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Tough test awaits Keyser after lengthy trip to Bluefield

Keyser quarterback Ryan Shoemaker (9) keeps the ball after faking a handoff against Wayne.


KEYSER, W.Va. — The celebration was somewhat subdued, but the accomplishment certainly wasn’t lost on veteran Keyser coach Sean Biser following the No. 7 Golden Tornado’s 28-8 first-round playoff win against No. 10 Wayne last Saturday.

Biser’s team, which improved to 9-2 while ousting the Pioneers, expected to win and reaching a quarterfinal isn’t the be-all and end-all for a program that’s in the Class AA playoffs an eighth straight season.

More than likely for the Keyser coaching staff and players, beating Wayne was plenty satisfactory, but it was immediately time to turn their attention toward this week’s opponent, No. 2 Bluefield.

So it was that Biser was asked what he knew about the Beavers in the moments immediately following the 20-point win over Wayne.

“I really don’t need to know anything. I know who Bluefield is,” Biser said. “I know they’re big, they’re fast, they’re strong and they’re a juggernaut. We’ll get our film traded and see what we can do.”

Indeed, No. 7 Keyser has its work cut out in Friday’s Class AA quarterfinal at Mitchell Stadium. In addition to traveling five hours to play the game, the Beavers (10-1) have won 24 of their last 25 games and are undefeated against state competition over that time, with the lone loss coming one month ago against Lord Botetourt, Va., 17-3.

Bluefield, the defending Class AA state champion, began its title defense last Friday with a resounding 56-7 win over Oak Hill in a game the Beavers led 35-0 before it was one quarter old.

With tailbacks J.J. Davis and Jamere ‘Juice’ Edwards and fullback Arnold Martin, the Beavers’ backfield has as much speed and talent as any in the state. Factor in quarterback Chandler Cooper, who started on last year’s team, and an offensive line led by center Mason Walker that averages around 270 pounds across its five starters, and weaknesses are hard to find on a unit scoring 42.6 points per contest.

All of that is daunting enough, and that’s before factoring in the Beavers’ defense, which has yielded the fewest points of any Class AA team this season at 93 (8.4 per game).

On that side of the ball, BHS is led by 6-foot-6, 230-pound junior Sean Martin. A pass rushing specialist who creates havoc off the edge, Martin has already received offers from West Virginia, Rutgers and Marshall.

“Our offense has to be able to move the football,” Biser said. “We’re not going to stop them. We just have to try slow them down a little bit. We’ve played Bluefield before years ago, and I saw them play in the state championship last year, so I know what we have in front of us. But that’s why we play the game.”

The Golden Tornado present plenty of challenges themselves. In quarterback Ryan Shoemaker, primary ball carriers Brady Clay and Caden Biser and 6-4 wide receiver Reggie Redman, Keyser has more than its fair share of weapons. 

Keyser averaged 34.5 points per game against a challenging regular season schedule and was near that number in the opening-round win. Against Bluefield, Biser knows his team will need to be efficient and take advantage of every scoring opportunity that comes its way.

If the Golden Tornado were to pull the upset, they’d move on to face the winner of a quarterfinal between Robert C. Byrd and Bridgeport. The Eagles and Indians are the only two teams to beat Keyser this year and did so by a combined 15 points.

“It just seems like every year we talk toward the end of the season about who we’re going to play and I say, ‘You know it doesn’t matter. We’re going to get the toughest draw,’” Biser said. “Usually the team that knocks us out ends up being in Wheeling, either winning it or playing for it. That’s just the way it’s been. 

“It is what it is. If you’re going to win it, you have to play them all.”

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