By Dan Callahan
Pulaski County’s football team saw its record fall to 0-3 on the season Friday night in Dobson Stadium suffering a disappointing, 31-7 defeat to Patrick Henry. The Patriots moved to 3-0 on the season.
The Cougar offense continued to struggle, gaining just 82 yards of total offense in the game, four first downs, and one of those came on a penalty. The defense held early, but gave up the big play that hurt the cause, however, for the third straight game, the Pulaski County stop unit was on the field too long as the offense went three or four and out on nine of 12 possessions in the game.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Cougar head coach Todd Jones. “I’m disappointed that we couldn’t move the football, but I’m also disappointed that on third and long when we’re one play from forcing PH to punt from its own end zone, and it’s a 10-7 game in the third quarter, and we bust an assignment and a simple quarterback counter play goes for a 93-yard touchdown. I couldn’t believe it. We had a great kickoff return to start the second half, and then we slam it in the end zone and cut the lead to just three. Then we have them backed up and we’ve got all the momentum and let it get away on one play.”
There were other problems as Pulaski County continued to struggle with its kicking game. There was a bad snap that gave PH a scoring opportunity, one punt of just 12 yards, a fumbled kickoff inside its own 10, and another downed kickoff inside its own 10. The running backs had little room to run.
“We’ve got to get that stuff fixed,” said Jones. “We’ve got to clean up our kicking game. We’re still a work in progress up front. We’ve got to look at a lot of things. We’re just not as consistent as we should be. I guess I need to coach better. I’ll take the blame. Patrick Henry has a good team and certainly they deserve some credit, but we’ve got to keep working. We’ve got to figure out a way to get better, and I believe we can. Our effort is good, our kids are good, they want to win, and I want them to win. We’ve just got to keep working and figure it out,” says Jones.
PH took a 10-0 first half lead on an eight-yard touchdown pass from David Prince to Cortez Ogden, and a 34-yard field goal by Jacob Otterman. The Patriots had 161 yards of total offense at the half and nine first downs, Pulaski County had only 52 total yards and one first down.
But things seemed to turn quickly with the second half kickoff. Keantie Houston ripped off a 73-yard return all the way to the PH 23, and suddenly the Cougars ran through gaping holes in the Patriot defense. On first down tailback Marcus McClanahan powered for 13 yards to a first and goal at the 10, and on the very next play quarterback Marcus Johnston zipped up the gut into the end zone. Following Zack Akers’ conversion kick, the margin was cut to just three, 10-7 and the Cougars were back in the game.
It looked even better when the kickoff return by PH was smothered at the 11. Three plays later it was third and 14 from the seven. Then came the game’s biggest play. Prince faked a handoff to the right, then turned and slipped through a hole off the left side of the Cougar defense, he cleared the linebackers, and cut toward the sideline. It appeared two Cougar defenders had the angle, but it didn’t matter. Prince took off and nobody was going to catch him, 93 yards later he touched paydirt. Otterman kicked the conversion and suddenly with 9:54 on the clock in the third quarter, PH was back on top by 10, 17-7.
On the kickoff Pulaski County fumbled, but the Cougar defense held even though PH had a first and goal at the 10, but once again it was three and out for the offense and the punt was only out to the Cougar 31. It took seven plays and Antwann Harriad scored from two yards out out and the steam just seemed to gush out of the Cougars with the score, 24-7. With 7:54 left in the fourth quarter Harriad scored another touchdown from a yard out for the final, 31-7 score.
Prince had a big night for PH. He ran 14 times for 132 yards and a touchdown, and connected on 10 of 19 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. Xavier Whorley rushed 17 times for 81 yards, and Nick Ollie 16 times for 57 yards.
PH totaled 16 first downs, and had 362 yards of total offense.
McClanahan led Pulaski County with 32 yards rushing on 18 attempts, Johnston had 13 yards on eight runs. Johnston connected on three of 14 passes for 33 yards. PH ran 76 plays in the game, the Cougars just 42. Pulaski County travels to Richlands Friday.