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  It’s hard to imagine how one could ask for much more. The weather was perfect for a mid-November evening. What a great crowd, possibly the largest in Kenneth J. Dobson / Joel Hicks Field history, and it was a terrific, festive atmosphere.
Then for added entertainment you have two very good high school football teams doing battle on the gridiron with both performing at an extremely high level of competition. It was just like it always has been, Pulaski County and Salem laying it on the line.
And everything was on the line too. Salem was 8-1 and Pulaski County’s finest was 9-0. The championship of the River Ridge District was at stake. Home field advantage in the Region Four, Division 4 state playoffs that begin next Friday was at stake. In fact the home field advantage all the way until state championship Saturday was in the balance. There was also an opportunity at a fourth 10-0 perfect regular season for the Cougars.
To make matters even more impressive, you can also toss in the winning 50/50 raffle ticket good for over $3,600!
But no, we haven’t gotten to the best part yet. Pulaski County rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit to win going away, 34-24 in one of the more exciting prep football encounters you will ever have the opportunity to witness, and it seemed that all of Pulaski County was there too.
There are those games every season that match up the year’s best teams, but as often as not, those games do not measure up to the anticipation, the buildup, or the media hype. That was not the case this time. This baby was a barn burner. This game was full of big plays. This game was chocked full of tension and tenacity. It was because it was for the district championship, home field in the playoffs, 10-0, and all that stuff, but more than anything else, it was all those things because it was Pulaski County and Salem. There are not two programs that respect the other more, but there are not two programs around that want to beat the other worse. We’re talking about the biggest rivalry around. We’re talking Pulaski County vs. Salem.
The Cougars started fast, and then came to a screeching halt as the Spartans dominated play from the midway point of the first quarter until halftime. It didn’t look good. After driving for a touchdown with the opening kickoff Pulaski County didn’t get another first down the first half. It was nothing but three of outs for the Cougars.
Pulaski County managed just 19 first half plays while Salem got off 33 snaps, and racked up 11 first downs. The Cougars gained 77 yards with their first possession, but only 24 the rest of the half. Salem quarterback Hunter Sturgill and his receivers, mainly Donte Harvey, made the Pulaski County secondary look inadequate. In the first half if the Spartans had an incomplete pass on a play it was because Sturgill’s aerial was dropped, they certainly weren’t defended, and Sturgill was throwing perfect darts with time to spare behind center.
And it looked really bleak in other areas as well. Pulaski County was still committing penalties and making mistakes of execution. A touchdown pass to Antwyne Calfee was nullified because of a motion infraction in the backfield, a face mask penalty kept a Salem drive alive, and so did a roughing the passer penalty. It looked as if the same mistakes they had been guilty of all season would finally catch up with the Cougars. Pulaski County was getting taken to class on how play solid, fundamental football.
But wait. There are two halves to a game. It’s hard to exactly say why or how, but the worm turned quickly in the third quarter. Pulaski County was not even called for a single penalty in the whole second half. Big plays started coming from different directions and a lot of players got involved. You could feel it on the sidelines. The emotion and intensity started to build until it seemed like the stadium was going to explode.
And the Cougars did explode. Sturgill was harassed by a hard charging Pulaski County defensive front. Salem receivers weren’t getting as much cushion to run their routes, and they didn’t have as much time either. Sturgill was sacked twice, had two passes deflected, eventually the Spartan offense cracked, and Salem could rush for only 94 yards.
And here came the Cougars. It was Nubian Peak outside, Seth Parris up the gut, quarterback Luke Watson on the option, Watson up top to slotback Jolly Martin with a huge 40-yard pass play, and you could hardly hear yourself think on the sidelines the noise was so loud in Dobson Stadium, but the best part about it was you didn’t care.
That second half brought back great memories of the ‘80s and ’90s, but most of all it was for this team and this Pulaski County senior class more than anything else.
The Cougar football program has been through some tough times in recent years. There’s been terrible disappointment, a lot of disappointed senior classes, some frustrated coaches, and sadly death as the program lost some of its best people. There were also doubts, and some wondered if the quality of the program was declining.
Well, you can dismiss those thoughts. Pulaski County football is still Pulaski County football, and that’s pretty good. The Cougars flat out exploded in the second half, and got that fourth perfect 10-0 regular season, and I congratulate them, particularly this fine group of seniors. This season also marks the seventh time a Cougar team has started a season 9-0, the eighth time a Cougar team has started a season 8-0, and the ninth time a Cougar team has begun a season 7-0. That doesn’t read like a program that’s starting to fade to me.
You could see the tears in Nubian Peak’s eyes when he was asked how much this night meant for him, the program, and this senior class.
“In the first half we just weren’t on our game, but I knew we couldn’t let it end like that. I couldn’t believe what was going on. The coaches didn’t fuss at us. They just talked to us and showed us some things we needed to do. They told us they believed in us, but we needed to believe in ourselves.’’
Somebody started to believe because the Cougars outscored Salem 27-7 in the second half! Pulaski County put up four touchdowns on its first four second half possessions.
Peak said you could feel things starting to lift. “Right after we started rolling to start the second half I just had that feeling. I wanted the ball back. I felt stronger as the game got older. We had talked about sticking together and staying strong in the locker room before we went down for the second half. I remember thinking to myself as we walked down the steps and saw all our people out there. I can’t believe how many people we had at this game, but I knew we had to do better, and I knew we could. When it was over I cried on the field. I felt my emotions rising all through the game. We’ve been close so many times, and I’ve seen senior classes cry after playing their last game. You could tell how they felt. Their careers were over and they didn’t get the job done. That’s why I’m so proud of this group of seniors. People don’t know how much this means. This is a great football program with great coaches, and we work very hard. I’m proud to play football for Pulaski County, and I’m proud of everybody tonight that has anything to do with this team,’’ said Peak.
There was at least one other guy that knows how long the journey has been. When head coach Jack Turner walked into the locker room his team chanted “Turner, Turner’’ over and over, and just a few minutes before, he had received the first ride on the shoulders of his players to the center of the turf in Dobson Stadium.
“I appreciate the kind thoughts,’’ Turner told his team, “but the people I’m most proud of are the players on this team and the coaches on this staff. I know that I’m not always a great guy to work for, but all the guys on the staff keep right on doing a super job, and the determination you players showed in that second half makes this very fulfilling for me, because I know how demanding I’ve been with you. I know what a lot of people have thought, but this never was about Turner. It’s about all you players and all the coaches, and everybody else that does what they can for our program.’’
The second half rally made it even better, but Turner had to admit he was concerned. “I sure wish we had gotten it cranked up a bit sooner. I didn’t like falling behind like that, but it made it even more exciting. Our defense got used up a little in that first half, but we shut ‘em down that second half, and then we started making some plays on offense. This certainly is special. I wanted to see this program get back to the level of past years. That’s all I’ve ever really cared about, and I’m just so proud of this program,’’ said Turner.
When you see the caring attitude and genuine emotion inside a Pulaski County football locker room, you realize that as long as it’s this way, it will never stray far from the top of the heap for very long.
How could it get much better than this says the headline? Well, it could, but right now we’ll be more than happy to settle for that fourth perfect 10-0, that 16th district championship in program history, and the home field advantage when the state playoffs begin next week against Blacksburg.
As far as how it could get much better, we’ll start taking a good, hard look at the upcoming playoffs this coming week, the potential for a region championship with a possible rematch with Salem, and the road to the state championship that ends at Liberty University in Lynchburg. Yes sir, this thing could get even better. 

