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Rematch for the region title

Pulaski County and Salem have met each other a bunch of times on the football field, 33 times in fact, and the Cougars hold a one-game edge in the series. The rivalry has been every bit that close over the years too.
The two premier prep football programs in this region of Virginia have collided often times with district championships, playoffs berths, and such on the line. It’s a big game anytime the two lock horns on the gridiron, but it’s hard to remember a matchup between the Cougars and Spartans any bigger than the one that will take place at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium / Joel Hicks Field in just a few hours. The temperature promises to be chilly. It likely won’t matter concerning the action on the field or the attendance in the stands. This game is big.
At stake is the Region Four, Division 4 championship, and a berth in the state semi-final game. Only once before (2001) have the two teams met with the prize to the winner being of that magnitude. Pulaski County won both matchups and won the district and region crowns in that year. But the players on the two teams today likely don’t even remember the first such matchup with the region title at stake so it doesn’t really matter what happened seven years ago.
Pulaski County hopes to keep its storybook season alive. The Cougars are 11-0 on the year, one of only two undefeated Division 4 teams left in the state. The Cougars won the River Ridge District title two weeks ago with a 34-24 win over the Spartans, but had to rally in the second half to pull it off, and it was one of those times when the ball bounced the way of the Cougar. Pulaski County wants desperately to win the region crown, and the state title with a 14-0 record, an accomplishment that would be the greatest ever in school history, and also re-establish the Cougar program as one of the elite in the state. Salem is 9-2, and would like nothing better than to ruin Pulaski County’s dream, and the Spartans are the defending region champs.
Many people no doubt wonder how this game will differ from the first as to how it’s played, strategy and such. Pulaski County head coach Jack Turner says likely the game won’t be much different from a strategic standpoint.
“These two teams have been playing each other for a long time. Most of the coaches on both staffs came up under a system which both still use today for the most part. We’ve studied each other over and over for years. There may be something a little different here or there, but not much will change as far as how the two teams will play the game, except that both of us would like to play better,’’ said Turner.
The Cougar boss says the game will be determined at the line of scrimmage and by the basics of the game.
“If we block ‘em, and tackle well, we’ll have a great chance to win. It’s that simple, and it’s not more complicated than that. Certainly you do not want to make mistakes, penalties and turnovers will kill you in a game like this. We must take care of the football.’’
But with such a big game and so much on the line, there are more things to think about. This is a rivalry after all and there’s some things you want to see, and some things you don’t.
“We must be hungry, and we must play that way. We’ve worked so hard all season and these kids have achieved great things, but there is so much more. You always want to play your best and that will take a great attitude, maximum effort, focus, desire, and execution. If you get all those things, you get a great game. Salem wants to knock us off. We know that. It would make their season. They will come at us with everything they’ve got. We must be ready to take them on. We must be ready to meet the challenge. Everything we’ve worked for is on the line. We do not want to see Salem celebrate a win on our field, but Salem is Salem. They’ve won three of the last four region titles, and they will not want to let somebody else get it, particularly Pulaski County,’’ said Turner.
Turner says there is a key to the game. “Salem says they want to play more physical than they did the first time. Well, that’s also what we need to do. For everybody in our program, this is the most important game they’ve ever played in. We need to swarm all over their offense. We’re still not sure if Salem respects us, and there’s only one way to make sure we get that respect, and that’s to beat them again.’’
The starting offensive front for Salem will have Joey Bikkers (5-10, 220 jr.) at center, Matt Carr (6-1, 242 sr.) and Kyle Wilson (6-0, 237 jr.) will be the guards, the tackles will be Tyler Person (6-4, 232 sr.) and Chris Sweatt (5-10, 250 sr.). The tight end is Hunter Cox. The quarterback is junior Hunter Sturgill and he has passed for over 800 yards in the last four Salem games. Daniel Dyer and Adam Collie will see most of the time at fullback, Kirk Coles is the team’s leading rusher at tailback and Antonio Medley will also get some carries too from the tailback spot.
The leading receiver for the Spartans is wideout Donte Harvey, and he caught nine passes against Pulaski County in the first matchup, and he is also a big threat in the kick returning department and has brought back four on the season. The Barnette twins (Stephen and Reggie) will also be utilized as wide receivers and both have excellent speed and leaping ability that helps them make big plays downfield.
