By DAVID GRAVELY
Back in September the Cougar football team took the trip to Ridgeway to face off against the Magna Vista Warriors, and the results were not what the team, the coaches, or the fans wanted. The loss was bad enough, but what made it even worse was the long ride home afterwards. The Warriors got a chance to experience that same feeling Friday night after Pulaski County completely dominated them in a lopsided 32-0 win. The win sets up a rematch next week with another team that beat the Cougars in the regular season, the Salem Spartans. Magna Vista ends their season with a 7-4 record.
“Our seniors did a great job of pulling together and getting our guys focused tonight” said Cougar Head Coach Todd Jones. “When you call a timeout and go into that offensive huddle and see guys like Tyler Dotson, Tyler Golden, Zack Akers, Adam Allen, Marcus McClanahan, and James King it gives you a good feeling. I thought they did a great job of keeping our guys calm and under control out there tonight when things were getting heated. Then you add in our underclassmen that did the kind of job they did tonight. This is what we’ve been working towards all season, and this is how we wanted to see them play. We’re going to enjoy this one for a few minutes and then start getting ready for Salem again.”
The good news is that it wasn’t just the offense that came alive tonight. The Cougar defense held Magna Vista to just 11 yards rushing on 32 attempts. Pulaski County sacked the Magna Vista quarterback 8 times, and also added in eight other plays for negative yardage or no gain. The special teams also had a good night, showing a quickness to the ball on kickoffs and punts that they haven’t shown all season. Placekicker Shane Chrisley also connected on 3 of 4 extra point attempts, as well as a 21-yard field goal late in the game. Marcus Johnston had another solid night punting the ball, and while he only punted twice for a 27.5 yard average, those two punts were both big plays. One was a high punt from the 46-yard line that landed at the 26-yard line. The other was a 29 yard effort that pinned the Warriors inside their own 8-yard line.
“We talked to the kids this week about things, and we told them it was time to stand up. It was time to either win or your season is over. We challenged our offense. We didn’t want this to be our last game. Sometimes you have to put things into your seniors hands and just tell them to play Cougar football. They made Pulaski County proud tonight.”
The Cougars got on the board first after forcing the Warriors to punt on their first drive. Starting out on their 46-yard line, Pulaski took 16 plays to move the ball the 54 yards. Marcus Johnston capped the drive off with a one yard run with 2:35 remaining in the first quarter. Chrisleys PAT put the score at 7-0, and the Cougar defense went back to work forcing another punt. This time the Cougars took over at the 47-yard line, but the drive this time was much quicker. It only took three plays, with Zack Akers breaking free for a 31-yard scoring run with :37 second remaining in the quarter. Chrisley was again good on the PAT, moving the score to 14-0. Magna Vista started driving the ball late in the second quarter, but on second down a Calin Jamison pass was intercepted by Malik Eaves to end the threat.
The second half would start with the Cougars running the ball into the heart of the Warriors defense. Johnston ran for 75 of the 80 yards on the scoring drive, including an incredible 52-yard scamper that put him in position to score from 3 yards out on the next play. Chrisley kicked the PAT, and you could tell that the Cougars were starting to believe. Another quick stop by the Pulaski defense gave the Cougar offense the ball back, and on third down and long Johnston faked the handoff and dropped back to pass. He sent the ball into the waiting hands of tight-end Codie Blevins, who rambled the rest of the way into the end zone for a 30-yard score. The PAT by Chrisley hit the upright and was no good, leaving Pulaski ahead 27-0.
The entire game was physical, but there were some bone jarring hits in the second half. Players from both sides were penalized for rough play, and a crushing blow from Keante Houston ended the next Magna Vista drive. The Cougars took over, and a slow and steady dose of the ground game moved the ball to the Warriors 2-yard line before the Cougars were stopped. The damage was adding up though, and the 16 plays had taken their toll on the tired Warriors. After Keon Mabin was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct, the Warriors took over at the two-yard line. On the first play, Pulaski defensive lineman Ian Calfee overpowered the man across from him and swallowed up the Magna Vista quarterback for a safety. The Cougars took the free kick out to the 43-yard line, and again slowly ground the ball down the field before Chrisley hit a 21-yard field goal to move the score to 32-0. The Cougars started clearing the bench, and the celebration was on.
“Our offensive line did a great job tonight” said Coach Jones. “The backs ran hard, we had great downfield blocking, and we were able to eat up the clock and move the chains. We protected the football. I thought our defensive coaches did a great job getting our kids ready. Heath White, J.D. Sutphin, Adam Allen, James King, and several others just did a great job of bottling up their quarterback. It was a solid win, and I’m proud of our team. Now we get ready for Salem.”
The Cougars will hit the road for round two against the Spartans, who enjoyed a bye week this week thanks to their number one seeding in the Region.