IT’S TIME FOR A NEW BANNER

By DAN CALLAHAN
SWT Sports Writer 

Friday night was a truly special experience at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium / Joel Hicks Field. Pulaski County staged a super second half comeback to knockoff Salem, 34-24 and win the River Ridge District championship, finish the regular season with the program’s fourth perfect 10-0 regular season, and claim home field advantage in the playoffs all the way to the state championship game at Liberty University in Lynchburg.
Yes sir, that qualifies as a special victory, but nobody could really know how special it was without being in the Cougar locker room and watching two-way senior tackle Josh Miller take the floor in front of his teammates.
It’s Homecoming at Pulaski County, but that occasion is likely a little more special than usual in “Cougarland,’’ at least for a bunch of Cougar senior football players.
“Guys, we’ve been reading all the signs on these walls for four years now. It’s always looked the same in this locker room. Well, we just won us a championship,’’ shouted Miller. “Pulaski County is a champion again. This senior class needs to pick out a spot on the wall. It’s time of us to hang a new banner!’’
Most of the Cougar players didn’t know what to say. Senior linebacker C.J. Burleson just sat in front of his locker with a smile as wide as a goal post across his face. “This is it. This was what we wanted so much. I’m so proud of my team,’’ said Burleson, and then he turned and hugged Brandon Hazzard, a fellow senior, for what must of have been the 100th time.
“I knew we could do it,’’ said Hazzard. “This makes all the work worthwhile. This is what it’s about. Being right here, right now, is all I could ask for. I’m just proud to be on this team,’’ he added.
Most of the seniors on this Pulaski County team have been in the program for four years, but not all of the players that played crucial roles were seniors, and not all of them have been around that long.
Senior E.J. Dobbins is doing all he can to make up for lost time. He transferred up from Radford two years ago, but basically had to sit out his junior season due to a knee injury, and until this 2008 season, really hadn’t played any football since his sophomore year in high school.
“I’m just so glad I got to be on this team. I knew we had potential to make this a special season. This is all you could ask for, all you could expect. The district championship is so special and working with a bunch of players that want something so bad is great. But the thing we must do now is keep our focus. We’re not done yet. I want that state championship.  We’re not finished,’’ said Dobbins.
Junior quarterback Luke Watson transferred up from Auburn. He said he wanted to play football at the highest and most competitive level he could. Was Friday night why he came to Pulaski County?
“Are you kidding? Just look around this locker room. This is it. This is everything I wanted. I always wondered about things, about how it was at other places and with other teams. But I know one thing. This is the way it’s supposed to be. I’m so happy I came to Pulaski County. I’m thrilled to be on this team. I’m just so happy to be here. I couldn’t ask for more. I just feel so lucky, so fortunate. This is a dream come true for me,’’ said Watson.
Yes indeed, another chapter in the storied history of Pulaski County football has been written. The boys that play football next to the big cornfield have returned to the top.
It makes one think about all the great victories of seasons past. It generates conversations about where does this 2008 team rank among all the really good Cougar teams in the program’s history. And now the state playoffs begin in just a few short days. This team dreamed of beating Salem, and winning the River Ridge championship. Now it can dream about what it would be like to win the Region Four, Division 4 crown, and the state championship.
This team has come far. It still has road left to travel, but tell them all to get ready, shout it to the moon, the Cougars are rolling out on old Slaughterhouse Road again.

