed from the start after a bad snap to the holder.
With 3:29 left in the third, Fort Hill went back on top when Shives went to Johnson for a 32-yard touchdown that gave the Sentinels a 14-7 lead after Austin Farrell’s second of four extra points.
Garrett Crites gave Keyser a spark with a big return on the following kickoff, Cody Rodeheaver busted up the middle for a large chunk and Crites took the Tornado down to the three-yard line for a first and goal.
“Keyser did a great job of adjusting along the line and blocked well on the edges,” said Appel. “It was a battle all along. Keyser is going to be a team to be reckoned with.”
Rodeheaver finished the drive on the following play with two seconds left in the third to make it 14-14. Crites gained 92 yards on 17 carries and Rodeheaver had 77 yards on 19 attempts to lead Keyser.
“Our kids didn’t fold, they kept battling. I think this group is like me and hates losing more than winning,” said Biser.
Johnson and the Sentinels counterpunched immediately with a 61-yard sprint for six with 11:46 left in the fourth quarter.
Keyser picked an inopportune time for its first hiccup when the center-quarterback exchange was mishandled on a fourth-and-1 on its own 47-yard line.
Barnes went right to work and finally powered the Sentinels down inside the 20 to the 16-yard line. Brayden Poling picked up a first down and got Fort Hill down to the 8 before Johnson scored for the fourth time on the next snap.
Keyser ground out a drive for three minutes on its next possession before Streets went to Cuthbertson with 2:26 remaining for the third touchdown. The missed extra point made it 28-20 and Fort Hill was able to recover the onsides kick attempt.
Streets completed 7 of 12 passes for 131 yards.
“My hat goes off to everybody tonight,” said Appel. “A great effort by both teams. Give credit to Keyser, they really battled us. They have some hard-nosed kids. Crites and Streets are great players.”
Fort Hill (2-0) travels east to take on Silver Oak and the Golden Tornado (2-1) stays at home to play Northern on Friday.