Ritchie County runs past Williamstown 42-21, claims first state championship

WHEELING, W.Va. — Richie County’s storybook season ended in just the fashion the Rebels hoped for.

Gus Morrison rushed for 178 yards and four touchdowns and caught five passes for 44 yards and a score, leading the Class A No. 4 Rebels to an emphatic 42-21 victory against No. 6 Williamstown at Wheeling Island Stadium.

With the win, Ritchie County (13-1) claimed its first state championship in program history and sent a good portion of the 4,350 in attendance home happy.

“In 1963, my dad was on a state championship baseball team at Harrisville High School. That is still talked about today,” Ritchie County head coach Rick Haught said. “These guys have just done something they’ll be talking about for the rest of their lives.”

The Rebels set the tone for the night on the game’s first series, converting separate fourth downs in a 13 play, 67-yard drive that was capped by Morrison’s 6-yard touchdown run.

Quarterback Ethan Haught crossed the goal line on the two-point run, leaving the Rebels with an 8-0 lead.

“Those fourth down conversions are pretty huge,” Ethan Haught said. “Right there on the 50-yard line, if we wouldn’t have got that, the game could’ve changed and they could’ve gotten the ball back and went down and scored. They’re pretty huge and it really gives us a lot of momentum going into the next set of downs.”

Williamstown and its power rushing attack responded with a scoring drive that Maxwell Molessa finished off with a 7-yard run, bringing the Yellowjackets to within one point with 36 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Colton Melrose’s recovery of a Haught fumble led to Williamstown’s second touchdown, which came on Rickie Allen’s 2-yard run and left the Yellowjackets (11-3) with a 14-8 lead.

But the Rebels responded to their first and only deficit of the night in strong fashion, driving 73 yards and 10 plays and pulling even at 14 on Haught’s 7-yard TD pass to Marlon Moore.

‘We’ve overcome stuff all year,” Morrison said. “Our hard work and dedication in practice helps us keep our mind on track.”

Allen’s fumble on the first play of Williamstown’s ensuing possession was recovered by Morgan Knight, allowing Ritchie to get the ball back 2:22 before halftime.

The Rebels made the most of the possession and went back ahead when Haught found Morrison for a 3-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal. Morrison also hauled in the two-point pass, leaving RCHS with 22-14 halftime lead.

“You have to think you have a couple plays in your pocket that you can get those [fourth downs] with,” Rick Haught said.

Ritchie started the second half with an onside kick, one the Rebels recovered to start on the Yellowjackets’ 48.

“We put a couple guys in the right spot and they misplayed the ball and we were right there to get it,” Rick Haught said.

Four plays later, Morrison broke loose for a 35-yard TD run, putting Williamstown in a 14-point hole 2:16 into the second half.

“Them holding Doddridge County to zero points [in last week’s semifinal] was really eye-opening.” Ethan Haught said. “Their defense was really tough. The first half, we had problems with it. We just figured out what was working and it was basically getting Gus the ball. He was making guys miss and had a great game. He really opened the playbook for us and we found plays that worked and went with them.”

But the Yellowjackets offered a strong response and cut their deficit in half when Molessa reached the end zone on a 2-yard run on fourth-and-goal 2:45 before the start of the fourth quarter.

Williamstown’s defense couldn’t generate a much-needed stop and instead surrendered an eight play, 55-yard drive that Morrison finished with a 7-yard touchdown run, allowing Ritchie to lead 34-21 with 11:27 remaining.

“We knew they were explosive offensively and they showed that tonight,” WHS head coach Chris Beck said. “We couldn’t get off the field. We got kind of bogged down once we got behind offensively.”

On the ensuing series, Molessa’s pass on fourth-and-4 fell incomplete, allowing the Rebels to start at the WHS 44.

Morrison produced his fifth and final touchdown on a 10-yard run, then pulled in another two-point pass from Haught to give him a Super Six Class A record 34 points in the victory.

Haught completed 8-of-12 passes for 90 yards and rushed for 32 yards. Tailback Seth Hardy added 52 rushing yards in the win.

The Rebels converted 6-of-9 third downs and all three fourth down attempts in the victory.

Molessa rushed for 120 yards and two scores, while Allen gained 90 yards on 16 carries.

“We came up a little bit short tonight,” Beck said. “They were the better team. They controlled the line of scrimmage and were a little bit more physical than we were.”

More Sports

Highlights: Clay County defeats Braxton County, 41-29
January 27, 2023 - 11:15 pm
Robert C. Byrd rolls past Lincoln, 57-34
The Eagles were efficient offensively and locked down on defense to cruise by a Harrison County rival.
January 27, 2023 - 11:12 pm
Spring Valley secures another impressive victory, 65-52 over Cabell Midland
Freshman Brooklyn Ellis led the Timberwolves with 18 points.
January 27, 2023 - 9:48 pm
West Virginia looks to handle Auburn's athleticism, end SEC/Big 12 Challenge on high note
The Mountaineers welcome the 14th-ranked Tigers in the final installment of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
January 27, 2023 - 5:35 pm