CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bridgeport is not a football program used to being dominated in all phases of the game, but that is exactly what happened to the Indians the night of Oct. 19.That evening in Keyser, the Golden Tornado didn't just beat Bridgeport, it also made a statement to the rest of the state that it's to be taken seriously as a title contender.The damage? Zero points, zero first downs and 38 total yards of offense as Keyser blasted Bridgeport 25-0.The Class AA No. 3 Indians have a shot at revenge with a spot in the state championship game on the line when they visit No. 2 Keyser at 1:30 p.m. today.
"Keyser is not going to have the benefit of a Bridgeport team coming in overconfident," Indians coach Josh Nicewarner said. "Pretty much it's something that soon afterward, we knew there was a good chance we could see them again. I can definitely tell you they didn't get our best game, but they had a lot to do with that. Knowing what to expect, we have no excuses."Keyser (10-1) used the run game to bully Bridgeport in their first meeting, with three Golden Tornado ball carriers running for more than 100 yards against the Indians."In just about all aspects they controlled what we did," Nicewarner said. "Whether it be double-teams or one-on-one blocking, there was nothing we could do right and they couldn't do wrong. This is a big, physical Keyser team. It's the best team, by far, that we've faced all year. They did to us what we're used to doing to teams - going in fundamentally sound and smacking them in the mouth for four quarters."Two players that combined for three touchdowns in the first game between the schools - Danny Fife (5-foot-9, 220 pounds) and Blake Ravenscroft (5-9, 145) - each ran for more than 1,000 yards and scored more than 10 touchdowns this season. Fife amassed 1,129 yards and 24 touchdowns while Ravenscroft ran for 1,144 yards and 13 touchdowns.
"[Fife] looks like a fullback but runs like a tailback. He's got good balance and sees the field really well," Keyser coach Sean Biser said. "Last year [Ravenscroft] played a lot as a sophomore and that's helped him. Last year he was getting tackled by guys, this year he's running through them."Biser said the depth Keyser has at running back, with nine different players with carries in two playoff games, is a big reason the Golden Tornado has been successful this season."Both of those guys are splitting time with other backs," he said. "We've got eight kids we rotate in and out of the backfield. All of our backs know other positions."For Bridgeport, senior tailback Brett Hathaway has been the main offensive threat, totaling 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns on 220 carries. In two playoff games, Hathaway has run for 402 yards and four touchdowns. His career-best rushing day also came in the playoffs last season when he ran for 272 yards in a Class AAA semifinal loss to George Washington. "Brett's biggest attribute is his mind," Nicewarner said. "He's such a football thinker that sometimes I almost think that he thinks too much. He understands the game so well and not only our offense, but what other teams are trying to do. He's got a strong will and he's very difficult to bring down. He's been here before and just like everyone else, he knows what it's going to take."Biser said the experience his team gained last season helped ready them for a playoff run in 2012.Keyser had to hit the road as the No. 14 seed and make long trips to Westside and eventual state champion Wayne. This season as the No. 2 seed, the Golden Tornado accomplished what most Class AA schools hope for -- it secured home-field advantage and ensured that if it gets a shot at No. 1 Wayne this year in the playoffs, it will not have to make the trek from Mineral County to visit the Pioneers.
"We wanted to stay on the other side of the bracket away from them. We traveled 300 miles one week and 300 miles the next week," Biser said. "Being able to play at our own place has been a blessing for sure."Reach Tom Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org.