Nov. 10—After 10 weeks of high school football, area schools will try to extend their seasons a little longer.
West Virginia opens its playoffs tonight. In Class AA action, No. 12 Frankfort (7-3) heads to No. 5 Weir (9-1) in a Round of 16 rematch of a 35-21 Red Riders comeback victory over the Falcons during the regular season.
Frankfort made the state semifinals a season ago.
Maryland's playoffs continue into its second week, and both of the Class 1A West Region co-finals are occupied by area teams.
Fort Hill (9-0), the top seed in all of Class 1A, hosts No. 4 Northern (6-4) tonight at 7 p.m. The Sentinels are two-time defending state champs.
Third-seeded Allegany (7-3) heads to Frostburg to face two-time state runner up Mountain Ridge (8-1), the No. 2 seed in all of 1A, on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. A preview of that game will appear in Saturday's paper.
The winners in this weekend's Maryland region co-finals advance to the state quarterfinals, where the remaining eight teams in each classification are reseeded based on point average.
Frankfort at Weir
Frankfort makes the 150-mile trek to the Northern Panhandle with redemption on its mind.
The Falcons led the Red Riders 21-14 in Week 4 before big plays and penalties allowed Weir to end the game on a 21-0 run.
Weir dropped its next matchup to Union Local (Ohio) but rattled off five straight wins — including a 49-21 rout of Keyser — to capture a home playoff game.
"They're a good football team. They're 9-1 for a reason," Frankfort head coach Kevin Whiteman said. "We shot ourselves in the foot so many times when we played. We watched it over and over, and it was early in the year, but there were so many penalties and foolish things that we did. We as coaches, players, we went down the drain on that one."
One area Whiteman was disappointed in was his staff's answer to Weir's defensive adjustment from an odd front to an even front after halftime.
After moving the ball well in the first half, which included a more than nine-minute scoring drive to start the game, Frankfort was left off the scoreboard after halftime.
For all the things the Falcons didn't do well, they still only lost by two scores. Frankfort — which enters on a three-game winning streak capped by a 35-21 Mineral Bowl triumph — was also without senior Landen Kinser at the time.
"We know it's going to take a great effort to beat them, but we also know we have a great shot of winning the game," Whiteman said.
The Falcons are led in the ground game by Rocky Fontenot (851 yards, 13 TDs) and Tyrique Powell (824 yards, 14 TDs).
Weir holds a 2-1 edge in the all-time head-to-head versus Frankfort. The Red Riders have won four state championships, most recently in 2005, but haven't won a playoff game since 2018.
Frankfort is searching for its third straight win in the first round of the playoffs, not counting the 2020 Class AA opener it had to forfeit due to the COVID-19 map.
Last season, the Falcons beat Nicholas County, 14-0, at Frankfort Stadium and crushed Scott, 41-6, on the road to advance to the state semifinals. There, they dropped a heartbreaker to Herbert Hoover, 17-10.
Frankfort was the Class AA state runner-up in 2014.
"We're really proud of the fact that we've won playoff games," Whiteman said. "We've been in the semifinals, the championship once — and we could've been in it again last year. Anything like that gives you a boost. It lets other teams know what Frankfort is as a program, and the kids on the field have been a part of that."
Northern at Fort Hill
The other area football game tonight features another rematch.
Fort Hill, a winner in 17 straight games, rolled to a 35-0 triumph over Northern in Week 1 of the season, pushing its record against the Garrett County foe to 9-0 all-time.
The two teams met just five times in 66 years prior to 2021, but tonight will be the teams' fifth matchup since. Fort Hill has won all nine meetings by double digits.
A Fort Hill victory would secure the No. 1 spot in the state and ensure two home playoff games, but Northern won't roll over.
The Huskies are 6-1 against everybody outside of Allegany County, and they played Mountain Ridge and Frankfort tight, both 28-21 defeats.
Zack Alkire knows not to take Phil Carr's Huskies lightly.
"The Northern game is a big-time opening playoff game," the Fort Hill coach said. "Northern may only be the fourth seed in our region, but in my book, they are one of the top 5 teams in 1A. If you saw the state eliminate regional play, you may be surprised how far a lot of these Western Maryland teams might go.
"Coach Carr does an amazing job with his kids. They have improved as a team so much from Week 1. They always do. We have to show up and play our brand of football. If we don't they have the capability to end our season."
Fort Hill's rushing attack is paced by junior fullback Jabril Daniels, who has 1,237 yards and 22 touchdowns on 142 carries in just eight games. With a receiving TD, Daniels' 23 touchdowns were tied for the second-most in the state at the conclusion of the regular season.
The Fort Hill defense is anchored by interior lineman Carter Hess, a Fordham commit. Hess has 95 tackles (16 for loss) and six quarterback sacks.
Northern's leading rusher is Kyle Broadwater (659 yards, nine TDs), and fullback Jared Graham (419 yards, six TDs) has come on strong. Graham racked up 165 yards and two scores in a 49-0 rout of Clear Spring in the Huskies' playoff opener last Friday night.
The playoff win made it three years in a row Northern has won a playoff game. Fort Hill had a bye as the region's top seed.
"It is always nice to win a playoff game like we did last week, but now we find ourselves needing to climb a huge mountain against a really, really good Fort Hill team," Carr said. "Nobody has been able to climb that mountain yet.
"Coach Alkire and his staff do an outstanding job coaching and preparing his kids. Their line play has been so dominant on both sides of the ball this year and they are super athletic in the backfield.
"We know we don't have a lot of good matchups anywhere across the board, but we do know we have to show up and play. We need to be able to find a way to slow them down and hopefully create a turnover or two."
While Northern will have just 19 players that will see action, Carr is confident that his Huskies will battle to the end.
"That is all I ever ask from my players," he said.
Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.