Floyd perfect, rolls over Radford

By RODNEY YOUNG
SWT Sports Writer

FLOYD — On a warm fall evening, the Radford Bobcats traveled up Route 8 Friday for a district showdown with arch rival Floyd County.
The old saying "offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships" held true as Floyd (10-0, 5-0) stopped Radford (7-3, 3-2) and won the Three Rivers District championship, 35-27.
The two teams combined for over 800 yards of total offense during the contest.
Floyd started the offensive show as Zach Bonham ran two yards off tackle for six. A fumbled snap on the point-after left them up 6-0 with 4:23 to go in the opening stanza.
Radford struck when DeAndre Thompson took the handoff, went straight up the middle then cut to the left in front of the Buffaloes’ sidelines and raced 75 yards to the promised land. Michael Goodman’s kick put Radford up 7-6 with just over two minutes to go in the first quarter.
Floyd answered at the 10:30 mark of the second quarter when quarterback Luke Harris went around right end untouched on a six-yard run. Harris passed to Brett Holman for a two-point conversion to put Floyd County up, 14-7.
Radford’s sophomore quarterback Dontae Carter answered right before half with a seven-yard run and the two teams were knotted up 14-all at halftime.
The action continued in the third quarter as Floyd faced a fourth down and 25 yards to go at Radford’s 45 yard line. The turning point of the ball game was about to happen.
Floyd dropped back to punt, but Harris instead threw a backwards pass to wide receiver Christian Rodrique as Radford’s defense came flying up, but Rodrique stopped and launched a 45-yard pass to Holman who was 20 yards behind the closest Bobcat defender and Floyd had gone up 21-14.
Radford answered with a Carter 16-yard scamper to bring the Cats back to within one, but Goodman’s kick hit the left upright and the score remained, 21-20.
Floyd once again had the answer as Bonham took the handoff and galloped 44 yards for the score. Nathan Weiss kicked the point after and Floyd was up 28-20 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Cats’ playoff hopes were still alive, but with just under four minutes to play, Floyd once again came up big on fourth down.
Punting from their own 10 yard line, Radford was called for roughing the punter and on the same play was also flagged for having a coach on the field.
Two penalties … 30 yards and Floyd was in business again. Two plays later, Harris hit Holman on a 46-yard bomb and Weiss’ kick put them up 35-20 with just two minutes left.
The Cats didn’t roll over and play dead, however. Carter hit Jon Thompson with passes of 23 and 10 yards. He then connected with William Saunders for 9 yards and Ryan Webb for 13 more.
With 1:03 to go, Carter took off and went 19 yards to paydirt. Goodman’s kick brought the Cats to a 35-27 deficit.
Radford then booted an onside kick with Saunders falling on the ball. Somehow, however, Floyd wrestled it away and Radford’s playoff hopes were doomed.
"We made adjustments at the half, but they didn’t work," said an obviously disappointed Radford head coach Matthew Saunders after the game. "There are a lot of reasons why they (Floyd) are 10-0 and district champs.
"Harris is one of them, and they are an exceptionally coached team. They ate up the second half clock and once again we were too aggressive on defense and that’s my fault. We improved from last year’s 5-5 record and this team had real good chemistry," Saunders stated.
Radford’s schedule will look a little different next year as they drop Rural Retreat and Christiansburg. They pick up two state powerhouses in Gretna and Pulaski County. The Cats will travel to Gretna, and play host to the Cougars at Bobcat Stadium.

Radford 7 7 6 7 —27
Floyd Co. 6 8 14 7 —35

FC — Bonham 2 run (pass failed)
R — Thompson 75 run (Goodman kick)
FC — Harris 6 run (Holman pass from Harris)
R — Cater 7 run (Goodman kick)
FC — Holman 45 pass from Rodrique (Weiss kick)
R — Carter 16 run (kick missed)
FC — Bonham 44 run (Weiss kick)
FC — Holman 59 pass from Harris (Weiss kick)
R — Carter 19 run (Goodman kick)

R FC
First downs 9 19
Yards rushing 220 347
Passes C-A-I 11-17-2 11-18-1
Yards passing 110 142
Penalties-yards 4-43 10-100
Fumbles-lost 0 0
Punts-average 3-35 1-35

Individual stats
Rushing — Radford: D. Thompson 11-159, Carter 7-56, P. Webb 5-5, Saunders 2-0
Floyd County: Bonham 17-146, Harris 19-93, Jones 12-101, Holman 2-7
Passing — Radford: Carter 11-17-2-0-110
Floyd County: Harris 11-18-1-1-142, Rodrique 1-1-0-1-45
Receiving — Radford: Saunders 4-26, P. Webb 2-18, J. Thompson 3-33, R. Webb 1-12, D. Thompson 1-21
Floyd County: Holman 5-121, Bradford 3-28, Rodrique 1-6, Griffith 2-21, Jones 1-11

High school football scores

By The Associated Press
Albemarle 43, Riverbend 40
Appomattox 49, Chatham 0
Bassett 28, Magna Vista 6
Bath County 47, Covington 0
Bethel 21, Western Branch 7
Bishop O’Connell 16, Paul VI 0
Blacksburg 17, Christiansburg 14
Bland County 29, Grayson County 14
Blessed Sacrament-Huguenot 23, Hampton Christian 13
Briar Woods 61, Freedom (South Riding) 23
Broad Run 39, Park View-Sterling 26
Brooke Point 24, Colonial Forge 10
Buckingham County 17, Central Senior 14
Buffalo Gap 52, Luray 6
C.D. Hylton 29, Forest Park 0
Caroline 33, King George 12
Chancellor 41, Spotsylvania 7
Charles City 32, Chincoteague 14
Clover Hill 58, George Wythe-Richmond 8
Colonial Beach 38, West Point 7
Cosby 31, Huguenot 22
Craig County 66, Montcalm, W.Va. 14
Cumberland 27, Randolph Henry 0
Deep Run 13, J.R. Tucker 0
Dinwiddie 49, Meadowbrook 48
Douglas Freeman 41, Mills Godwin 14
Essex 20, Rappahannock 0
Floyd County 35, Radford 27
Fort Chiswell 20, Narrows 7
Franklin County 20, E.C. Glass 14
Franklin 34, Windsor 0
Freedom (Woodbridge) 22, Potomac 21, 2OT
Galax 34, Big Creek, W.Va. 28
Giles 34, Auburn 7
Glenvar 26, Eastern Montgomery 14
Goochland 51, Amelia County 6
Green Run 49, Grassfield 17
Greensville County 56, Bluestone 12
Gretna 35, Altavista 0
GW-Danville 62, Halifax County 35
Handley 42, Brentsville 6
Hanover 30, Henrico 10
Harrisonburg 47, William Byrd 14
Hermitage 42, Patrick Henry-Ashland 17
Hidden Valley 27, Cave Spring 6
James Madison 28, Yorktown 7
James Monroe 41, Courtland 13
James River-Buchanan 35, Parry McCluer 13
James River-Chesterfield 35, Midlothian 13
Jefferson Forest 35, Rockbridge 0
Jenkins, Ky. 20, Ervinton 14
Kellam 27, Frank Cox 18
King William 61, King & Queen 0
Lafayette 42, Bruton 12
Lake Taylor 24, Warwick 17
Lebanon 14, Tazewell 7
Lee High 22, Haysi 3
Lee-Davis 24, Atlee 21
Liberty-Bedford 21, Lord Botetourt 14
Liberty-Fauquier 28, Fauquier 21
Loudoun County 27, Heritage (Leesburg) 21
Louisa 35, William Monroe 0
Madison County 41, Manassas Park 13
Manchester 21, Monacan 14
Martinsburg, W.Va. 56, Eastern View 14
Massaponax 34, Mountain View 24
Matoaca 43, Colonial Heights 0
Monticello 42, Charlottesville 7
Mount Vernon 17, Washington & Lee 10
Nelson County 29, Dan River 21
North Cross 42, Isle of Wight Academy 25
Northside 24, Stuarts Draft 8
Northumberland 35, Lancaster 13
Nottoway 28, Park View-South Hill 8
Oakton 30, South County 13
Ocean Lakes 17, Salem 0
Osbourn 28, Osbourn Park 21
Oscar Smith 34, Woodside 17
Patrick County 38, Martinsville 10
Phoebus 63, Churchland 6
Poquoson 45, Southampton 7
Powhatan 17, Brunswick 8
Prince George 21, Petersburg 18
Pulaski County 34, Salem 24
Riverheads 41, Page County 14
Sherando 43, Kettle Run 0
Stafford 41, North Stafford 33
Stonewall Jackson-Manassas 40, Culpeper 6
Strasburg 20, George Mason 6
Sussex Central 30, Surry County 18
Thomas Dale 42, Hopewell 7
Varina 10, Highland Springs 7
Wilson Memorial 35, Stonewall Jackson-Quicksburg 3
Woodbridge 50, Gar-Field 21
York 31, Grafton 28
VISAA State Championship
Division 2 Semifinals
Atlantic Shores Christian 35,
Va. Episcopal 7 Division 1 Semifinals
Flint Hill 21, Liberty Christian 13

