VIEW FROM THE SIDELINES
By DAVID GRAVELY
SWT Sports Editor
Pulaski County dropped a game that most people thought they should have never even played Friday night, falling to the Giles Spartans 28-21.
Nobody likes to get beat, especially when it’s to a team that you SHOULD beat. Let’s face the facts, Giles is a school in the new 1A ranks and Pulaski County is a 4A school. Giles High School should not beat Pulaski County. That’s not a knock on Giles, in fact the Spartans should use it. The way they played Friday night, you would think someone had painted it on their locker room walls after the Cougars won the same game a year ago.
Giles has a solid football team, they run an offense that is tough to stop, and they did their jobs. On top of that, they didn’t make a bunch of mistakes that cost them. They fumbled the ball one time, but they recovered it. They didn’t throw any interceptions. Other than having to punt the ball a few times against air (there were no live special teams plays Friday night) the Spartans did everything they were supposed to do to win.
The Cougars did make some mistakes though, and those mistakes hurt.
“We can’t fumble the ball,” said Cougar Head Coach Todd Jones after the game. “We were driving the ball and put it on the ground. You just can’t do that. We dropped it a few times tonight. When we made good snaps and held on to the ball, we moved it. We just need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot.”
The Cougars also did some other things Friday night that may not have helped themselves during the game, but will absolutely help them out over the course of the season.
“We challenged some younger players,” said Jones. “We put some young men in positions that they normally wouldn’t play in. We know we have seniors on this team, but we ask a bunch of juniors to show up and make a mark tonight. Austin Harless, Damon Akers, and Tyler Gravely went in and did what we ask them to do. They made some mistakes, but the effort was there. We also had sophomores Noah Patterson and Chase Huff, and seniors Mike McDonald, Brad Rupe, Rob Quesenberry, and Justin Trail getting in quality time tonight. For most of these guys, this is the first time they have seen a lot of time on varsity, so they had to adjust. We saw some good things from them. They’re all very coachable. We can do something with that. I think we added some depth tonight.”
There is no question about it, the Cougars have work to do. They need to tackle better, and they need to do it now. Arm tackling is not going to get the job done. The offensive line did well at times, but then there were other times Johnston or the running backs were in trouble quick. There were a few penalties that had the coaches shaking their heads, like a fourth quarter face mask that moved a drive deeper into Cougar territory. The Cougar defense held their ground several times in key situations, but would then turn around and give up big yardage plays.
“We know what we need to work on,” said Jones. “We need to get things tightened up. We need the guys to get a little tougher and continue to get better every time we play. As many mistakes as we made tonight, I also saw some positive things. When Tabor chased the running back down to save a touchdown, he could have just given up, but the didn’t. When Heath White had that pass come his way down the center of the field, the defender had position. Heath could have just given up, but he didn’t. He went up and got the ball. We dropped some passes tonight, but we also made some good catches. I like this team, and I believe in them. We just need to keep pushing each other to get better. We need everybody.”
I’ve always said it’s not my job to coach the team, it’s my job to report what happens with them and what I see. Tonight, I saw a bunch of young men getting on the field that may or may not get that chance during the regular season games. They were playing in positions they may or may not play in during the regular season. The Cougar coaching staff will now be able to go back to the film room and take a look and see how they did.
I don’t think there is a doubt in anyones mind that the guys who have been there for years…..the guys like Marcus Johnston, Dillon Alley, Kareem Calfee, and James Reynolds…..know how to get the job done. I don’t think anyone doubts for a second that Tyler Ervine and Jake Tabor are speedy, David “Pocket Rocket” Hale type impact players. Everybody knows that Heath White and J.D. Sutphin will tackle a tree or small building if they’re told too.
Tonight answered questions, and possibly gave the Cougars some much needed depth.
“Our kids never gave up, they were still ready to go when the clock ran out,” said Jones. “They kept fighting and didn’t panic. I know we lost, and I don’t like to lose, but I think we got better as a team tonight.”
We’ll find out next week. The Cougars will have the weekend to rest up and allow the coaches to put a plan together, and then things are for real. The Christiansburg Blue Demons are coming to Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium this Friday for week one action. The Blue Demons defeated Blacksburg 19-10 in a benefit game Friday night in Blacksburg.
Pulaski County needs to get better, and they need to do it now. The schedule will not get any easier as the season goes on, with many of the ten teams scheduled expected to contend for a playoff spot in the new conference alignment setup. Winning is the only way to make sure you reach your goals.
I plan to be there early, eat some of that good Golden Cougar Marching Band barbecue, and wait for the PRIDE OF PULASKI COUNTY to walk down those 63 steps.
It’s finally football season Pulaski County.