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Investigators looking for help in downtown Williamson fire

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — Investigators with the state Fire Marshal’s Office are looking for the public’s help in connection with a pair of fires on the same day earlier this month in downtown Williamson that destroyed two buildings.

A news release from the agency Thursday said what caused the fires on Feb. 10 remains undetermined. They hope someone saw something.

The first blaze was reported at about 1 a.m. on 2nd Avenue at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center. While fighting that fire, fire crews discovered the Williamson Gun and Archery Shop next door had been broken into and several things stolen.

Fire crews were dispatched to the scene at 5:30 a.m. for a second fire with flames shooting through the roof.

2 fires at Williamson buildings on 02/10 are undetermined in cause and still under investigation. The Williamson Health and Wellness Center and Williamson Gun and Archery Shop were destroyed. Anyone with information call 1-800-233-3473. Up to $5,000 reward for information.

— WVState Fire Marshal (@WVFireMarshal) February 27, 2020

Investigators with the Fire Marshal’s Office and Williamson Fire Department are investigating.

Anyone with information is asked to call the state’s arson hotline at 1-800-233-3473. A reward of up to $5,000 is possible if the information leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

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Three Guys Before The Game – Oklahoma Preview (Episode 184)

Will a return to the home floor be the catalyst for a Mountaineer victory over Oklahoma?

Bob Huggins and Mountaineer Nation are hoping that’s the remedy for a WVU team that has lost five of its last six games. The Sooners beat West Virginia in Norman earlier this month, however OU has struggled away from home winning just two games.

The Mountaineers have also stumbled away from home, but enter Saturday’s game with a gaudy 13-1 record inside the Coliseum.

Brad Howe and Tony Caridi dig into the analytics to reveal what WVU must do to win against the Sooners. They also answer listener questions and calls.

They’ll be back on Monday with a review of the Oklahoma game and preview of Tuesday’s game at Iowa State.

Look snazzy and support the show by wearing Three Guys merchandise.

Subscribe and never miss an episode by clicking the links below or visit Spotify or Google Podcasts

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Fayette County superintendent to retire

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Terry George has worked in the public education system for 40 years and served as the superintendent of Fayette County schools for the past five years. He’s made the decision to retire June 30.


Terry George

“I’m 64 years old and I need to spend some more time with my family, especially my grandchildren,” George told MetroNews Thursday about his decision.

George splits his time. He said he lives from Sunday through Friday in Fayette County and on the weekends at his home with his wife in Randolph County. He said the time had come to close that gap.

“We’ve been having some very serious conversations, my wife and I, about being away from home so often and away all week long. We decided this was the right time for me to make a change,” George said.

However, he leaves Fayette County schools in better shape than he found them when he came on board. George took over a school system in a county with bitter and angry divisions over proposed school consolidation plans. He was able to navigate long-standing sentiment, animosity, and bitterness to do what needed to be done. He admitted, it wasn’t always easy.

“There were issues there that had to be addressed and they were issues that developed over a 20 to 30 year period and there was no easy fix for that situation,” he said.

But he was able to build support and consensus on the best way to move forward. He credited his Board of Education and the county’s staff for making the difference. He also credited a close working relationship with the state School Building Authority and the state Board of Education. According to George, the solution to the complicated mess was a simple answer…honesty.

“We were honest with everybody and we had multiple community meetings with representatives of every little community and all the schools. We asked them what they wanted to see in their schools, what kind of curriculum they wanted, what kind of travel times they wanted to see and what kind of opportunities they wanted for their children,” he explained

The most difficult task, according to George, was closing a high school. But Fayette County, like so many in West Virginia, had seen a drastic loss of population over the last five decades. The school structure from the 1950’s and 60’s was no longer functional. The schools built in that era were literally falling apart. Out of the difficult decisions came new schools and new opportunities for students. Those new projects have started to plant seeds of hope and anticipation, as George figured they would.

He will leave with two major projects underway. There will be major renovation and addition to four schools in the county and a new school for the Meadow Bridge community is entering the design phase. The only project left after those will be a new school for the community served by Midland Trail High School. George hoped he’ll be allowed to serve as a special consultant on the project.

