SUMMERSVILLE – Nicholas County High School has been a West Virginia high school football playoff team four out of the past five seasons.
Still, the wait for that historic first-ever postseason victory continues.
Gene Morris, a 1981 Ravenswood High graduate, hopes the waiting comes to an end on Friday night inside Chuck Schofield Stadium in Ellenboro. That’s where his Grizzlies will meet up with the Ritchie County Rebels in a Class AA playoff game.
Ritchie is the No. 8 seed in the 16-team field while the Grizzlies enter as the No. 9 seed. This is the first year for the Nicholas County program at the Class AA level. The previous playoff teams under the guidance of Morris were in Class AAA.
“Making the playoffs is great for your program any time,” said Morris, a three-sport standout at Ravenswood. “It doesn’t matter what classification.”
This year’s team finished 6-3. All three losses came against playoff teams in each of the three classifications – Oak Hill (No 16 in Class AAA), 40-0, Robert C. Bryd (No. 4 in Class AA), 31-7 and Greenbrier West (No. 6 in Class A), 24-22 in the season opener.
The Grizzlies victories were against Poca, 27-7, East Fairmont, 25-7, Clay County, 26-18, Lincoln County, 49-8, River View, 28-14 and Mingo Central, 42-23. Clay County, River View and Mingo Central also earned spots in the Class AA playoff bracket.
The snow storm last week cancelled Nicholas County’s season finale at rival Richwood.
“We’ve had a lot of people getting our field ready for practice,” said Morris. “It was covered in snow.”
Nicholas County’s Memorial Stadium is a beautiful venue that features field turf. Morris is delighted this team has reached the postseason.
“This is a very young football team. We have a lot of juniors and sophomores starting. We do have a few seniors sprinkled in there of course. But for the main part we are pretty much junior-dominated.
His team’s improved running game and ability to communicate on defense have been essential to the strong finish and surge into the playoffs.
The lone foe Ritchie County and Nicholas County shared in 2012 was Clay County. Ritchie, which finished at 7-3, fell to the Panthers, 25-7. Ritchie is under the direction of Mike Dawson, who is in his second year at the helm.
Since 2006, counting playoff games, Nicholas County is 49-24 under the leadership of Morris.
One of Nicholas County’s recent postseason losses came against a team from Jackson County.
Jimmy Frashier’s Vikings defeated the Grizzlies, who were 9-1 at the time, in the opening round of the 2009 playoffs, 21-14, in Summersville. Ripley was stopped in the following round by the Brooke Bruins.
The following year in 2010, the Grizzlies produced another 9-1 record and as the No. 9 seed lost to No. 8 Brooke in the opening round.
In 2008, Nicholas went 8-2 and earned the No. 13 seed in the AAA bracket and was sidelined in the opening round by Morgantown.
A 7-3 record in 2007 allowed Nicholas to slip in as the No. 16 team.
The Grizzlies were eliminated from the playoffs by No. 1 GW.
Despite the frustration when it comes to the playoffs, advancement into high school football’s second season illustrates the type of outstanding program Morris has built at Nicholas County. He is ready as much as anyone, though, to keep the second season going longer than one week.
“Nicholas County has never won a playoff football game,” said Morris, who in addition to being a rock-solid football and baseball player for the Red Devils during his high school days was also a state champion wrestler in 1981. “We’re going to do our best to change that a little bit. We think we have an opportunity. Every time we go to the postseason that’s the goal. The goal is to advance”
Which would put an end to the waiting game for the Grizzlies of the Nicholas County High School football program.