Semifinal regional pairs set

By The Associated Press
Pairings for this week’s Virginia High School League semifinal regional games; dates, times and sites to be announced:
Group AAA Division 6
Central Region
No. 4 Hermitage, 8-2, vs. No. 1 Varina, 10-0
No. 3 Meadowbrook, 8-2, vs. Mo. 2 Lloyd Bird, 9-1
Eastern Region
No. 5 Kellam, 8-3, vs. No. 1 Ocean Lakes, 11-0
No. 6 Bethel, 8-3, vs. No. 2 Oscar Smith, 11-0
Northern Region
No. 4 West Springfield, 8-3, vs. No. 1 Oakton, 11-0
No. 3 Chantilly, 8-3, vs. No. 2 Westfield, 9-2
Northwest Region-
No. 4 Osbourn, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Battlefield, 10-0
No. 3 C.D. Hylton, 7-3, vs. No. 2 Woodbridge, 10-0
Group AAA Divison 5
Central Region
No. 4 Douglas Freeman, 7-3, vs. No. 1 Dinwiddie, 9-1
No. 3 Monacan, 7-3, vs. No. 2 Hanover, 7-3
Eastern Region
No. 4 Hampton, 10-1, vs. No. 1 Lake Taylor, 11-0
No. 3 Green Run, 10-1, vs. No. 2 Phoebus, 11-0
Northern Region
No. 4 James Madison, 7-4, vs. No. 1 Edison, 11-0
No. 3 Mount Vernon, 9-2, vs. No. 2 Stone Bridge, 11-0
Northwest Region
No. 4 GW-Danville, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Brooke Point, 9-1
No. 3 Liberty-Bealeton, 8-2, vs. No. 2 William Fleming, 9-1
Group AA Divison 4
Region I
No. 4 Courtland, 7-3, vs. No. 1 Chancellor, 10-0
No. 3 Tabb, 8-2, vs. No. 2 Powhatan, 9-1
Region II
No. 4 Loudoun County, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Broad Run, 10-0
No. 3 James Wood, 8-2, vs. No. 2 Potomac Falls, 9-1
Region III-
No. 4 Harrisonburg, 8-3, vs. No. 1 Amherst, 9-1
No. 3 Jefferson Forest, 8-3, va. No. 2 Turner Ashby, 8-2
Region IV
No. 4 Blacksburg, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Pulaski County, 10-0
No. 3 Bassett, 7-3, vs. No. 2 Salem, 8-2
Group AA Divison 3
Region I
No. 4 Brunswick, 7-3, vs. No. 1 James Monroe, 9-1
No. 3 Nottoway, 7-3, vs. No. 2 Poquoson, 8-2
Region II
No. 4 Millbrook, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Handley, 9-1
No. 3 Briar Woods, 8-2, vs. No. 2 Monticello, 9-1
Region III
No. 4 Northside, 6-5, vs. No. 1 Brookville, 10-0
No. 3 Liberty-Bedford, 7-4, vs. No. 2 R.E. Lee-Staunton, 9-1
Region IV
No. 4 Graham, 4-6, vs. No. 1 Tazewell, 8-2
No. 3 Patrick County, 7-3, vs. No. 2 Richlands, 7-3
Group A Division 2
Region A
No. 4 Northampton, 4-5, vs. No. 1 Essex, 10-0
No. 3 King William, 6-4, vs. No. 2 W&L-Montross, 8-2
Region B
No. 4 Goochland, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Gretna, 9-1
No. 3 Appomattox, 8-2, vs. No. 2 Clarke County, 8-2
Region C
No. 4 George Wythe-Wytheville, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Floyd County, 10-0
No. 3 Giles, 6-4, vs. No. 2 Chilhowie, 9-1
Region D
No. 4 Powell Valley, 5-5, vs. No. 1 Gate City, 8-2
No. 3 Lebanon, 7-3, vs. No. 2 J.J. Kelly, 7-3
Group A Divison 1
Region A
No. 4 West Point, 7-3, vs. No.1 Colonial Beach, 10-0
No. 3 Sussex Central, 7-3, vs. No. 2 Franklin 8-2
Region B
No. 4 Riverheads, 7-3, vs. No. 1 William Campbell, 9-1
No. 3 Buffalo Gap, 10-0, vs. No. 2 Cumberland, 8-2
Region C
No. 4 Eastern Montgomery, 5-5, vs. No. 1 Holston, 9-1
No. 3 Bath County, 6-4, vs. No. 2 Bland County, 9-1
Region D
No. 4 Thomas Walker, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Clintwood, 9-1
No. 3 Haysi, 8-2, va. No. 2 J.I.Burton, 9-1