Defensively, Salem will have Jacob Semones (5-11, 225 soph.) at the nose tackle position, Brandyn Turley (6-1, 247 sr.) and Ryan Dowe (6-1, 230 sr.) will be the other two tackles. The outside linebackers will be Jonathan Walker (6-0, 193 sr.) and Seth Fisher (6-1, 185 soph.). The inside linebackers will be Phillip Hugues (6-2, 187 jr.) and Lang Hawkins (6-1, 208 sr.). Reggie Barnette and Harvey will be the corners, and Kyle Schwizer and Jackson Bradley are the twin safties.
For Pulaski County Tim Wojcik (5-9, 265 sr.) will be the center, Ralph Miller (5-9, 245 sr.) and Cam Bailey (6-1, 265 sr.) will be the guards, Josh Miller (6-3, 305 sr.) and Josh Lambert (6-5, 230 soph.) will be the tackles. Brandon Hazzard (6-0, 245 sr.) will be the tight end.
The quarterback will be Luke Watson (6-1, 180 jr.), the fullback Seth Parris (6-0, 190 sr.), and the halfbacks Nubian Peak (5-11, 190 sr.) and Jolly Martin (6-0, 165 jr.). Fans can also expect to see E.J. Dobbins  (5-11, 225 sr.) get playing time at fullback as well. The wide receivers will be Zane Quesenberry (5-11, 170 sr.), Taylor Akers (5-8, 150 jr.) and Antwyn Calfee (6-1, 175 sr.).
Peak is the team’s leading rusher with 1,226 yards, and also leads the team in scoring with 124 points, Parris has 635 yards and 72 points, Matt Songer has 45 kicking points on the season, Dobbins has 268 yards and 42 points, Martin 399 yards and 30 points, and Watson has rushed for 370 yards and 18 points. Watson has also passed for 849 yards, completing 42 of 81 aerials with only three interceptions and six touchdowns, and has a total offense (rushing and passing) of 1,219 yards. Peak is also the leading receiver with 13 catches for 211 yards and Quesenberry has caught nine aerials for 245 yards.
The starting defense for Pulaski County will have Jared Cole (6-0, 230 sr.), Langston Lewis (6-3, 360 sr.), Josh Miller, and Hazzard across the front. The outside linebackers will be Dobbins and Parris. The inside linebackers will be Tahrick Peak (6-2, 200 jr.) and C.J. Burleson (6-0, 200 sr.). Trey Smith and Calfee will be the corners and Akers will see action as well, and Quesenberry will be the safety. Nubian Peak also could see action in the secondary again. Songer will handle all the kicking chores, and Logan Haynes will be the punter.
The Cougar defense has come up with 21 total turnovers on the season and given the ball up just five times for a super plus-16 ratio. Josh Miller and Hazzard have both recovered two fumbles. Quesenberry leads the way with seven pass interceptions, Nubian Peak and Calfee both have two.
Tahrick Peak leads the team in tackles with 127, but it’s been an outstanding team defensive effort in 2008 as nine Cougars have over 50 total tackles. Following Tahrick Peak are Quesenberry (79), Burleson (73), Dobbins, Hazzard, Lewis, Cole, Calfee, and Josh Miller.
PLAYOFF NOTES:  Both Pulaski County and Salem were equally impressive with opening round playoff victories last Friday. The Cougars whacked Blacksburg 42-0, and the Spartans blitzed Bassett 41-0 … Ticket gates will open to Dobson Stadium at 5:30 Friday … The lower ticket gate will once again be open … In the Region Three, Division 4 final, Amherst is hosting Jefferson-Forest. The winner of the Region Four championship game will host Region Three, so that means should Pulaski County defeat Salem a second time, the Cougars will have the home field advantage in the state semi-final next week against either Amherst or J-F … With a victory, the 2008 team would become only the second in school history to post a 12-0 record. The first time a Cougar squad won its first 12 games was the 1993 team and it got to 13-0 before falling in the Group AAA, Division 6 state title game to Annandale. 