“We developed a very long range plan with the School Building Authority and State Department on the reorganization of Fayette County and revitalization of their facilities. I would like to have some input on that final project,” he said.

The search will now begin for George’s replacement. He’ll retire June 30.

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Arts promoted at the capitol

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Curator of Arts and History Randall Reid-Smith says the arts are critical to West Virginia’s future.


Randall Reid-Smith

“The arts are extremely important. Why? Because it enhances education. It’s an economic engine for communities,” Reid-Smith said during an appearance Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline” which broadcast live from the state capitol.

Reid-Smith was on hand for Arts Day at the capitol. He welcomed those associated with the arts from across the state. He said it’s important for the arts to continue to grow if West Virginia is going to be an attractive place for people to take up residence.

.@BradMcElhinny and Randal Reid Smith join @HoppyKercheval at the Capitol to discuss culture, arts, and legislation. WATCH:

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) February 27, 2020

“Nobody wants to come and live somewhere where there’s not something with the arts happening,” Reid-Smith said. “They get entertained, they can invite people to come here and see what they have going on in their town where they can come and do business and have places where their kids can go after school and learn.”

Two young Monroe County residents performed for the state Senate during Thursday’s floor session. Lydia Jackson of Pickaway played her violin while Will Boggess of Peterstown played his guitar and sang including ‘Country Roads.’

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Marshall looks to build momentum, get even with UAB

Angie Shockley/

Taevion Kinsey and Marshall bring a 14-14 record into a matchup at UAB.


— By Bill Cornwell

Trying to build momentum from a win against Old Dominion over the weekend, Marshall looks to remain undefeated in Conference USA pod play Thursday night when it plays at UAB.

The game at Bartow Arena tips at 8 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.

Marshall (14-14, 8-7) is coming off a solid 74-66 home win over the Monarchs last Saturday, while the Blazers (16-12, 7-8) hope to recover this evening after suffering a 65-58 setback in their last outing at Florida Atlantic.

With last weekend’s victory, Marshall remains undefeated in the league’s bonus play over the last two seasons. The Herd went 4-0 last season in Conference USA’s first year experimenting with a system meant to elevate league power rankings.

The teams met earlier this season in Birmingham on Jan. 11, and UAB beat Marshall 61-50, limiting the Herd to its lowest point total of the season. Marshall was held to 33 percent shooting in that contest and managed only 30 points outside of leading scorer Taevion Kinsey scoring 20.

The Blazers are led in scoring by sophomore guard Toran Lovan and freshman guard Jalen Benjamin, who both average 12.7 points. Junior forward Makhtar Gueye is UAB’s leading rebounder at 5.2 per game.

On average, Marshall outscores UAB by eight points per contest, but the Blazers are the stronger defensive team, giving up only 64.6 points each game, compared to Marshall’s 71.9 ppg.

The Blazers also have the edge over Marshall in field goal percentage, three-point shooting percentage and free throw percentage, while Marshall ranks better in rebounding, assists, turnover, steals and blocks.

Marshall and UAB have met 29 times in the past and the Blazers have a 21-8 series advantage.

After tonight’s game, the Herd is off until Wednesday, when FAU comes to the Henderson Center for the final regular season home game.

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Justice ‘will not support a budget’ that doesn’t eliminate waitlist for disabled

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —  Gov. Jim Justice says he will refuse to support a budget passed by the West Virginia Legislature that does not include a full elimination of the waitlist for the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Waiver program.

Justice issued a statement this morning, a day after the Senate Finance Committee approved a proposed budget that would increase funding for the IDD waiver program but only by half of what Justice wants.

“I will not support a budget that does not include a full elimination of the IDD Waiver waitlist,” Justice stated today.

“When it comes to the health and well-being of some of our most vulnerable men, women, and children in West Virginia, I’m not interested in taking half-measures.

Justice announced during his 2020 State of the State Address that DHHR Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch and Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy had found a solution to fund the elimination of the waitlist.

