Pulaski County’s football team gave an outstanding effort against a strong Northside squad Saturday afternoon at Dobson Stadium before falling, 17-9.
The loss dropped the Cougars to 0-2 on the season and the Vikings moved to 2-0. Pulaski County will host Patrick Henry Friday at home.
With just 3:18 left to play the Cougars took over at their own 33 after a questionable call on a pass completion stopped Northside on fourth down, but that was not the only debatable call of the game. The Cougars moved 67 yards on just six plays as Marcus Johnston connected with Zack Akers for 36 yards, then Johnson hit Rick Cobbs in the flat who made a nice run of 13 yards to the Viking 26. Marcus McClanahan ran up the gut of the Northside defense for 14 yards to the 12, and on the next play McClanahan roared through the heart of the Viking defense again, but as he stretched the ball out to put it over the goal line he lost control, and Northside recovered in the end zone, and the issue was decided.
It was not a happy Todd Jones at game’s end, but the Pulaski County head coach was a lot more pleased with his squad following a season opening loss at Radford.
“I’m sure disappointed we didn’t win, but I’m proud of the effort our team gave out there in the heat today. We blew a pass coverage on the very first offensive play of the game for Northside and gave up an easy touchdown, but we stayed strong, and we battled all the way. We did a better job up front, we took it to ‘em, and offensively we played much more physical. Our defense gave up two or three big plays in the passing game, but you have to give their quarterback (Adam Hardister) credit. He’s going to make some plays on you, but other than that, the defense played physical and tough.”
“I thought McClanahan ran the football like a tailback is supposed to, he was impressive today. All we needed was to make two or three more plays in the game, and it’s about making plays, and if we had we would have won. We were close, and that hurts, but I feel so much better about our team,’’ said Jones.
Northside took the lead on its very first play when Hardister passed down the middle to Tyler Fisher and the play went for 84 yards and a quick 7-0 lead for the Vikings.
Gradually field position turned in Pulaski County’s favor, and after a poor Northside punt it was first down for the Cougars at the Vikings’ 38. On fourth down Johnston passed to Akers on a crossing pattern to score from 33 yards out. After Akers hit the extra point it was 7-7 with 8:44 left in the first half.
Northside drove with the kickoff and moved from its own 30 to the Pulaski County15, but on second and five a botched handoff in the backfield resulted in third down from the 19. Sean Joyner hit a 32-yard field goal for a 10-7 Northside lead at the half.
The offenses could not move the football as the second half began and once again the Cougar defense had Northside backed up. On a fourth down punt the snap was high and out the back of the end zone and it was, 10-9 Vikings after the safety.
Late in the third quarter Hardister did it again for Northside when he connected with Sam Krizner from 34 yards out and the Vikings pushed the lead to, 17-9. Two possessions later it looked like Hardister was moving his offense to a clinching touchdown, but the Cougar defense was giving up ground grudgingly, forcing the Vikings to convert on third down passes twice, but then it was fourth down at the Pulaski County 33.
An out pattern that looked to be a completion was ruled no catch, and the Cougars took over facing a long field with little time remaining.
But the offense came to life and moved the ball relentlessly down the field until the fateful fumble that ended the battle.
Pulaski County rushed for 145 yards and it was almost all McClanahan as the junior tailback ran for 128 yards on 23 carries. The Cougars were 11 of 29 passing for 138 yards with Akers catching nine aerials for 120 yards and the Cougar touchdown. McClanahan and Akers accounted for 248 of Pulaski County’s 283 total yards.
Johnston and Tyler Dotson were a combined 11 of 29 passing. Johnston was eight of 19 for 100 yards with a touchdown and interception, Dotson was three of 10 for 38 yards.
Hardister led Northside with 153 yards passing even though he was only six of 14, but connected on some big throws. The Cougar defense held the Vikings to just 99 yards rushing on 39 attempts, and 252 total yards. The two long touchdown passes, and the late second quarter drive that resulted in the field goal we’re about it offensively for the Vikings.
Pulaski County garnered 18 first downs, Northside just 10.
“Just about everything was better,’’ said Jones commenting on his team’s performance. “It would have been great to play last week like we did today, but that breaks down to being consistent. We’ve got to be more consistent in our execution. We played tougher today, but we’ve still got to play even tougher and better.”
“We ran the ball hard, played strong, aggressive defense, and played so much better, but we still didn’t win. The improvement was obvious, but we need to win, and we need to get that first win over Patrick Henry Friday,’’ said Jones.