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The Locker Room

  It’s hard to imagine how one could ask for much more. The weather was perfect for a mid-November evening. What a great crowd, possibly the largest in Kenneth J. Dobson / Joel Hicks Field history, and it was a terrific, festive atmosphere.
Then for added entertainment you have two very good high school football teams doing battle on the gridiron with both performing at an extremely high level of competition. It was just like it always has been, Pulaski County and Salem laying it on the line.
And everything was on the line too. Salem was 8-1 and Pulaski County’s finest was 9-0. The championship of the River Ridge District was at stake. Home field advantage in the Region Four, Division 4 state playoffs that begin next Friday was at stake. In fact the home field advantage all the way until state championship Saturday was in the balance. There was also an opportunity at a fourth 10-0 perfect regular season for the Cougars.
To make matters even more impressive, you can also toss in the winning 50/50 raffle ticket good for over $3,600!
But no, we haven’t gotten to the best part yet. Pulaski County rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit to win going away, 34-24 in one of the more exciting prep football encounters you will ever have the opportunity to witness, and it seemed that all of Pulaski County was there too.
There are those games every season that match up the year’s best teams, but as often as not, those games do not measure up to the anticipation, the buildup, or the media hype. That was not the case this time. This baby was a barn burner. This game was full of big plays. This game was chocked full of tension and tenacity. It was because it was for the district championship, home field in the playoffs, 10-0, and all that stuff, but more than anything else, it was all those things because it was Pulaski County and Salem. There are not two programs that respect the other more, but there are not two programs around that want to beat the other worse. We’re talking about the biggest rivalry around. We’re talking Pulaski County vs. Salem.
The Cougars started fast, and then came to a screeching halt as the Spartans dominated play from the midway point of the first quarter until halftime. It didn’t look good. After driving for a touchdown with the opening kickoff Pulaski County didn’t get another first down the first half. It was nothing but three of outs for the Cougars.
Pulaski County managed just 19 first half plays while Salem got off 33 snaps, and racked up 11 first downs. The Cougars gained 77 yards with their first possession, but only 24 the rest of the half. Salem quarterback Hunter Sturgill and his receivers, mainly Donte Harvey, made the Pulaski County secondary look inadequate. In the first half if the Spartans had an incomplete pass on a play it was because Sturgill’s aerial was dropped, they certainly weren’t defended, and Sturgill was throwing perfect darts with time to spare behind center.
And it looked really bleak in other areas as well. Pulaski County was still committing penalties and making mistakes of execution. A touchdown pass to Antwyne Calfee was nullified because of a motion infraction in the backfield, a face mask penalty kept a Salem drive alive, and so did a roughing the passer penalty. It looked as if the same mistakes they had been guilty of all season would finally catch up with the Cougars. Pulaski County was getting taken to class on how play solid, fundamental football.
But wait. There are two halves to a game. It’s hard to exactly say why or how, but the worm turned quickly in the third quarter. Pulaski County was not even called for a single penalty in the whole second half. Big plays started coming from different directions and a lot of players got involved. You could feel it on the sidelines. The emotion and intensity started to build until it seemed like the stadium was going to explode.
And the Cougars did explode. Sturgill was harassed by a hard charging Pulaski County defensive front. Salem receivers weren’t getting as much cushion to run their routes, and they didn’t have as much time either. Sturgill was sacked twice, had two passes deflected, eventually the Spartan offense cracked, and Salem could rush for only 94 yards.
And here came the Cougars. It was Nubian Peak outside, Seth Parris up the gut, quarterback Luke Watson on the option, Watson up top to slotback Jolly Martin with a huge 40-yard pass play, and you could hardly hear yourself think on the sidelines the noise was so loud in Dobson Stadium, but the best part about it was you didn’t care.
That second half brought back great memories of the ‘80s and ’90s, but most of all it was for this team and this Pulaski County senior class more than anything else.
The Cougar football program has been through some tough times in recent years. There’s been terrible disappointment, a lot of disappointed senior classes, some frustrated coaches, and sadly death as the program lost some of its best people. There were also doubts, and some wondered if the quality of the program was declining.
Well, you can dismiss those thoughts. Pulaski County football is still Pulaski County football, and that’s pretty good. The Cougars flat out exploded in the second half, and got that fourth perfect 10-0 regular season, and I congratulate them, particularly this fine group of seniors. This season also marks the seventh time a Cougar team has started a season 9-0, the eighth time a Cougar team has started a season 8-0, and the ninth time a Cougar team has begun a season 7-0. That doesn’t read like a program that’s starting to fade to me.
You could see the tears in Nubian Peak’s eyes when he was asked how much this night meant for him, the program, and this senior class.
“In the first half we just weren’t on our game, but I knew we couldn’t let it end like that. I couldn’t believe what was going on. The coaches didn’t fuss at us. They just talked to us and showed us some things we needed to do. They told us they believed in us, but we needed to believe in ourselves.’’
Somebody started to believe because the Cougars outscored Salem 27-7 in the second half! Pulaski County put up four touchdowns on its first four second half possessions.
Peak said you could feel things starting to lift. “Right after we started rolling to start the second half I just had that feeling. I wanted the ball back. I felt stronger as the game got older. We had talked about sticking together and staying strong in the locker room before we went down for the second half. I remember thinking to myself as we walked down the steps and saw all our people out there. I can’t believe how many people we had at this game, but I knew we had to do better, and I knew we could. When it was over I cried on the field. I felt my emotions rising all through the game. We’ve been close so many times, and I’ve seen senior classes cry after playing their last game. You could tell how they felt. Their careers were over and they didn’t get the job done. That’s why I’m so proud of this group of seniors. People don’t know how much this means. This is a great football program with great coaches, and we work very hard. I’m proud to play football for Pulaski County, and I’m proud of everybody tonight that has anything to do with this team,’’ said Peak.
There was at least one other guy that knows how long the journey has been. When head coach Jack Turner walked into the locker room his team chanted “Turner, Turner’’ over and over, and just a few minutes before, he had received the first ride on the shoulders of his players to the center of the turf in Dobson Stadium.
“I appreciate the kind thoughts,’’ Turner told his team, “but the people I’m most proud of are the players on this team and the coaches on this staff. I know that I’m not always a great guy to work for, but all the guys on the staff keep right on doing a super job, and the determination you players showed in that second half makes this very fulfilling for me, because I know how demanding I’ve been with you. I know what a lot of people have thought, but this never was about Turner. It’s about all you players and all the coaches, and everybody else that does what they can for our program.’’
The second half rally made it even better, but Turner had to admit he was concerned. “I sure wish we had gotten it cranked up a bit sooner. I didn’t like falling behind like that, but it made it even more exciting. Our defense got used up a little in that first half, but we shut ‘em down that second half, and then we started making some plays on offense. This certainly is special. I wanted to see this program get back to the level of past years. That’s all I’ve ever really cared about, and I’m just so proud of this program,’’ said Turner.
When you see the caring attitude and genuine emotion inside a Pulaski County football locker room, you realize that as long as it’s this way, it will never stray far from the top of the heap for very long.
How could it get much better than this says the headline? Well, it could, but right now we’ll be more than happy to settle for that fourth perfect 10-0, that 16th district championship in program history, and the home field advantage when the state playoffs begin next week against Blacksburg.
As far as how it could get much better, we’ll start taking a good, hard look at the upcoming playoffs this coming week, the potential for a region championship with a possible rematch with Salem, and the road to the state championship that ends at Liberty University in Lynchburg. Yes sir, this thing could get even better. 

