ELLENBORO, W.Va. – Ritchie County is Wheeling Island bound for the first time in program history.
This is a special group of players and a special year for the Rebels football team and they’re enjoying how far they’ve come this season.
“It’s a pretty good feeling. We have a whole community behind us. We’re the first kids to really ever experience this from Ritchie County so it just feels nice that we get to be apart of something special,” Conner Shaffer, senior center said.
“It means that our hard work from the entire season finally gets to pay off. From all the way back in July and thinking oh my God we get to go to Wheeling Park here in December. It’s pretty special to me,” Kolton DePhino, senior tackle said.
Ritchie County took down 12 time state champion Wheeling Central Catholic in the semifinal game.
The game plan was to control the line of scrimmage and the team definitely understood the assignment.
“I think it was a game where our backs were pretty even so I think the biggest goal for us going into that game was to control the line of scrimmage and I think we did that fairly well. We were able to move the chains by just running up the middle so that worked to our advantage,” Shaffer said.
“We preached to our kids all week the importance of just being able to move the chains. We broke it down and said listen every play we have to get three yards. Every play. We stressed to the backs that every time you have to make sure your following forward. Just those little things,” Rick Haught, Rebels head coach said.
And they’re not done yet.
The Rebels must next defeat Williamstown for a state title.
Ritchie County and the Jackets haven’t met on the football field at the high school level since 2015 but Haught said the two teams are still very familiar with one another.
“Since we’re in the conference, our middle school teams play each other each year. So the last time these kids have played Williamstown was when they were in seventh and eighth grade. They’re familiar with a lot of the names and things like that and we see each other in other sports because we play them in just about every thing else,” Haught said.
One familiar opponent on each team’s schedule is Doddridge County.
The Rebels fell to DCHS in double overtime in the regular season. Doddridge Co. fell to the Jackets by two in the regular season and was stunned 43-0 in the state semifinal.
“I could just tell from watching that most recent Doddridge game on film that they went 100 percent every single play and went 100 percent from play one to the very end. They wanted to rack the score up I guess and I think that really eased the way to Williamstown’s win over Doddridge,” DePhino said.
So what will Rick Haught’s crew focus on in the title game? Well, Haught said nothing new.
“I can’t say that I’m stressing anything more this week than we’ve stressed all year. I was really proud of the fact that we only had one penalty in the last game. So we have to minimize penalties. We won the turnover battle the last game. We got a couple and didn’t turn the ball over and that’s key too. So it’s just those basic things. It’s just basic fundamental football of playing the game well that way,” Haught said.
Ritchie County and Williamstown battle for the Single-A state title at the Island on Saturday night.