By DAN CALLAHAN
RICHLANDS – Pulaski County journeyed down to the southwest region of the state Friday, and got\n caught in a tornado, a blue one, as Richlands outscored the Cougars, 38-21. The Blue Tornado scored on its first five possessions to take a commanding, 31-0 lead, and although the Cougars fought back admirably in the second half, it was just too big a mountain to climb.
The biggest problem for Pulaski County came in a huge package, 6-3, 230 tailback Devon Johnson. He rushed for 212 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns, and caught a 54-yard pass for another touchdown.
Richlands had 275 yards of offense in the first half, and Pulaski County was once again having trouble getting things cranked up offensively, but also hurt itself on two possession when after gaining yardage for a first down fumbled, and another time had first down yardage, but was penalized for holding.
But down, 31-0, Pulaski County started making some plays and ended up with its best overall offensive output of the season against the undefeated Blues (4-0). The remainder of the game, the Cougars outscored Richlands, 21-7.
“I was disappointed with our slow start,” said Pulaski County head coach Todd Jones.
“We also shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times, but we made some changes during the week and I think they helped us, and it’s something we can build on. I’m also proud of the team because it kept playing hard, we didn’t quit after falling so far behind. We challenged them at the half, and we battled them in the second half. Richlands is a good football team, and Johnson is even better than I thought he was, but we really moved the ball well. We’re going to get this thing figured out and as long as the kids keep playing hard, it’s going to happen for us,” said Jones, no doubt frustrated with his team’s 0-4 start to the season.
Richlands scored first on a 66-yard run by Johnson, and then completed a 67-yard drive when quarterback Reece Strong sneaked over from a yard out. It became, 21-0 when Pulaski County lost a fumble at its own 29, and on first down Strong nailed Todd McGlothlin over the middle for the third touchdown of the first quarter for the Blue Tornado. The score became, 28-0 with 11:47 left in the first half when Strong hit Johnson with an aerial out of the backfield and the pass and run play covered 54 yards to the end zone.
The defense stiffened on Richlands’ next possession at its own fiveyard line, but strong hit a 20-yard field goal for, 31-0 with 1:53 left in the half, and at that point the Blue Tornado had scored on all five of its first half possession. Then something good finally happened for Pulaski County. Tailback Marcus McClanahan popped clean off the right side and rambled 65 yards to paydirt with 1:40 left in the half.
Zack Akers kicked the pat for the, 31-7 score at halftime. The second half started out the opposite of the first half. Following the kickoff the Cougar defense forced Richlands to punt. Pulaski County then promptly marched 64 yards in seven plays and scored when Cody Long swept right end from 21 yards out. The pat was wide right, but with 5:59 left in the third quarter the scored was, 31-13. But then back came Johnson.
He ripped off a hole in the left side of the Cougar defense and outran everybody 65 yards to score again. Strong’s conversion made the count, 38-13. The Blue Tornado would threaten a couple more times in the second half, but was held on downs once and Corky Hall blocked a field goal that was recovered by Gabe LeBlanc. Pulaski County had another nice 65-yard touchdown drive on six plays setup when McClanahan romped 60 yards down the left sideline, and then scored from a yard out.
Long ran in the twopoint conversion to cut the lead to, 38-21 with 1:28 left in the third quarter, but Richlands controlled the clock and ran out the game in the fourth quarter. McClanahan had a big game for Pulaski County, rushing for 168 yards on only 12 carries.
Pierce Rigney saw his first action of the season at fullback and ran hard up the middle for 70 yards on a dozen tries. Long finished with 40 yards on six carries. The Cougars ran for 272 yards, and 11 first downs. Tyler Dotson was 0-3 passing. Richlands ran for 307 yards on 38 attempts. In addition to Johnson’s bit numbers, Colton Staton finished with 66 yards on 11 carries. Strong hit on seven of 12 passes for 122 yards.
Richlands finished with 429 total yards of offense and 19 first downs. Dotson suffered an interception, and Hal had a pick for the Cougars.
NOTE: The Pulaski County junior varsity football team picked up its first victory of the season, 28-14 at Giles Thursday evening.