The IDD waiver program gives individuals the choice of receiving support and services in their home and community instead of in an institutional setting. The cost of services provided by the IDD waiver is 46 percent lower than the cost of services provided by an intermediate care facility for individuals with developmental disabilities, the administration says.

Elimination of the waitlist would allow 1,060 additional West Virginians, including more than 600 children, to receive services meant to help with home care of children with disabilities.

“Many of these people have been waiting for more than four years now, which is far too long. My proposed budget includes the funding to accomplish this goal,” Justice stated.

Justice vetoed a budget passed by the Legislature three years ago by unveiling it alongside a platter of cowfield excrement and saying it made too many cuts to important programs.

The governor let another budget pass without his signature, citing similar complaints.

The final week of the regular, 60-day regular session is coming up, and much focus will be on budget negotiations.

Craig Blair

The Senate Finance Committee rolled out its version of the budget on Wednesday afternoon.

The Senate is proposing a budget $27 million less than what Justice had proposed spending.

To get that done, Senate leaders suggest trimming $10 million from the governor’s pledge to eliminate the waiting list for intellectual and developmental disabilities waivers.

The Senate’s proposed IDD waiver funding is still $10 million above current levels.

The Senate majority also proposes cutting millions from Justice priority programs such as Jobs & Hope — formerly “Jim’s Dream” — and Communities in Schools.

“To a great degree, the governor got the budget he wanted except for a couple of things,” said Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley.

Ron Stollings

During the budget session, Senator Ron Stollings asked about the IDD waiver.

“So the governor’s comments that he was going to do away with the wait list and cover that through the Medicaid surplus — just talk?” asked Stollings, D-Boone, a candidate for governor.

Then, referring to the full amount that had originally been proposed, Stollings commented, “There’s still a lot of people out there who would benefit from the $19 million.”

Blair, who noted that the total IDD expenditure is about $100 million a year, explained that he wants to wait and see if the amount originally proposed by the governor is necessary because a commitment would affect future budgets.

And he would like to see what affect additional spending truly has on the wait list.

“I think it’s a noble idea that the governor was trying to do, but the fact of the matter is $20 million would be base-building,” he said. “The wait list may reappear again immediately.”

Blair concluded, “We can actually monitor as we go through the year and see where the wait list grows even more.”

The House Finance Committee was set to have its budget hearing on Thursday afternoon.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said delegates continue to examine the issue.

“We’re looking hard at this. We’ve talked to our Senate colleagues. We’ve talked to DHHR. We’ve talked to other states,” Hanshaw said this morning on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

He said lawmakers would like to provide help to as many people as possible, but he suggested that eliminating the waitlist might only be temporary until it would return again.

“We want to provide as much relief as we’re able to provide, but we also know that in other states where this has been done, a single-shot effort to completely eliminate that wait list has worked for a period of months and then the wait list is immediately back again,” he said.

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State health officer says ‘don’t panic, prepare’ for any arrival of Wuhan coronavirus in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “An emerging, rapidly evolving situation” was how those with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were describing the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 or the Wuhan coronavirus.


Dr. Cathy Slemp

“With any virus, and it’s always concerning when you have a new virus that causes disease and is capable of spreading person to person like this one is, over time, you can’t just contain it,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, West Virginia state health officer, on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Slemp is also commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health in the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

As of Thursday morning, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in West Virginia and no patients were in the process of being tested or were otherwise under investigation for the illness, Slemp reported.

In West Virginia, the immediate health risk was said to be “low,” but that had the potential to change quickly.

Dr. Cathy Slemp, Commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health and State Health Officer gives @HoppyKercheval her insights on preparations for coronavirus. WATCH:

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) February 27, 2020

Because this type of coronavirus which originated in Wuhan, China is new, people currently have little to no immunity against it which has helped with the spread of the virus from person to person worldwide.

Thus far, community spread, meaning the spread of an illness without a known infection source, has been limited in the United States.

That likely won’t remain the case.

