By Cody Tomer, The Wheeling Intelligencer
WHEELING – Ritchie County’s football team made history this year as it collected its first state title.
In the process, running back Gus Morrison ran for 947 yards on 116 carries and scored 16 touchdowns, while catching 50 passes for 802 yards and 12 more scores.
On defense, he was just as lethal. The strong-willed warrior secured 83 tackles and eight interceptions.
Those numbers along with his leadership on and off the field are why Morrison was named first team captain of the all-state offense selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association for the second consecutive year.
“Gus was an all-state captain last year and you saw what he could do (in the state championship game),” Ritchie coach Rick Haught said.
What he did in the 2021 state title game was nothing short of amazing.
The senior utility man ran wild for 178 yards and four scores, while also racking up 44 yards receiving and another touchdown en route to earning MVP of the game and hoisting the state championship trophy.
“This has been a goal since last year when it got ripped away because of COVID,” Morrison said. “When that happened it just motivated us even more. To see it pan out and happen the way we wanted it to is definitely a dream come true.”
Joining Morrison on the all-state first team are his teammates junior Ethan Haught (quarterback) and senior Conner Shaffer (offensive lineman).
Ethan Haught entered his junior year with one goal in mind and he accomplished that goal in leading the Rebels to a state title. Along the way, he threw for 2,050 yards on 111 of 184 passing to go with 23 touchdowns. He also ran for eight scores.
Shaffer’s leadership on the line and his 41 pancakes gave his quarterback and running back plenty of time to make magic happen, as well.
“I’m really happy for Conner Shaffer,” Coach Haught said. “He is a three-year starter and has been a leader on our line. He has been Ethan’s center since middle school.
“Ethan has put in the work and he has stepped up in big games. I wanted to throw some passes in the state championship but he said, ‘No dad. We just need to run the clock.’ I was ready to open it up and he wanted to just get that clock rolling. So, I’m really proud of all of those guys.”
Williamstown also punched its ticket to the state title game with three all-state first teamers leading the way.
Sophomore quarterback Maxwell Molessa earned a spot as a utility man for his ability to throw and run. He is joined by junior linebacker Rickie Allen and senior offensive lineman Colton Melrose.
Molessa turned in 1,660 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns this year to go with his 744 yards passing and five scores.
Allen garnered 100 tackles and came up with three interceptions to lead the defense, while collecting 1,490 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns at running back.
Melrose made his name heard in the state title game as he jumped on a loose ball for a fumble recovery.
“Rickie and Max – their body of work speaks for itself,” Williamstown coach Chris Beck said. “They are our hardest workers and it shows with the numbers they are able to put up. Colton is our highest graded lineman and I think he is one of the best linemen in Class A. I think he’s proven that over the course of 14 games. The guy has a high motor and is very physical.”
Running backs on the all-state first team are juniors Lorenzo Ferrera of Wheeling Central and Ty Nickell of Greenbrier West.
Ferrera galloped for 819 yards and 10 touchdowns, while turning in 258 yards receiving and three scores. On special teams he racked up 415 kick return yards and added four interceptions and 49 tackles on defense.
Receivers include East Hardy junior Dawson Price and Gilmer County senior Avery Chapman.
Price garnered 56 receptions for 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns, while Chapman racked up 49 catches for 964 yards and 15 TDs, while also supplying 695 return yards and two more scores.
First team linemen include senior Jakobey Meadows of James Monroe and juniors Adam Burnside of Doddridge County and Deante Suggs of Wheeling Central.
Wheeling Central sophomore Eli Tucker is the first team all-state kicker with 42 extra points and 18 touchbacks.
Mount View senior Tony Bailey and Gilmer County senior Ean Hamrick round out the first team offense at utility positions.
Hamrick threw for 2,273 yards and 28 touchdowns, while rushing for 374 yards and five scores.
The captain of the first team defense hails from Buffalo in senior defensive lineman Drew Clendenin, who delivered 96 tackles, nine TFL, 3.5 sacks, one interception and two fumble recoveries.
Joining Clendenin on the D-line are seniors Malachi Hinger of Moorefield, Isiah Perdue of Van and Ayden Baker of Wheeling Central.
Filling out the linebacking corps are seniors Dylan Knight of Doddridge County, Aden Isaacs of Midland Trail and C.J. Winnell of Sherman.
The all-state defensive backfield includes ballhawk seniors Jared Jones of Doddridge County and Isaac Ball of Cameron, along with junior Eli Allen of James Monroe.
Both Ball and Allen recorded seven interceptions this year.
Senior utility players Wesley Hill of Ravenswood, Ayden Simms of Midland Trail and Garrett Gibson of Tygarts Valley and senior punter Riley Tackett of Tygarts Valley round out the first team defense.
Hill charted 87 tackles, 16 TFL, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery at three different positions; Simms generated five interceptions with 47 tackles, along with 400 yards receiving and 10 touchdown grabs; Gibson finished with 122 tackles and nine interceptions and Tackett pinned 11 punts inside the 20.
Juniors Seth Richards of Doddridge County and Drew Boczek of Clay-Battelle captain the all-state second team.
