By DAVID GRAVELY
SWT Sports Editor
Cougar football fans will get their first chance to see live game action this Friday night, as Pulaski will host the Giles Spartans in a foundation game at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium.
For anyone who doesn’t know, a foundation game is basically an extra game allowed by the Virginia High School League, as long as certain requirements are met. First, the teams must count the contest as one of their practice sessions. Each team is allowed a certain number of practice sessions prior to the start of their actual games. Second, the host school is required to charge admission and to split the gate receipts of those tickets sales three ways. The host team gets one third, the visiting team gets a third, and the VHSL gets a third.
This is the second season that the Cougars and Spartans have met in a pre-season contest. Last year Pulaski came away with a solid 34-16 win, but for a while it looked like Pulaski could be in trouble. The Cougars started the scoring with an 80-yard drive on their first possession, with Marcus McClanahan getting the ball in the end zone on a 3-yard run. A quick stop by the defense gave the Cougars the ball back, and a pass from quarterback Marcus Johnston to Zack Akers for 11-yards gave Pulaski the 14-0 lead.
Then bad things started to happen for Pulaski. A Giles drive of 80-yards ended with a touchdown pass, and then the Cougars hurt themselves with penalties. Stuck deep in the own territory, the Cougars gave up a safety when the ball was snapped over Johnston’s head on a punt attempt. A long run by the Spartan quarterback with little time left in the first half sent the teams into the locker room with Giles leading 16-14.
The Cougars were able to pull things together in that matchup, and after all was said and done Pulaski had the win. This season the Spartans are hoping for a different outcome.
Giles ended last season with a fine 10-2 record. A week after the matchup with the Cougars, the Spartans defeated Blacksburg 31-16. A 35-14 loss to Christiansburg hurt, but apparently lit a fire under Head Coach Jeff Williams and the Spartans. Wins of 41-29 over Covington, 50-30 over Tazewell, 56-14 over Auburn, 49-28 over Glenvar, 63-12 over Floyd and Eastern Montgomery, and a 41-14 win over Radford ended the regular season on a seven game streak.
The Spartans rode that streak into the playoffs, taking down James River 41-14. The following week saw the end of their season, however, as Giles lost to John Battle 37-14.
While the lineup is still a work in progress to some degree, some things will be starting to firm up this week. Marcus Johnston will start at quarterback, with Brandon Jones lining up as the H-back. The wing-back will be Dillon Alley, with Tyler Ervine at the split-end. The A-back will be Quincy Rollins, and Heath White will line up at the tight-end. The The center spot could still be either Daniel Puckett or Tanner Dotson, with James Reynolds and Dareem Calfee at the tackles. J.D. Sutphin and Bret Smith will line up at the guard spots. The wide receivers could be any combination of Malik Eaves, Austin Harless, or a number of other players.
Defensively, the Cougars will line up with Bret Smith at the nose. Calfee and Reynolds will line up at the tackle spots, with Jake Callahan most likely at the middle linebacker spot. The outside linebackers will be Sutphin and White. The cornerbacks will be a combination of Jesse Draper, Marcus Payne, and Eaves. Brandon Jones and Alley will line up as the strong safeties, and the safety will be Jake Tabor.
Johnston will handle the punting duties for Pulaski, with Shane Chrisley kicking field goals and extra points.
The junior varsity contest will start things off on Friday, beginning at 4:30, and the varsity game will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5, and are only available at the gate.