It was business as usual for Fairmont Senior (9-2) as the Polar Bears hosted Keyser (7-4) at East-West Stadium Friday night.
The Polar Bears were able to ride a strong first half to a 49-28 victory over the Golden Tornado in the first round of the Class AA playoffs.
Fairmont Senior, no stranger to fast starts, jumped out to a 42-0 lead before Keyser would score its first points of the game late in the second quarter.
“The way we played the last four weeks, the way they practiced the last four weeks, everything offensively has been clicking,” Fairmont Senior coach J.L. Abbott said of his team.
The clicking Abbott was referring to could’ve been the clicking of points on the scoreboard.
Austin Norman and Neil Scherich got things going early, and the Polar Bears never looked back.
After senior Luke Hrapchak put Fairmont Senior on the board first with a 13-yard rumble, Norman threw four first-half touchdown passess to put the Polar Bears on top, 42-8 at the break.
Two of those passes were to Scherich for scores.
“He played like an animal,” Hrapchak said of the senior wide receiver. “I know he can do it.”
Keyser, which was without its top running back Danny Fife, couldn’t seem to get things going on the ground in the first half.
While some large bursts were there, the Fairmont Senior defense seemed to stifle anything and everything coming their way.
“We just didn’t come out and play,” Keyser coach Sean Biser said of his team’s first-half performance. “By the time our kids decided it was time to play, we were already down so much. They were just blitzing. We tried to get outside early on and we turned the ball over and missed our play-action passes. They just crowded the box on us.”
The defense, led by Hrapchak in the middle, allowed 140 yards of total offense in the first half to Fairmont Senior’s 378.
Norman completed 11 of his 14 first-half passes for 223 yards and the four scores. Scherich caught four of those balls for 107 yards and two scores.
Keyser didn’t have an answer for either of them.
“That kid was money,” Biser said of Norman’s play. “He was putting it on the money and to their credit, they were making plays.”
The second half saw the Polar Bears slow things down after they lost Norman on a play in the third quarter.
The senior quarterback was hit in the backfield and was taken from the field via ambulance with an ankle injury.
Norman finished with 253 yards on 12-of-15 passing and four touchdowns to go along with 29 yards on the ground and another score.
Keyser would find some strength, though, in the second half.
After being held on seven plays from inside the 10-yard line, Keyser was finally able to pound the ball in with Coleten Rodeheaver from the one-yard mark, cutting the Polar Bears lead to 27.
The Golden Tornado would then snag an interception and take the ball 88 yards on the ensuing drive before capping it off with a 17-yard scamper from quarterback Cody Eversole to bring the game within a slight reach.
The clock would not be their friend, however.
Despite the loss of their quarterback, and a push by the Keyser offense, Fairmont Senior hung on for a 21-point victory.
Scherich added 163 yards on the ground to go along with his 107 receiving yards. He scored three total touchdowns.
“This has been a first for me. It’s just been getting better,” Scherich said of his performance. “We needed it, so I guess I rose to that level.”
With the win, the Polar Bears will advance to play Bridgeport, which made short work of Roane County, on the road next week in the second round of the playoffs.
Bridgeport beat Fairmont Senior, 37-14, back in the fifth week of the season, but coach Abbott believes his boys can take game two.
“We’ve just got to come to work next week. Celebrate this and let it go. Come back Monday and go to work,” Abbott said.
And it’s back to business as usual.
Email Matt Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.