IT’S TIME FOR A NEW BANNER

By DAN CALLAHAN
SWT Sports Writer 

Friday night was a truly special experience at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium / Joel Hicks Field. Pulaski County staged a super second half comeback to knockoff Salem, 34-24 and win the River Ridge District championship, finish the regular season with the program’s fourth perfect 10-0 regular season, and claim home field advantage in the playoffs all the way to the state championship game at Liberty University in Lynchburg.
Yes sir, that qualifies as a special victory, but nobody could really know how special it was without being in the Cougar locker room and watching two-way senior tackle Josh Miller take the floor in front of his teammates.
It’s Homecoming at Pulaski County, but that occasion is likely a little more special than usual in “Cougarland,’’ at least for a bunch of Cougar senior football players.
“Guys, we’ve been reading all the signs on these walls for four years now. It’s always looked the same in this locker room. Well, we just won us a championship,’’ shouted Miller. “Pulaski County is a champion again. This senior class needs to pick out a spot on the wall. It’s time of us to hang a new banner!’’
Most of the Cougar players didn’t know what to say. Senior linebacker C.J. Burleson just sat in front of his locker with a smile as wide as a goal post across his face. “This is it. This was what we wanted so much. I’m so proud of my team,’’ said Burleson, and then he turned and hugged Brandon Hazzard, a fellow senior, for what must of have been the 100th time.
“I knew we could do it,’’ said Hazzard. “This makes all the work worthwhile. This is what it’s about. Being right here, right now, is all I could ask for. I’m just proud to be on this team,’’ he added.
Most of the seniors on this Pulaski County team have been in the program for four years, but not all of the players that played crucial roles were seniors, and not all of them have been around that long.
Senior E.J. Dobbins is doing all he can to make up for lost time. He transferred up from Radford two years ago, but basically had to sit out his junior season due to a knee injury, and until this 2008 season, really hadn’t played any football since his sophomore year in high school.
“I’m just so glad I got to be on this team. I knew we had potential to make this a special season. This is all you could ask for, all you could expect. The district championship is so special and working with a bunch of players that want something so bad is great. But the thing we must do now is keep our focus. We’re not done yet. I want that state championship.  We’re not finished,’’ said Dobbins.
Junior quarterback Luke Watson transferred up from Auburn. He said he wanted to play football at the highest and most competitive level he could. Was Friday night why he came to Pulaski County?
“Are you kidding? Just look around this locker room. This is it. This is everything I wanted. I always wondered about things, about how it was at other places and with other teams. But I know one thing. This is the way it’s supposed to be. I’m so happy I came to Pulaski County. I’m thrilled to be on this team. I’m just so happy to be here. I couldn’t ask for more. I just feel so lucky, so fortunate. This is a dream come true for me,’’ said Watson.
Yes indeed, another chapter in the storied history of Pulaski County football has been written. The boys that play football next to the big cornfield have returned to the top.
It makes one think about all the great victories of seasons past. It generates conversations about where does this 2008 team rank among all the really good Cougar teams in the program’s history. And now the state playoffs begin in just a few short days. This team dreamed of beating Salem, and winning the River Ridge championship. Now it can dream about what it would be like to win the Region Four, Division 4 crown, and the state championship.
This team has come far. It still has road left to travel, but tell them all to get ready, shout it to the moon, the Cougars are rolling out on old Slaughterhouse Road again.

