Jackson County's Morris leads Nicholas County back to football’s postseason

Mark Martin
Special to Jackson Newspapers

The Nicholas County Grizzlies are once again a part of the Class AA playoff field for West Virginia high school football.

And one of Jackson County’s very own is leading the way.

Friday night the Grizzlies meet up with the Roane County Raiders in an opening round postseason matchup.

It will mark the 18th playoff game all-time in program history. Gene Morris has coached in all but two of those games. He's been head coach for 15 of the postseason encounters.

Ravenswood native Gene Morris will lead his Nicholas County Grizzlies into the Class AA football playoffs against Roane County. The Grizzlies host the Raiders in Summersville Friday night, Nov. 12. A 1981 graduate of Ravenswood High School, Morris has been the school's head coach since 1998 and has guided the program to several outstanding seasons.

Morris has led the Grizzlies to three of the school’s four victories in what is known as the second season.

The other was a state championship win in 1962.

Morris, who has been the head coach at NCHS after serving several seasons as an assistant, led his latest team to a 7-2 mark.

Nicholas finished at No. 8 in the final ratings and will entertain the No. 9 Raiders Friday night, Nov. 12, as The Road to Wheeling (the site of the state championship games the first weekend of December) begins.

“To start off, a lot of these guys are returning from last year. We were 3-6 last year,” said Morris during the playoff meetings in Parkersburg at the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission office. “They were sophomores. They took their lumps. Their work ethic in the offseason was absolutely fantastic and I think they’ve kind of proven that.”

Nicholas County’s wins this season came over Oak Hill (27-25), Shady Spring (38-14), Wyoming East (53-8), Midland Trail (47-22), Braxton County (57-13), James Monroe (25-7) and PikeView (54-14). The losses came against Lincoln (21-13) and Independence (57-21).

Both Lincoln and Independence are a part of the AA playoff field. Shady Spring also qualified for the playoffs in Class AA. Midland Trail and James Monroe help make up the 16-team bracket of Class A.

“Our kids hung together. The majority of them are back from last year. I think the camaraderie and the chemistry was absolutely fantastic throughout the entire season.

“Our senior leadership was solid to be honest with you. I’m really a little bit surprised of how well we retooled the offense a bit. Defensively, we hung out with the same scheme. We just kind of took a look at what we thought those guys could do and we changed things to fit our players and I think it’s been pretty successful.”

Morris enjoyed success as an athlete at Ravenswood High, where he graduated in 1981.

For starters, he was a Class AA-A state wrestling champion in 1981 by winning the 155-pound title.

He also excelled on the football field and the baseball diamond.

Both he and his older brother, Greg, a 1979 Ravenswood graduate and later Marshall baseball player, were all-around outstanding athletes.

Morris attended West Virginia State and shortly after graduation got a teaching and coaching job in Nicholas County. He has been in the Summersville area ever since.

Morris has enjoyed two undefeated seasons as the Grizzlies head coach, four nine-win campaigns and three seasons of eight victories.

Year in and year out, his Nicholas program is one of the state’s most solid in Class AA. The first few years he was at Nicholas, the Grizzlies were Class AAA.

One of his playoff games came in AAA against Ripley in 2009.

The Grizzlies open with Roane, a team that defeated both Morris’ alma mater Ravenswood and also Ripley in 2021. The Roane staff includes Ravenswood graduate Matt Peery as an assistant.

“We played each other a time or two throughout the seasons,” Morris said. “They’ve got a real solid program.”

Nicholas leads the series with Roane County, 9-4.

Morris is confident heading into this opening round showdown Friday night.

“The big thing is we’re healthy. We’re as healthy as anybody can be after playing the season. Looking at it, you’ve got to be real happy with the way we’ve matured. We’ve got some experience back. They’ve gotten a little bit better weekly. Learning a new offense is something they’ve really bought into. They’ve done well. And we’re starting to add a few little wrinkles here and there. They’ve really been consistent.

“I enjoy their work ethic. They come to practice. They are a throwback type of team. You just have to enjoy working with these guys."

He’s happy this bunch will get to enjoy a home game at beautiful Memorial Stadium in Summersville.

“It’s a great community to be around. They’ll give us 100 percent support. They always have. We’re excited. We are really excited. It will be a great atmosphere.”

And leading the way will be a solid Jackson County native, who truly is the face of Nicholas County High School football.