The plan for Ritchie County coming into this season was find more touches for junior Gus Morrison.
Morrison, listed at 6-foot-4 and 175 pounds, was a standout at receiver for the Rebels as a sophomore but missed a lot of time with a broken hand and was not the same once he returned wearing a cast. Then, just prior to the start of this season, Ritchie’s 2019 leading rusher Tre Moss transferred to St. Marys.
Ritchie coach Rick Haught knew he wanted to get the ball in Morrison’s hands more this season, so when the Rebels suddenly had an opening in their backfield with little time to adjust before the start of the season the coach moved Morrison to running back. It was a good move, to say the least.
Fast forward to the present, and Morrison is the WVSN Class A Football Player of the Year.
“It was an easy decision to move Gus to tailback because we were going to find more ways to get him involved in the offense — some out of the backfield — anyhow this year,” Haught told WVSN. “I think everybody here knew what he could be and I guess maybe that situation allowed us to showcase his abilities perhaps more than we would have.”
Morrison carried the ball 120 times this season for 1,104 yards and 20 touchdowns, but he didn’t stop there. The junior also caught 20 passes for 483 yards to go with another 11 touchdowns.
Not bad for a guy who had not played the position since middle school.
“I knew I was going to play a little bit in the backfield, but I didn’t know I was going to be starting like I was,” Morrison said. “I was used to playing outside, then they told me I was coming to the backfield and I had to have all my guys up front not get mad at me or frustrated when I was a little confused, but after a couple of weeks I figured it out.”
Morrison was more than just a star on offense for the eventual state runner-up Rebels. On defense he shined as a cornerback, collecting five interceptions. On special teams, Morrison was a punt and kick returned as well as Ritchie County’s regular punter — a role he has held his entire high school career to this point.
In an early October game against Moorefield, the Rebels were behind 14-0 early and staring down the potential for an even worse deficit with a punt upcoming. Morrison lined up and heard an opposing player tell the defense that Ritchie was going to fake the punt, but a penalty halted the punt attempt and backed the Rebels up even more. On the next attempt, Morrison lined up and noticed nobody bringing pressure this time, so when he got the ball in his hands he tucked it and took off — 60 yards later Ritchie County was back in the game it would eventually go on to win 28-21.
“We came back and won that game and I swear it was all on the play he made on faking the punt and taking off,” Haught said. “He’s that kind of very exciting, big-play type of athlete.””
When he wasn’t faking punts, Morrison averaged more than 38 yards per attempt this season, but Haught joked that he was hoping for more from his standout junior.
“I’ll tell you, he was a better punter his freshman year than he is now,” Haught said with a laugh. “There were times he would flip the field position for us. As he has taken on more of a role, I can’t get him to work on his punting as much as I’d like him to.”