Floyd perfect, rolls over Radford

By RODNEY YOUNG
SWT Sports Writer

FLOYD — On a warm fall evening, the Radford Bobcats traveled up Route 8 Friday for a district showdown with arch rival Floyd County.
The old saying "offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships" held true as Floyd (10-0, 5-0) stopped Radford (7-3, 3-2) and won the Three Rivers District championship, 35-27.
The two teams combined for over 800 yards of total offense during the contest.
Floyd started the offensive show as Zach Bonham ran two yards off tackle for six. A fumbled snap on the point-after left them up 6-0 with 4:23 to go in the opening stanza.
Radford struck when DeAndre Thompson took the handoff, went straight up the middle then cut to the left in front of the Buffaloes’ sidelines and raced 75 yards to the promised land. Michael Goodman’s kick put Radford up 7-6 with just over two minutes to go in the first quarter.
Floyd answered at the 10:30 mark of the second quarter when quarterback Luke Harris went around right end untouched on a six-yard run. Harris passed to Brett Holman for a two-point conversion to put Floyd County up, 14-7.
Radford’s sophomore quarterback Dontae Carter answered right before half with a seven-yard run and the two teams were knotted up 14-all at halftime.
The action continued in the third quarter as Floyd faced a fourth down and 25 yards to go at Radford’s 45 yard line. The turning point of the ball game was about to happen.
Floyd dropped back to punt, but Harris instead threw a backwards pass to wide receiver Christian Rodrique as Radford’s defense came flying up, but Rodrique stopped and launched a 45-yard pass to Holman who was 20 yards behind the closest Bobcat defender and Floyd had gone up 21-14.
Radford answered with a Carter 16-yard scamper to bring the Cats back to within one, but Goodman’s kick hit the left upright and the score remained, 21-20.
Floyd once again had the answer as Bonham took the handoff and galloped 44 yards for the score. Nathan Weiss kicked the point after and Floyd was up 28-20 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Cats’ playoff hopes were still alive, but with just under four minutes to play, Floyd once again came up big on fourth down.
Punting from their own 10 yard line, Radford was called for roughing the punter and on the same play was also flagged for having a coach on the field.
Two penalties … 30 yards and Floyd was in business again. Two plays later, Harris hit Holman on a 46-yard bomb and Weiss’ kick put them up 35-20 with just two minutes left.
The Cats didn’t roll over and play dead, however. Carter hit Jon Thompson with passes of 23 and 10 yards. He then connected with William Saunders for 9 yards and Ryan Webb for 13 more.
With 1:03 to go, Carter took off and went 19 yards to paydirt. Goodman’s kick brought the Cats to a 35-27 deficit.
Radford then booted an onside kick with Saunders falling on the ball. Somehow, however, Floyd wrestled it away and Radford’s playoff hopes were doomed.
"We made adjustments at the half, but they didn’t work," said an obviously disappointed Radford head coach Matthew Saunders after the game. "There are a lot of reasons why they (Floyd) are 10-0 and district champs.
"Harris is one of them, and they are an exceptionally coached team. They ate up the second half clock and once again we were too aggressive on defense and that’s my fault. We improved from last year’s 5-5 record and this team had real good chemistry," Saunders stated.
Radford’s schedule will look a little different next year as they drop Rural Retreat and Christiansburg. They pick up two state powerhouses in Gretna and Pulaski County. The Cats will travel to Gretna, and play host to the Cougars at Bobcat Stadium.

Radford 7 7 6 7 —27
Floyd Co. 6 8 14 7 —35

FC — Bonham 2 run (pass failed)
R — Thompson 75 run (Goodman kick)
FC — Harris 6 run (Holman pass from Harris)
R — Cater 7 run (Goodman kick)
FC — Holman 45 pass from Rodrique (Weiss kick)
R — Carter 16 run (kick missed)
FC — Bonham 44 run (Weiss kick)
FC — Holman 59 pass from Harris (Weiss kick)
R — Carter 19 run (Goodman kick)

R FC
First downs 9 19
Yards rushing 220 347
Passes C-A-I 11-17-2 11-18-1
Yards passing 110 142
Penalties-yards 4-43 10-100
Fumbles-lost 0 0
Punts-average 3-35 1-35

Individual stats
Rushing — Radford: D. Thompson 11-159, Carter 7-56, P. Webb 5-5, Saunders 2-0
Floyd County: Bonham 17-146, Harris 19-93, Jones 12-101, Holman 2-7
Passing — Radford: Carter 11-17-2-0-110
Floyd County: Harris 11-18-1-1-142, Rodrique 1-1-0-1-45
Receiving — Radford: Saunders 4-26, P. Webb 2-18, J. Thompson 3-33, R. Webb 1-12, D. Thompson 1-21
Floyd County: Holman 5-121, Bradford 3-28, Rodrique 1-6, Griffith 2-21, Jones 1-11

High school football scores

By The Associated Press
Albemarle 43, Riverbend 40
Appomattox 49, Chatham 0
Bassett 28, Magna Vista 6
Bath County 47, Covington 0
Bethel 21, Western Branch 7
Bishop O’Connell 16, Paul VI 0
Blacksburg 17, Christiansburg 14
Bland County 29, Grayson County 14
Blessed Sacrament-Huguenot 23, Hampton Christian 13
Briar Woods 61, Freedom (South Riding) 23
Broad Run 39, Park View-Sterling 26
Brooke Point 24, Colonial Forge 10
Buckingham County 17, Central Senior 14
Buffalo Gap 52, Luray 6
C.D. Hylton 29, Forest Park 0
Caroline 33, King George 12
Chancellor 41, Spotsylvania 7
Charles City 32, Chincoteague 14
Clover Hill 58, George Wythe-Richmond 8
Colonial Beach 38, West Point 7
Cosby 31, Huguenot 22
Craig County 66, Montcalm, W.Va. 14
Cumberland 27, Randolph Henry 0
Deep Run 13, J.R. Tucker 0
Dinwiddie 49, Meadowbrook 48
Douglas Freeman 41, Mills Godwin 14
Essex 20, Rappahannock 0
Floyd County 35, Radford 27
Fort Chiswell 20, Narrows 7
Franklin County 20, E.C. Glass 14
Franklin 34, Windsor 0
Freedom (Woodbridge) 22, Potomac 21, 2OT
Galax 34, Big Creek, W.Va. 28
Giles 34, Auburn 7
Glenvar 26, Eastern Montgomery 14
Goochland 51, Amelia County 6
Green Run 49, Grassfield 17
Greensville County 56, Bluestone 12
Gretna 35, Altavista 0
GW-Danville 62, Halifax County 35
Handley 42, Brentsville 6
Hanover 30, Henrico 10
Harrisonburg 47, William Byrd 14
Hermitage 42, Patrick Henry-Ashland 17
Hidden Valley 27, Cave Spring 6
James Madison 28, Yorktown 7
James Monroe 41, Courtland 13
James River-Buchanan 35, Parry McCluer 13
James River-Chesterfield 35, Midlothian 13
Jefferson Forest 35, Rockbridge 0
Jenkins, Ky. 20, Ervinton 14
Kellam 27, Frank Cox 18
King William 61, King & Queen 0
Lafayette 42, Bruton 12
Lake Taylor 24, Warwick 17
Lebanon 14, Tazewell 7
Lee High 22, Haysi 3
Lee-Davis 24, Atlee 21
Liberty-Bedford 21, Lord Botetourt 14
Liberty-Fauquier 28, Fauquier 21
Loudoun County 27, Heritage (Leesburg) 21
Louisa 35, William Monroe 0
Madison County 41, Manassas Park 13
Manchester 21, Monacan 14
Martinsburg, W.Va. 56, Eastern View 14
Massaponax 34, Mountain View 24
Matoaca 43, Colonial Heights 0
Monticello 42, Charlottesville 7
Mount Vernon 17, Washington & Lee 10
Nelson County 29, Dan River 21
North Cross 42, Isle of Wight Academy 25
Northside 24, Stuarts Draft 8
Northumberland 35, Lancaster 13
Nottoway 28, Park View-South Hill 8
Oakton 30, South County 13
Ocean Lakes 17, Salem 0
Osbourn 28, Osbourn Park 21
Oscar Smith 34, Woodside 17
Patrick County 38, Martinsville 10
Phoebus 63, Churchland 6
Poquoson 45, Southampton 7
Powhatan 17, Brunswick 8
Prince George 21, Petersburg 18
Pulaski County 34, Salem 24
Riverheads 41, Page County 14
Sherando 43, Kettle Run 0
Stafford 41, North Stafford 33
Stonewall Jackson-Manassas 40, Culpeper 6
Strasburg 20, George Mason 6
Sussex Central 30, Surry County 18
Thomas Dale 42, Hopewell 7
Varina 10, Highland Springs 7
Wilson Memorial 35, Stonewall Jackson-Quicksburg 3
Woodbridge 50, Gar-Field 21
York 31, Grafton 28
VISAA State Championship
Division 2 Semifinals
Atlantic Shores Christian 35,
Va. Episcopal 7 Division 1 Semifinals
Flint Hill 21, Liberty Christian 13