“As we begin to think about the potential for community spread, now’s the time to prepare around that and so that starts to engage all of us,” Slemp said.

“Just like you would prepare for snowstorms or other kinds of things, it’s worth taking those steps to make sure.”

She said homes should be stocked with several days of supplies, including medications, and business owners needed to review sick policies.

Around the globe, more than 80,000 cases of COVID-19, including upwards of 2,700 deaths, were being reported earlier this week.

“These are always concerning situations when you have new outbreaks in infection. There’s no need to panic and have fear over it,” Dr. Slemp said.

“It’s a matter of staying informed and making appropriate plans going forward. I think these are times in communities when we all come together. We have to come together and plan.”

Slemp’s recommendations were to get flu shots and to take preventative steps in the ongoing flu season to stop the spread of germs like frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning surfaces and staying home from work or school for existing illnesses.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath appearing anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure.

“Everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat,” Slemp said.

“These are viruses that spread in communities and it’s important that we think about how do we all take a role in preventing that.”

Those with the state DHHR have been monitoring the outbreak in coordination with federal, state and local public health partners at the direction of Governor Jim Justice.

On Wednesday evening, President Donald Trump announced he had assigned Vice President Mike Pence to lead the national coronavirus response.

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Debate over intermediate court hits the House of Delegates, again

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The longstanding issue of whether West Virginia should establish an intermediate appellate court has hit the House of Delegates.

The issue has been promoted for years in West Virginia and was among the recommendations of a 2009 judicial reform panel established by then-Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat.

“One of the things we’re good at in West Virginia – because we do it often — is we ask experts for advice and then we ignore the advice we get,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, one of the speakers at a Thursday morning House of Delegates public hearing on the intermediate court.

The state Senate’s Republican majority in recent years has championed the cause, but support in the House has been less certain.

This year’s test begins Friday when the House Judiciary Committee takes up a bill that would establish an intermediate court.

The House of Delegates earlier this year passed a bill codifying that all appeals shall be reviewed by the state Supreme Court and issued a written decision. That’s been the court’s practice in recent years.

The argument for an intermediate court of appeals is to provide another layer of certainty for civil cases to be reviewed.

The intermediate court would take on civil cases between the circuit court and Supreme Court levels.

It is expected to cost $6.3 million to run. The intermediate court is envisioned as two districts, northern and southern, with three judges on each panel.

The judges would be voted into office by citizens to serve 10-year terms. The terms would be staggered, and the judges wouldn’t be eligible for reappointment. The pay would be $130,000 a year.

Debate in the House of Delegates kicked off Thursday morning with a public hearing that featured a who’s who of lobbyists on all sides of issues at the Capitol.

Charles Trump

One of the speakers was Senator Trump, who actually had several turns as people gave him their allotted time.

“There is cost. But justice is not free. We have to invest,” said Trump, R-Morgan.

He said the intermediate court would free up the state’s Supreme Court justices to be more selective about the cases they review rather than being subjected to “the hamster wheel of issuing an opinion on every single case. That’s not the best use of their skills.”

Trump concluded, “Having a fair thorough, efficient predictable system of justice and appellate review is good for all the citizens of West Virginia.”

Andy Walters

Not everyone agreed.

Andy Walters, secretary-treasurer for the West Virginia AFL-CIO, said the intermediate court would re-route workers compensation cases.

“This is simply another attempt to please big money business interests,” he said. “Meanwhile the legislature will have added another unneeded layer of government at taxpayer expense

Sam Hickman

Sam Hickman of the West Virginia chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, cited the cost of the new court versus other possible spending measures.

One of those is more money toward waivers for the intellectual and developmental disabilities program. A proposed state Senate budget allocates $10 million in additional spending for that program, half of the new spending Gov. Jim Justice had suggested.

“The term Bad Idea Factory doesn’t always apply to the West Virginia Legislature, but in this case it does,” Hickman said.

Betty Rivard

Betty Rivard, an independent volunteer citizen advocate who spends much of her time at the Capitol, made a similar argument.

