CHARMCO, W.Va. — Ritchie County did something no other team was able to accomplish in 2020.
They found a way to beat Greenbrier West.
Sophomore quarterback Ethan Haught threw for 193 yards and three touchdowns and the Rebels scored 16 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a 38-29 win over West in the Class A state quarterfinals at Cavalier Field Saturday.
Gus Morrison, the state’s leading scorer in the regular season, scored on runs of 23 and 22 yards in the final period to seal the victory for Ritchie County, now 10-2 on the year.
“It was a good football game,” said West head coach Toby Harris. “Let’s give them credit. They made big plays and we didn’t. It was a really good football game.”
Haught, the son of Ritchie County head coach Rick Haught, made a number of those big plays for the Rebels. Haught, who was 14-for-19, connected with Dakota Wayne, Blaine Bowie and Morrison for scores, running his season totals to an eye-popping 24 touchdowns to just one interception.
“We worked hard on our passing game,” said coach Haught. “Watching film on them, they had given up some passes this year. They were doing everything they could to take Gus out of the game and they did a really good job of that early. It ended up, we spread them out and I thought Ethan made some really nice throws and we had guys get open. I can tell you earlier this year some of those throws have been just a little long in the games we lost early.”
The Cavaliers had three long scoring drives in the first half.
West went 81 yards in seven plays late in the first quarter, capped by Kaiden Pack’s 45-yard sprint to the end zone. A pair of 63-yard marches in the second quarter were sparked by the running of Pack, Levi Weikle and Cole McClung.
The Cavaliers churned up 224 yards of rushing in the first half alone.
But while West was doing their work on the ground, Haught was hitting the Cavalier defense through the air. Morrison’s 54-yard kickoff return after West’s first score set up the Rebels and a play later, Haught found Dakota Wayne for a 27-yard touchdown.
Trailing 14-6 early in the second, Haught hooked up with Blaine Bowie on consecutive throws. First it was a 39-yarder up the seam on 3rd-and-12 and then a 26-yard TD throw when Bowie found his way behind the West secondary.
Pack’s 27-yard field goal capped a 13-play drive to open the third quarter scoring, but Haught again answered with a TD throw to Morrison. Another Haught-to-Morrison hook-up was complete for a two-point conversion that had the Rebels within one, 23-22.
The Cavaliers stretched the lead on the next possession.
McClung bullied his way for 25 yards in the 54-yard drive.
Pack’s snuck in from the one for the score, but missed the extra point, keeping the margin at seven, 29-22.
The Ritchie County defense rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter, not allowing West a first down.
Meanwhile, Morrison, who was held to minus yardage on the ground in the first half, found some openings.
Following a three-and-out and a West punt out of the shotgun formation that went just nine yards, the Rebels took the lead with a short 37-yard scoring drive.
Haught had two completions in the march and Morrison covered the last 23 yards. Morrison’s two-point run gave Ritchie County their first lead, 30-29.
Morrison went 22 yards after another West three-and-out and when Haught found Bowie in the back corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion, the Rebels lead was nine with just 2:20 to play.
Bowie, who had six catches for 90 yards on the day, sealed the win with his second interception of the day seconds later.
“They’ve been that kind of team all year you know,” said Harris of Haught’s success through the air. “We just didn’t play pass defense like we had to. They picked us apart. We went in a zone, they hit some plays on us and then they hit some over our head. We just didn’t play very well there.”
All of West’s 342 yards came on the ground.
Weikle covered 137 yards on 23 carries, Pack had 109 on 15 tries and McClung added another 76 on 16 carries.
Noah Brown, the Cavaliers’ leading rusher, saw limited duty on both offense and defense after suffering a severly sprained ankle in last week’s win over Madonna.
Morrison finished the game with 82 yards on nine carries for the Rebels.
Ritchie County was one of the few teams in the state to complete their full compliment of 10 regular season games. Haught thought that was an advantage Saturday.
“Not to take anything away from Greenbrier West because of the year that it is,” Haught said. “But I think our conditioning, the fact that this is our 12th game, I think conditioning kind of took over in the fourth quarter.”
Greenbrier West ends the season with a 9-1 record and graduates a group of 13 seniors — Weikle, Brown, Pack, Oryan Collins, Lawson Vaughan, Kyle Holliday, Gabe Medlin, Logan Shrewsbery, Zach McClung, Cole McClung, Hunter Starkey, Noah Boggs and Sean McCutcheon.
“We’ve made a lot of accomplishments the last two years with these guys,” Harris finished. “They did a great job. We would like to have one more, but that’s the way it goes.”
Shortly before halftime Saturday night, the West Virginia COVID-19 map came out and the Greenbrier West-Ritchie County game essentially changed from a quarterfinal game to a semifinal.
The East Hardy vs. Tolsia quarterfinal scheduled for Sunday was cancelled and both teams were eliminated from the postseason when Hardy County was red on the map and Wayne County was in orange.
The West-Ritchie winner was supposed to host the East Hardy-Tolsia winner next week.
Ritchie County moved to orange and must improve on that to be able to play in the state championship game, scheduled for Dec. 5.
Other teams knocked out of the playoffs by Saturday’s map were Spring Mills, Spring Valley and four-time defending Group AAA champion Martinsburg.