ELLENBORO, W.Va. — The Ritchie County football team can look back on the 2020 season in a number of different ways. The Rebels went 10-2 and qualified for the state semifinals for the first time in 26 years. Yet they could not take the field after winning at Greenbrier West in the quarterfinal round because of the COVID metrics map. Head coach Rick Haught prefers to take a positive view.
“I try not to dwell on a ‘woe be me’ type of thing because we were fortunate,” Haught said. “I looked at some other Class A teams and some of them only played six games all year. So we were fortunate that we got to play ten (regular season) games.”
“We knew we were going to be pretty good but we didn’t think we would make it as far as we did until we started winning more and more games throughout the year,” said Ritchie County senior lineman Connor Shaffer.
The bulk of the Rebel roster returns this fall and that includes a front line that will introduce just one new starter.
“Ever since I have been in high school, we have had one of the best lines in the state, as far as I am concerned,” said Ritchie County senior running back/defensive back Gus Morrison. “Last year we were really good and we only lost one starter. I think we can fill in pretty good this year too.”
In his third season engineering the Rebel offense is junior Ethan Haught. He passed for 1,544 yards in 12 games last season and tossed 24 touchdowns against just one interception. And the one interception still bothers him.
“We were at Roane County and we were inside the five,” Rick Haught said. “And I called a play and he said, ‘Listen, that is not there’. And we called it anyhow and it was a pick. As soon as he threw that pick, he looked at me and he was so mad at me. Because he didn’t want any picks all year. That’s the competitive side of him.”
“My freshman season I was worried and I was scared,” Ethan Haught said. “I didn’t know what I was doing. But having two years behind the center, it helps me a lot being back there for two years.”
Haught will be joined in the backfield by senior Gus Morrison. He found the end zone 28 times in his first season as the starting running back and accounted for 1,542 yards of total offense.
“I wasn’t sure how he would do running in between the tackles,” Rick Haught said. “I think you could see over the course of the season, he became much more adept at that.”
The Rebels allowed just over 14 points a game in 2020 and two of their top four tacklers in Austin Bartlett and Garrett Cunningham return. Ritchie is 27-8 in three seasons under Rick Haught. Prior to his arrival, the Rebels won just five games from 2014-2017.
“My first couple years, kids wanted to succeed because they never had,” Rick Haught said. “This is the first group, this year’s seniors, we went to the playoffs when they were freshmen. I thought about, will they have the same drive that those earlier teams who wanted to prove themselves had? We’ll see how far they want to take themselves.”