“We have limited funds and already face future deficits,” Rivard said. “Please oppose this unnecessary funds and invest the funds where they are critically needed.”

Joseph Cohen

Joseph Cohen of the West Virginia ACLU said the organization might normally be in favor of an additional layer of appellate review. But this proposal leaves out an important group of people subject to the court system — criminal defendants.

“People facing the complete loss of liberty and freedom of movement are explicitly denied,” Cohen said.

“Criminal defendants have so much more to lose than civil defendants. Insurance companies are afforded more protections than people who face being locked in cages.”

Others spoke in favor of the intermediate court.

Brian Dayton

Brian Dayton of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce said an intermediate court would relieve a backlog from state circuit courts.

“Many of our circuit courts have a significant backlog, and that can limit all parties’ access to speedy trials,” Dayton said. “I would like to applaud the Legislature for giving very serious consideration of this issue.”

Jordan Burgess

Jordan Burgess of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse cited the state’s frequent presence on the Judicial Hellhole list compiled annually by the American Tort Reform Foundation.

“We continue to remain on the Judicial Hellhole watchlist, and one of the reasons for that is because we do not have an intermediate court of appeals,” Burgess said.

Danielle Waltz, a lawyer speaking for the United States Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, noted the presence of intermediate courts in most other states as well as prior backing by both Republican and Democratic governors of West Virginia.

Danielle Waltz

“West Virginians are wonderful people but sometimes we don’t like change,” Waltz said. “It is long overdue for West Virginia to create an intermediate court of appeals.”

Referring to recommendations from many years ago that West Virginia should establish an intermediate court, Waltz concluded that there’s yet another opportunity to approve the court.

“Finally stop this debate after 20 years,” she said.

.@waltzwvu, and @amajestro join @HoppyKercheval at the Capitol to talk about the push for, and the opposition to, the intermediate court. WATCH:

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) February 27, 2020

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A late winter storm hits W.Va. mountains

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A late shot of winter hits West Virginia. Snowfall brought a light dusting to an inch of accumulation Wednesday night into Thursday in the western lowlands of the Mountain State. However, there was significant accumulation across the mountains.

“Snowfall amounts from observers and the public shows anywhere from six to ten inches fell across the Northern Mountain Counties, generally above 3,000 feet,” said Meteorologist Nick Webb at the National Weather Serviced Bureau in Charleston.

The accumulations included six inches at Snowshoe, ten-inches at Kumbrabow State Forest in Randolph County, and an observer in eastern Tucker County recorded the storm total accumulation for Thursday morning at just over 8 inches.

According to Webb the system which delivered the snow Wednesday night and Thursday morning is moving out and in its wake will be a few leftover snow squalls which could drop another inch of two on the mountains and isolated parts of the western counties today.

Another system arrives Friday, but will be weaker and could deliver some snow, but as temperature rise Friday afternoon the snow will become rain, particularly in the southern coalfields of West Virginia. Webb said temperatures would drop again Friday night and bring additional snowfall.

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Commentary: So long, Coach Biser; never goodbye

— by Mike Burke, Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

Sean Biser of Keyser. Always. Just no longer football coach of Keyser Sean Biser, which, frankly, is going to be pretty weird.

Sean Biser is the head football coach of Morgantown High School now, a development made official Wednesday afternoon when he was introduced as the Mohigans’ head coach during a press conference at the school.

It’s bittersweet, really, as Keyser High School bids farewell to a football coach who guided the Golden Tornado to 14 West Virginia Class AA state playoff appearances in the 16 years he served his alma mater. Yet even the most bummed out Golden Tornado fan understands this is a wonderful opportunity for Sean Biser and his family.

Morgantown is the second largest high school in West Virginia, located on a campus that sits in the city that is home to the state’s flagship university in West Virginia University.

In that regard, it will be somewhat of a homecoming for Biser, though he has continued to be a regular presence in Morgantown as he attends all Mountaineer football games and much more. That’s because he is a Mountaineer, having graduated from WVU and having played football for the great Don Nehlen.