Semifinal regional pairs set

By The Associated Press
Pairings for this week’s Virginia High School League semifinal regional games; dates, times and sites to be announced:
Group AAA Division 6
Central Region
No. 4 Hermitage, 8-2, vs. No. 1 Varina, 10-0
No. 3 Meadowbrook, 8-2, vs. Mo. 2 Lloyd Bird, 9-1
Eastern Region
No. 5 Kellam, 8-3, vs. No. 1 Ocean Lakes, 11-0
No. 6 Bethel, 8-3, vs. No. 2 Oscar Smith, 11-0
Northern Region
No. 4 West Springfield, 8-3, vs. No. 1 Oakton, 11-0
No. 3 Chantilly, 8-3, vs. No. 2 Westfield, 9-2
Northwest Region-
No. 4 Osbourn, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Battlefield, 10-0
No. 3 C.D. Hylton, 7-3, vs. No. 2 Woodbridge, 10-0
Group AAA Divison 5
Central Region
No. 4 Douglas Freeman, 7-3, vs. No. 1 Dinwiddie, 9-1
No. 3 Monacan, 7-3, vs. No. 2 Hanover, 7-3
Eastern Region
No. 4 Hampton, 10-1, vs. No. 1 Lake Taylor, 11-0
No. 3 Green Run, 10-1, vs. No. 2 Phoebus, 11-0
Northern Region
No. 4 James Madison, 7-4, vs. No. 1 Edison, 11-0
No. 3 Mount Vernon, 9-2, vs. No. 2 Stone Bridge, 11-0
Northwest Region
No. 4 GW-Danville, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Brooke Point, 9-1
No. 3 Liberty-Bealeton, 8-2, vs. No. 2 William Fleming, 9-1
Group AA Divison 4
Region I
No. 4 Courtland, 7-3, vs. No. 1 Chancellor, 10-0
No. 3 Tabb, 8-2, vs. No. 2 Powhatan, 9-1
Region II
No. 4 Loudoun County, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Broad Run, 10-0
No. 3 James Wood, 8-2, vs. No. 2 Potomac Falls, 9-1
Region III-
No. 4 Harrisonburg, 8-3, vs. No. 1 Amherst, 9-1
No. 3 Jefferson Forest, 8-3, va. No. 2 Turner Ashby, 8-2
Region IV
No. 4 Blacksburg, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Pulaski County, 10-0
No. 3 Bassett, 7-3, vs. No. 2 Salem, 8-2
Group AA Divison 3
Region I
No. 4 Brunswick, 7-3, vs. No. 1 James Monroe, 9-1
No. 3 Nottoway, 7-3, vs. No. 2 Poquoson, 8-2
Region II
No. 4 Millbrook, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Handley, 9-1
No. 3 Briar Woods, 8-2, vs. No. 2 Monticello, 9-1
Region III
No. 4 Northside, 6-5, vs. No. 1 Brookville, 10-0
No. 3 Liberty-Bedford, 7-4, vs. No. 2 R.E. Lee-Staunton, 9-1
Region IV
No. 4 Graham, 4-6, vs. No. 1 Tazewell, 8-2
No. 3 Patrick County, 7-3, vs. No. 2 Richlands, 7-3
Group A Division 2
Region A
No. 4 Northampton, 4-5, vs. No. 1 Essex, 10-0
No. 3 King William, 6-4, vs. No. 2 W&L-Montross, 8-2
Region B
No. 4 Goochland, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Gretna, 9-1
No. 3 Appomattox, 8-2, vs. No. 2 Clarke County, 8-2
Region C
No. 4 George Wythe-Wytheville, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Floyd County, 10-0
No. 3 Giles, 6-4, vs. No. 2 Chilhowie, 9-1
Region D
No. 4 Powell Valley, 5-5, vs. No. 1 Gate City, 8-2
No. 3 Lebanon, 7-3, vs. No. 2 J.J. Kelly, 7-3
Group A Divison 1
Region A
No. 4 West Point, 7-3, vs. No.1 Colonial Beach, 10-0
No. 3 Sussex Central, 7-3, vs. No. 2 Franklin 8-2
Region B
No. 4 Riverheads, 7-3, vs. No. 1 William Campbell, 9-1
No. 3 Buffalo Gap, 10-0, vs. No. 2 Cumberland, 8-2
Region C
No. 4 Eastern Montgomery, 5-5, vs. No. 1 Holston, 9-1
No. 3 Bath County, 6-4, vs. No. 2 Bland County, 9-1
Region D
No. 4 Thomas Walker, 6-4, vs. No. 1 Clintwood, 9-1
No. 3 Haysi, 8-2, va. No. 2 J.I.Burton, 9-1

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