The Class A All-State Football Team as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association
WR – Dawson Price, East Hardy; JR
WR – Avery Chapman, Gilmer County; SR
OL – Adam Burnside, Doddridge County; JR
OL – Colton Melrose, Williamstown; SR
OL – Jakobey Meadows, James Monroe; SR
OL – Deante Suggs, Wheeling Central; JR
OL – Conner Shaffer, Ritchie County; SR
RB – Ty Nickell, Greenbrier West; JR
RB – Lorenzo Ferrera, Wheeling Central; JR
QB – Ethan Haught, Ritchie County; JR
K – Eli Tucker, Wheeling Central; SO
U – Gus Morrison, Ritchie County; SR (Captain)
U – Tony Bailey, Mount View; SR
U – Maxwell Molessa, Williamstown; SO
U – Ean Hamric, Gilmer County; SR
DL – Drew Clendenin, Buffalo; SR (Captain)
DL – Malachi Hinger, Moorefield; SR
DL – Ayden Baker, Wheeling Central; SR
DL – Isaiah Purdue, Van; SR
LB – Rickie Allen, Williamstown; JR
LB – Dylan Knight, Doddridge County; SR
LB – Aden Isaacs, Midland Trail; SR
LB – CJ Winnell, Sherman; SR
DB – Eli Allen, James Monroe; JR
DB – Jared Jones, Doddridge County; SR
DB – Isaac Ball, Cameron; SR
U – Wesley Hill, Ravenswood; SR
U – Ayden Simms, Midland Trail; SR
U – Garrett Gibson, Tygarts Valley; SR
P – Riley Tackett, Tygarts Valley; SR
WR – Evan Quering, Madonna; SR
WR – Noah Lang, East Hardy; SR
OL – Ian Spadafore, Doddridge County; SR
OL – Chase Franklin, Greenbrier West; SR
OL – Riley Boley, St. Marys; SR
OL – Austin Morgan, Pocahontas County; JR
OL – Gavin Bell, Ritchie County; SR
RB – Carson Shriver, Clay-Battelle; JR
RB – Sean Winfrey, Tyler Consolidated; SO
RB – Blake Funk, Moorefield; SR
QB – Santino Arlia, Madonna; SR
K – Talon Shockey, Midland Trail; JR
U – TJ Bell, Mount View; SR
U – Seth Richards, Doddridge County; JR (Captain)
U – Dustin Adkins, Meadow Bridge; SR
DL – Ty Roles, Meadow Bridge; SR
DL – Dale Hockman, East Hardy; SR
DL – Austin Bartlett, Ritchie County; JR
LB – Mason Miller, East Hardy; JR
LB – Riley Watkins, Wheeling Central; JR
LB – Tyson Adkins, Summers County; FR
LB – Justin Grimmett, Man; SR
LB – Ridge Flores, Van; JR
DB – Payton Neeley, Cameron; JR
DB – Colton Hesson, Williamstown; SO
DB – Levi Teets, Trinity; JR
U – Duke Dodson, Summers County; JR
U – Drew Boczek, Clay-Battelle; JR (Captain)
U – Chase McClung, Greenbrier West; SR
P – Connor Bell, Webster County; SR
Johnny Arnett, Clay-Battelle; Jaycent Ash, Doddridge County; Brady Baker, James Monroe; Joey Baker, Paden City; Marcus Barnes, Magnolia; Shaun Booth, Van; Parker Bunch, South Harrison; Gunnar Bryan, Cameron; Cole Burkett, Cameron; Noah Burnside, South Harrison; Colby Buzzard, Sherman; Mason Chisler, Clay-Battelle; Drake Cole, Summers County; Ethan Colegrove, Tug Valley; Rian Cooper, Meadow Bridge; Aiden Corbett, Williamstown; Peyton Day, Petersburg; Anthony Finn, Trinity; Erik Flynn, East Hardy; Brady Green, Van; Devin Greene, Montcalm; Jacob Haddix, South Harrison; TJ Hager, Sherman; Justin Haggerty, Mount View; Jeremiah Harless, Man; Cody Harrell, Midland Trail; Jayden Helmick, Tyler Consolidated; Josh Hypes, Richwood; Charles Ibbeson, Doddridge County; Kaden Johnson, Magnolia; Isaac Joy, Williamstown; Jakob Kassey, Clay-Battelle; Cameron Kearns, Buffalo; Tanner Kirk, Tug Valley; Kyle Knight, Trinity; JJ Knotts, Tucker County; Case Landis, Tyler Consolidated; Ethan Lane, Ravenswood; Grant Lively, James Monroe; Ryan Long, Mount View; James McClure, Meadow Bridge; Grady McFee, Wirt County; Bryce McKinney, Doddridge County; Coleman Mongold, Moorefield; Marlon Moore, Ritchie County; Rylee Morgan, River View; Connor Mullins, Meadow Bridge; Allen Nestor, Clay-Battelle; Wyatt Norman, St. Marys; Trey Ohlinger, Wahama; Kolton Parsons, Wirt County; Caleb Ratcliffe, Wheeling Central; Cooper Ridgeway, James Monroe; Dalton Rollo, Sherman; Josh Roush, St. Marys; Robert Ruffner, Midland Trail; Branson See, Moorefield; Gabe Stewart, Doddridge County; Dale Treadway, Greenbrier West; Sawyer VanMatre, Wahama; Caleb Webb, Montcalm; Zach Wise, Hundred; Josh Dickerson, Midland Trail