Morgantown High School football, despite some so-so seasons of recent, is a school of football pedigree. From 1995-2013, the Mohigans made 19 consecutive playoff appearances, won four state championships and finished runner-up one other time, reaching the state semifinals eight times during that run.

Biser’s teams have won everywhere he’s coached, as he led Hampshire to a 30-23 mark in five seasons as well as three Class AAA playoff appearances. The Trojans have not been back to the postseason since.

At Keyser, his teams were 127-58, reaching the Class AA state quarterfinals eight times and the championship game once.

One of the head coaches Biser played for when he was a player at Keyser, Mike Calhoun, believes his former player’s coaching success might prove to be the tip of the iceberg given the possibilities that exist for him at Morgantown.

“I think he’ll have great success there,” Calhoun said on Wednesday. “He took Hampshire and turned it around and then got to Keyser and maintained the hard-nosed philosophy of disciplined football players who are grinders and who come at you.

“At Morgantown he’ll have a lot of numbers to work with. Football is a game of numbers, and you hope to get 15 to 16 players every year that are going to help you win. Sean will thrive there; I really believe that. He’ll be great there.”

Calhoun coached at Keyser from 1982-1985 before becoming the Fort Hill (Md.) head coach for 13 seasons. Biser played offensive line for Calhoun’s teams his sophomore and junior seasons, 1984 and ’85.

“He was a worker,” Calhoun said, “so it didn’t surprise me when he got into coaching. It’s in his blood. He loved playing and did all of the right things in the weight room. He was a wrestler and was a physical, skilled football player because of that.”

Calhoun, who retired as principal of Allegany High School after 16 years, had the chance to see Biser’s teams quite a bit as the Golden Tornado and Campers have played each other every season since 1926.

“I’ve always been impressed with Sean,” Calhoun said. “There wasn’t a time that I was at a game his team was playing in that he didn’t make a point to say hello to me and give me a big hug.

“His teams play hard and are very disciplined. Sean is a worker and he is a grinder. He’ll do a great job at Morgantown just like he did at Hampshire and at Keyser.”

Biser has done his alma mater proud and will continue to do so at Morgantown. The Golden Tornado football program is one of the strongest in the state and the foundation Biser built will benefit to Keyser High School for years to come.

I have always appreciated Coach Sean Biser and the work he has done at Hampshire and at Keyser. As a reporter, a comfort level existed because I knew I could contact him at any time and he not only would be receptive to my call, but he would do everything to accommodate me in my reporting on his team.

Sean Biser is a professional in every sense and he is a credit to coaching and to high school athletics. He is also a gentleman in the truest sense.

On a personal side, I will always be grateful for the way he was always so kind to my mother, the two having met at Dapper Dan dinners of years past. Every time Sean would see my mother, he always made the biggest fuss over her and was a gentleman in every sense of the word.

To see the two of them interact was something, as my mother was very tiny and, of course, Sean still fills a room the way you would expect a WVU offensive lineman to fill it. But, you see, my mother was a hitter — a smacker. If she liked you, she smacked you in the arm (nobody knows why to this day), and she liked Sean. And seeing the astonished expression and then big smile on his face the first time my mother laid one on to his left arm is something I will never forget.

A few years ago, I covered a Keyser playoff game at Tornado Alley on a Saturday afternoon, and my mother asked if she could go with me, as she wanted to see the new Keyser High School and stadium. Plus, since the Tornado was not playing Fort Hill (she taught there for over 25 years) she wanted to see Sean’s team play and root for them.

It was a wonderful day for all involved. On a beautiful November afternoon, Keyser won its playoff game in convincing fashion and afterward, Sean took the time to give my mother and me a guided tour of the beautiful new facilities.

It was a day my mother really enjoyed and never forgot. Sean Biser had a fan in my mother, and as he moves on to this great opportunity at Morgantown, he will do so with a lot more of his fans here at home who are sorry to see him leave Keyser, but who are thrilled for the possibilities he will face and then turn into reality.


Mike Burke writes about sports for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s County Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984. He was the sports editor of the Times-News for nearly 30 years. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT

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