Nicholas County football coach Gene Morris has pretty simple explanation why his team has such good defense.
“They play hard,” Morris said. “We’ve been fortunate to have players who love that side of the ball.”
The Grizzlies face Weir Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in the second round of the Class AA playoffs.
Quarterback Jared Sagraves is a case study.
He has completed 92 of 149 passes for 1,696 yards and 19 touchdowns and has rushed for 373 more yards and and eight touchdowns.
He also averages 4.4 tackles per game with 14.5 tackles for a slots, six sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. The last defensive end in the area with those type dual numbers was Justin Cogar at Westside in 2014.
Undefeated Nicholas County (11-0) has three shutouts (Roane County, Westside and Richwood) and the Grizzlies are giving up just 10.4 points per game.
Last week Nicholas County limited Petersburg to 26 yards on 32 carries.
The Grizzlies defense has forced 29 turnovers (16 fumbles and 13 interceptions). Tyler Sedlock has four interceptions and Justin Hill three interceptions. Twelve different players have fumble recoveries.
Devin McKown averages 8.2 tackles and 9.5 tackles for a loss, Colton Groves averages 7.3 tackles and 20.5 tackles for a loss, Andrew Deal 4.9 tackles and 9.5 tackles for a loss and Tyler Baker 4.7 tackles and 8.5 tackles for a loss.
They have given up 20+ twice (24 to Shady Spring and 26 to Oak Hill) and both those teams were in the Class AA playoff field.
At this point in the postseason, as expected, the Grizzlies will face their toughest test of the season in the Weir.
The Red Riders are 9-2, the only losses coming to some of the stronger teams in Class AA – No. 1 Fairmont Senior (41-40) and No. 7 Keyser (41-40).
Weir is averaging 35.3 points per game.
Sebastian Spencer has completed 68-141 passing for 769 yards and five touchdowns. Weir has 1,460 yards passing (Tyler Komorowski has 564 and five touchdowns).
Weir has 2,610 yards rushing, over half of that belonging to Donavan Kirby, who transferred over from Madonna.
“They’re a spread team that has very good speed at all the skill positions,” Morris said. “They mix the run and the pass very well.”
Of course Nicholas has been able to do that as well.
The Grizzlies average 155.6 yards passing and 200.3 rushing.
Nicholas County has thrown 35.6 percent of the time this season and first-year junior Luke LeRose and Nick KIser have been the main targets. LeRose has 30 receptions for 730 yards and 10 touchdowns and Kiser has Kiser 38 receptions for 640 yards and eight touchdowns. Kolton Groves has 12 catches for 159 and a touchdown.
The season LeRose has two games of over 200 yards receiving (228 and two touchdowns against Roane and 225 and three scores against Independence).
Kiser has two over 100, including 156 and three touchdowns against Oak Hill.
Jacob O’Dell has been outstanding in the backfield, rushing for 1,353 yards and he has 27 touchdowns. In the last two games O’Dell rushed for 523 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Weir has a very aggressive defense and they play a lot of man coverage,” Morris noted.
Tyler Sedlock averages 35.4 yards on nine kickoff returns and 9.5 yards on 14 punt returns.
The winner Saturday will face the Fairmont-Point Pleasant winner in the Class AA semifinals.