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Positive trend for RCHS football team

Photo by Kerry Patrick Ritchie County quarterback Ethan Haught (10) talks to his father and head coach Rick Haught between plays during Saturday's state semifinal against Wheeling Central in Ellenboro.

ELLENBORO — Ritchie County football nation can’t argue with progress.

Beginning with Year 1 and now closing out Year 4 under coach Rick Haught, the Rebels have taken another step forward in the playoff tree from the previous season. And on Saturday at Chuck Schofield Memorial Stadium, the trend continued as the Ritchie County defeated Wheeling Central Catholic, 20-16, in a Class A semifinal playoff game.

Haught’s first season resulted in a first round loss. Eliminated in the quarterfinals the following year, Ritchie County advanced into the semifinals last season but the COVID color map roadblocked the Rebels from pursuing that quest.

Now, the Rebels find themselves packing their bags for next Saturday’s state championship game at Wheeling Island. Game time is set for 7 p.m.

“I’ll try not to get emotional here,” Haught said after taking a few moments to keep his emotions in check during his post-game interview.

“It’s every coaches’ and every kids’ dream to get to Wheeling Island. This was a tough week. Our kids had never practiced Thanksgiving Week. The weather was terrible and they came back out here with great attitudes then found a way to win today.

“So, yes, this will be a special week in this county.”

The coaching staff’s mindset for Wheeling Central Catholic centered around offense. As long as the Rebels kept the chains moving, the Maroon Knights’ could not showcase their offensive weapons.

Mission accomplished — and with a bonus. When WCC’s offense had its opportunities, the Rebels maintained containment with only a few hiccups.

“Even though we were down a couple of guys, we tried to match their personnel as best we could,” Ritchie County defensive coordinator David McCullough said. “For the most part, we did a good job keeping them where we wanted them to.

“We just told the guys not to worry about the eye-candy (WCC) was going to throw at them. Just play fundamental ball and make sure you are in the right spot.”

As the final week of high school football wraps up, this year’s senior class at Ritchie County owns an impressive 6-2 playoff record with the one championship game remaining. A sour taste still remains from last year’s stoppage of play, so the Rebels playing their final high school football game are hungry.

“This is the first time Ritchie has ever been to the Island — last year we got close and didn’t get to play, so it is real specal to play in that game,” Ritchie County quarterback Ethan Haught said.

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