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Rematch for the region title

Pulaski County and Salem have met each other a bunch of times on the football field, 33 times in fact, and the Cougars hold a one-game edge in the series. The rivalry has been every bit that close over the years too.
The two premier prep football programs in this region of Virginia have collided often times with district championships, playoffs berths, and such on the line. It’s a big game anytime the two lock horns on the gridiron, but it’s hard to remember a matchup between the Cougars and Spartans any bigger than the one that will take place at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium / Joel Hicks Field in just a few hours. The temperature promises to be chilly. It likely won’t matter concerning the action on the field or the attendance in the stands. This game is big.
At stake is the Region Four, Division 4 championship, and a berth in the state semi-final game. Only once before (2001) have the two teams met with the prize to the winner being of that magnitude. Pulaski County won both matchups and won the district and region crowns in that year. But the players on the two teams today likely don’t even remember the first such matchup with the region title at stake so it doesn’t really matter what happened seven years ago.
Pulaski County hopes to keep its storybook season alive. The Cougars are 11-0 on the year, one of only two undefeated Division 4 teams left in the state. The Cougars won the River Ridge District title two weeks ago with a 34-24 win over the Spartans, but had to rally in the second half to pull it off, and it was one of those times when the ball bounced the way of the Cougar. Pulaski County wants desperately to win the region crown, and the state title with a 14-0 record, an accomplishment that would be the greatest ever in school history, and also re-establish the Cougar program as one of the elite in the state. Salem is 9-2, and would like nothing better than to ruin Pulaski County’s dream, and the Spartans are the defending region champs.
Many people no doubt wonder how this game will differ from the first as to how it’s played, strategy and such. Pulaski County head coach Jack Turner says likely the game won’t be much different from a strategic standpoint.
“These two teams have been playing each other for a long time. Most of the coaches on both staffs came up under a system which both still use today for the most part. We’ve studied each other over and over for years. There may be something a little different here or there, but not much will change as far as how the two teams will play the game, except that both of us would like to play better,’’ said Turner.
The Cougar boss says the game will be determined at the line of scrimmage and by the basics of the game.
“If we block ‘em, and tackle well, we’ll have a great chance to win. It’s that simple, and it’s not more complicated than that. Certainly you do not want to make mistakes, penalties and turnovers will kill you in a game like this. We must take care of the football.’’
But with such a big game and so much on the line, there are more things to think about. This is a rivalry after all and there’s some things you want to see, and some things you don’t.
“We must be hungry, and we must play that way. We’ve worked so hard all season and these kids have achieved great things, but there is so much more. You always want to play your best and that will take a great attitude, maximum effort, focus, desire, and execution. If you get all those things, you get a great game. Salem wants to knock us off. We know that. It would make their season. They will come at us with everything they’ve got. We must be ready to take them on. We must be ready to meet the challenge. Everything we’ve worked for is on the line. We do not want to see Salem celebrate a win on our field, but Salem is Salem. They’ve won three of the last four region titles, and they will not want to let somebody else get it, particularly Pulaski County,’’ said Turner.
Turner says there is a key to the game. “Salem says they want to play more physical than they did the first time. Well, that’s also what we need to do. For everybody in our program, this is the most important game they’ve ever played in. We need to swarm all over their offense. We’re still not sure if Salem respects us, and there’s only one way to make sure we get that respect, and that’s to beat them again.’’
The starting offensive front for Salem will have Joey Bikkers (5-10, 220 jr.) at center, Matt Carr (6-1, 242 sr.) and Kyle Wilson (6-0, 237 jr.) will be the guards, the tackles will be Tyler Person (6-4, 232 sr.) and Chris Sweatt (5-10, 250 sr.). The tight end is Hunter Cox. The quarterback is junior Hunter Sturgill and he has passed for over 800 yards in the last four Salem games. Daniel Dyer and Adam Collie will see most of the time at fullback, Kirk Coles is the team’s leading rusher at tailback and Antonio Medley will also get some carries too from the tailback spot.
The leading receiver for the Spartans is wideout Donte Harvey, and he caught nine passes against Pulaski County in the first matchup, and he is also a big threat in the kick returning department and has brought back four on the season. The Barnette twins (Stephen and Reggie) will also be utilized as wide receivers and both have excellent speed and leaping ability that helps them make big plays downfield.
