By Cam Huffman
Tyler Sagraves wasn’t selling popcorn in the concession stand or marching with the band at halftime, but the Nicholas County High School junior quarterback did everything else for the Grizzlies Friday night against River View.
In a must-win game for Nicholas County (5-3), which came into the contest No. 12 in the WVSSAC ratings, Sagraves ran for a touchdown, threw another and capped off the evening with a 65-yard interception return for the third score as the Grizzlies knocked off River View 28-14.
“He’s a pretty good athlete out there for us,” said Nicholas County head coach Gene Morris, driving home the obvious. “He’s been given the opportunity, and he’s stepped up.”
Sagraves ended the evening with 118 passing yards and 10 rushing yards, and each time River View put points on the board, the Grizzlies’ quarterback had an answer.
His first score, a 1-yard run, put Nicholas County ahead 7-6 just before halftime.
River View, also playing for its playoff future, regained the lead in the second half, but Sagraves answered with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Drew Moore to tie the game.
He then came up with the interception, picking off River View’s Austin Walker and then turning on the jets, racing into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
“We have a quarterback out there, and sometimes that helps at free safety,” said Morris, who inserted Sagraves at free safety for the last two games, after experimenting with the idea during preseason scrimmages. “He knows what (the opposing offense) is looking at. He was able to step in front of a receiver on a (quick pass) to the tight end, and he took it the distance. He understand the situation, and he made a play.”
The performance — one that earned Sagraves the title of Register-Herald Player of the Week — really came as no surprise, considering Sagraves’ play in recent weeks.
After a 31-7 loss on the road at Robert C. Byrd — where Sagraves completed just 4 of 18 passes and threw three interceptions — he bounced back with a five-touchdown outing at home against Lincoln County. He was 6-for-11 for 77 yards and three touchdowns through the air in that game, a 49-8 victory, and he also rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries.
“He’s gaining an understanding of the different types of defenses that are presented to him each week,” said Morris of Sagraves, who is in his second season as the Grizzlies’ starting signal caller. “He’s a smart young man, and once he sees something, he’s got it. He just keeps on growing, and he gets better every week.”
That confidence carried over into the game against River View, and Nicholas County — which has won two straight and three of the last four — is now ranked No. 9 in Class AA and will be fighting for a possible home game with Mingo Central and rival Richwood left on the schedule.
“I think we’re getting better each week,” said Morris, who explained that the Grizzlies are starting just two seniors on offense and three on defense. “We were young in the beginning, and we had to go through some growing pains. But we’ve played much better, and our communication has gotten better. We’re just more comfortable.
“We’re embracing the opportunity in front of us. I think it’s fantastic that we’re in this position. (The players) look at the numbers probably more than I do, and they know what they’re playing for. We’re just going to take it one game at a time and then see where we are when the dust clears.”