by DAN CALLAHAN
SWT Sports Editor
Pulaski County has finally found the formula on offense. Friday against number two state ranked Magna Vista, the Cougars rushed for 348 yards out of the “wing-T” attack, a season high, garnered 17 first downs, a season high, and scored 28 points, another season high, but they could not contain the Magna Vista passing game, and fell to 0-5 at Homecoming, 35-28. The Warriors are now 5-0 on the season.
In fact, the five teams that Pulaski County has now faced this season have a combined total of just three defeats, and 21 victories. Magna Vista avoided an upset and outstanding effort by the Cougars because with its running game shut down, it’s passing game hit home runs all night.
Quarterback Harvey Taylor who averages over 150 yards rushing a game was held to 42, but he used his arm. He usually didn’t throw the ball very far, sometimes no more than 10 yards in the air, but it’s what happened after the short catches that was the problem. Taylor was 17 of 23 for 442 yards and four touchdowns. DeShaun Penn caught 12 passes for 218 yards, and Jalen Hayden caught six for 190, the most yards ever surrendered passing in a game in Pulaski County history, but still, it took a drive in the final two minutes for the Warriors to put the game away.
Cougar head coach Todd Jones was again pleased with his team’s effort, but disappointed not to win. “We had a good plan. We had to take away something and give something. We took away the run (MV had only seven yards rushing with less than two minutes left in the game), because Taylor has been the biggest offensive threat around for the past two years. We hoped he wouldn’t have a great game passing and that we would defend better. Taylor still made a couple of big plays because he scrambled, and Magna Vista has talent and speed in the skill areas.”
But mistakes were also huge in this game, as well as missed opportunities. Pulaski County came up short on fourth and a foot at the Magna Vista four in the second quarter, the Cougars lost a fumble on a kickoff to setup the Warriors’ second touchdown, and also fumbled the ball away on first down at the MV 15,
“Against a team like Magna Vista you can’t turn the ball over. It’s hard enough to stop them without giving them extra possessions and taking away our own possessions. Not punching it in down deep before the half hurt us. You get just so many opportunities, and we can’t let them get away.”
Still, down in the pit, the Cougars took it to Magna Vista, and didn’t back down from a big challenge. Jones was pleased with his team’s effort.
“Hey, the kids battled them all the way. I’m very proud of that. I’m pleased with our offensive production. We got a lot of people involved in the effort. I think we’re where we need to be with our offense now. We need to get something going with the passing game, and losing is just very frustrating, but you take hope in the fact that the kids continue to practice well, and continue to get ready to play. We’ll keep working. We’ve got a week off. It should help the team to get a little rest, and then in two weeks we take on Christiansburg. It’s our first district game, a new season,” said Jones.
In the past month the Cougars have played the second, seventh, and 11th ranked teams in the state and Christiansburg is the number one ranked team in the state in Group AA, so for sure, Pulaski County is battle tested.
Pulaski County took the lead in the game, 7-0 on a four-yard run by fullback Pierce Rigney who had the biggest offensive night of his career, rushing 27 times for 191 yards, but after just one play following the kickoff Taylor flipped to Hayden on a “bubble screen” and he zipped 86 yards to tie the game.
Then came the first fumble following the kickoff and Magna Vista had to travel only 30 yards and Taylor hit Penn on a crossing pattern from 13 yards out and it was, 14-7. Just before the half, the Cougars were stopped short at the Warriors’ four.
In the third quarter Taylor passed to Hayden on the sideline at the line of scrimmage, but he got by Cougar tacklers and ran 85 yards to the end zone, and it was, 21-7 MV, but back came the Cougars and Rigney popped a 57-yard run to the Warriors’ 17 only to fumble on the next play. Late in the third quarter Taylor got away from a Cougar rush and lofted a pass down the middle to Penn who scored from 93 yards out. Magna Vista had three touchdowns of 85 yards or more.
But with the Cougars down, 28-7, they began a comeback and drove 57 yards in seven plays and Rick Cobbs scored from a yard out, and it was, 28-14 with 11:34 left to play, and following the kickoff the Warriors decided to go for a first down on fourth and two and Taylor was thrown for a four-yard loss, and then a 15-yard penalty on MV resulted in a Cougar first down at the Warriors’ 29. Three plays later Cobbs zipped around the right side from three yards out and the margin was down to just seven, 28-21 with 8:59 still left in the game.
The Cougar defense stopped MV again following the kickoff and the momentum was all in Pulaski County’s favor. Following a fourth down punt the Cougars marched 81 yards in 10 plays and tied the game, 28-28 after Rigney bulled to paydirt from 10 yards out. Zack Akers hit all the conversion kicks for Pulaski County.
But then in the final 2:40 Magna Vista drove 85 yards in six plays and Taylor scored on a three-yard run with just :47 left in the game for the final, 35-28 score.
In addition to Rigney’s big night, Cobbs also ran for 83 yards on eight carries for Pulaski County, Marcus McClanahan had 47 yards on 13 rushes, and Cody Long had 27 yards on eight carries. Rigney also recovered a fumble for the Cougars. Pulaski County was only one of eight passing for 11 yards, and a total offense of 359. Taylor, Penn, and Hayden were almost all of Maga Vista’s output. The Warriors ran for just 47 yards on 28 tries. MV also had 17 first downs.