Defensively, Salem will have Jacob Semones (5-11, 225 soph.) at the nose tackle position, Brandyn Turley (6-1, 247 sr.) and Ryan Dowe (6-1, 230 sr.) will be the other two tackles. The outside linebackers will be Jonathan Walker (6-0, 193 sr.) and Seth Fisher (6-1, 185 soph.). The inside linebackers will be Phillip Hugues (6-2, 187 jr.) and Lang Hawkins (6-1, 208 sr.). Reggie Barnette and Harvey will be the corners, and Kyle Schwizer and Jackson Bradley are the twin safties.
For Pulaski County Tim Wojcik (5-9, 265 sr.) will be the center, Ralph Miller (5-9, 245 sr.) and Cam Bailey (6-1, 265 sr.) will be the guards, Josh Miller (6-3, 305 sr.) and Josh Lambert (6-5, 230 soph.) will be the tackles. Brandon Hazzard (6-0, 245 sr.) will be the tight end.
The quarterback will be Luke Watson (6-1, 180 jr.), the fullback Seth Parris (6-0, 190 sr.), and the halfbacks Nubian Peak (5-11, 190 sr.) and Jolly Martin (6-0, 165 jr.). Fans can also expect to see E.J. Dobbins  (5-11, 225 sr.) get playing time at fullback as well. The wide receivers will be Zane Quesenberry (5-11, 170 sr.), Taylor Akers (5-8, 150 jr.) and Antwyn Calfee (6-1, 175 sr.).
Peak is the team’s leading rusher with 1,226 yards, and also leads the team in scoring with 124 points, Parris has 635 yards and 72 points, Matt Songer has 45 kicking points on the season, Dobbins has 268 yards and 42 points, Martin 399 yards and 30 points, and Watson has rushed for 370 yards and 18 points. Watson has also passed for 849 yards, completing 42 of 81 aerials with only three interceptions and six touchdowns, and has a total offense (rushing and passing) of 1,219 yards. Peak is also the leading receiver with 13 catches for 211 yards and Quesenberry has caught nine aerials for 245 yards.
The starting defense for Pulaski County will have Jared Cole (6-0, 230 sr.), Langston Lewis (6-3, 360 sr.), Josh Miller, and Hazzard across the front. The outside linebackers will be Dobbins and Parris. The inside linebackers will be Tahrick Peak (6-2, 200 jr.) and C.J. Burleson (6-0, 200 sr.). Trey Smith and Calfee will be the corners and Akers will see action as well, and Quesenberry will be the safety. Nubian Peak also could see action in the secondary again. Songer will handle all the kicking chores, and Logan Haynes will be the punter.
The Cougar defense has come up with 21 total turnovers on the season and given the ball up just five times for a super plus-16 ratio. Josh Miller and Hazzard have both recovered two fumbles. Quesenberry leads the way with seven pass interceptions, Nubian Peak and Calfee both have two.
Tahrick Peak leads the team in tackles with 127, but it’s been an outstanding team defensive effort in 2008 as nine Cougars have over 50 total tackles. Following Tahrick Peak are Quesenberry (79), Burleson (73), Dobbins, Hazzard, Lewis, Cole, Calfee, and Josh Miller.
PLAYOFF NOTES:  Both Pulaski County and Salem were equally impressive with opening round playoff victories last Friday. The Cougars whacked Blacksburg 42-0, and the Spartans blitzed Bassett 41-0 … Ticket gates will open to Dobson Stadium at 5:30 Friday … The lower ticket gate will once again be open … In the Region Three, Division 4 final, Amherst is hosting Jefferson-Forest. The winner of the Region Four championship game will host Region Three, so that means should Pulaski County defeat Salem a second time, the Cougars will have the home field advantage in the state semi-final next week against either Amherst or J-F … With a victory, the 2008 team would become only the second in school history to post a 12-0 record. The first time a Cougar squad won its first 12 games was the 1993 team and it got to 13-0 before falling in the Group AAA, Division 6 state title game to Annandale. 

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