By JP WIDNER
SWT Sports Writer
CHRISTIANSBURG- The first official game of the 2013 Pulaski Cougar Junior Varsity football season took place Thursday night against the Christiansburg High School Blue Demons. Before the game was even played, lightning sightings delayed the gridiron action as it sent the teams back to their locker rooms and the fans to the safety of their cars.
Eventually, the contest got underway and it didn’t take long for the Cougars to get on the scoreboard. After a 25-yard kickoff return by Hunter Thomas, Chase Huff sprinted 60 yards down the sideline for the first Cougar touchdown of the night. The extra point kick was missed and Pulaski County High School led 6-0 after just 18 seconds had ticked off the game clock.
Sophomore Kevon Houston led the Cougar defense in their first series with three solo tackles and the Blue Demons were forced to punt after earning two first downs. The Cougars’ offense sputtered in their second attempt as Tyler Sechrist dropped a would-be first down pass from quarterback Landen Lawson.
Bradley Church stepped up to stop the Blue Demons with a sack on a third down and three yards to go and forced the opponent to punt the ball back to the Cougars. The first quarter ended one play later with Pulaski leading Christiansburg 6-0.
On the second play of the second quarter, freshman Hunter Thomas blazed 67 yards to the end zone to up the Cougar lead 12-0. After the two-point conversion pass failed, the Cougar defense worked hard and forced the Blue Demons to punt just six plays later.
On their third offensive play of the series, Lawson connected with sophomore Elliott Brewster for a long 82-yard touchdown pass. The Cougars continued to struggle with extra points as Sechrist dropped another Lawson pass, but the Cougars held an impressive 18-0 lead over the home team with 5:12 left in the first half.
The Blue Demons then rallied with a 13 play, 80-yard drive for their first touchdown of the game with just 12 seconds left before the intermission. Sophomore Bradley Church blocked the extra point and the Cougars led 18-6.
After a nice 38-yard kickoff return by Jamall Edmonds, Lawson was stripped from behind as he attempted to hit paydirt one last time in the first half. Fortunately for Pulaski County, Sechrist pounced on the loose ball as time ran out.
The third quarter started with a massive hit on the kickoff by Elliott Brewster. The defense played well and forced Christiansburg to punt. Then the Cougars offense struggled as well and Hunter Thomas found himself punting again. As the Blue Demon mishandled the punted ball, an alert Brewster jumped on the pigskin at the opponent’s 24-yard line. The Christiansburg defense stiffen and forced the Cougars to turn the ball over on downs four plays later. The third quarter ended with the Cougars ahead 18-6.
The Blue Demons grabbed the momentum from Pulaski County to begin the fourth quarter as their speedy running back outran the Cougar defenders for a 71-yard touchdown on the first play. The extra point kick was missed and the Cougars were clinging to an 18-12 lead.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Jamall Edmonds fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff after picking up 23 yards. Christiansburg recovered at the Cougar’s 32-yard line and looked to tie the game up as the home crowd cheered them on. Chase Huff stepped up right away for the visitors and sacked the Blue Demon quarterback, forcing him to fumble the ball. Cougar linebacker Drew Allen jumped on the loose pigskin to help Pulaski County snuff out another quick score opportunity by Christiansburg.
By this time in the game, the Cougar linemen were running out of energy, and Lawson was under continuous pressure. After being sacked and facing a third down and 20 on the 34-yard line, the game was delayed once again due to lightning in the area. The teams returned to their locker rooms for thirty minutes which seemed to get the Cougars enough rest to try and survive the rallying Blue Demons in the final 8:09 of the game.
Even though Pulaski County had to punt the ball on the second play after time resumed, the defense stepped up to the challenge. On a third down and 13 yards to go, sophomore Sam Grissom broke through the offensive line and sacked the Christiansburg quarterback for a 6-yard loss.
Forced to punt the ball, the Blue Demons kicked the ball to punt returner Hunter Thomas who in return danced his way into the end zone from 55 yards out and gave the Cougars a commanding 24-12 lead with 4:04 remaining in the game.
Mathias Honaker made a nice solo tackle on the kickoff for Pulaski County, and the defense looked to seal the victory. Not giving up in front of their home crowd, Christiansburg received a pass interference call in their favor on the first play from scrimmage, and they quickly found themselves on the 46-yard line. The next play resulted in a 24-yard run, and the Blue Demons were knocking at the end zone door again.
They got as far as the Cougar’s 19-yard line, but then met a stubborn defense after that. Sam Grissom sacked the Christiansburg quarterback for a second time in the fourth quarter for a another six-yard loss. Two plays later, Chase Huff and Elliott Brewster crushed the Blue Demon quarterback when he attempted to pass the ball. On the next play, Huff tackled a receiver after a short gain to finally snuff out the final Christiansburg rally of the night.
Two kneel downs later by Lawson and the Cougars had won their first game of the season and had beaten Christiansburg for the first time in many years.
Pulaski County out gained Christiansburg 376 yards to 284 yards thanks to huge offensive plays. The Blue Demons had more sustained drives than the Cougars, which resulted in 11 first downs compared to just two by Pulaski County.
Hunter Thomas led the Cougar running attack with 78 yards on six carries and one touchdown. Chase Huff rushed for 67 yards on six carries and one touchdown, followed by Jamall Edmonds (6 carries for 40 yards) and Landen Lawson (5 carries for -11 yards). Altogether, the Cougars rushed for 174 yards on 23 carries averaging over 7.5 yards per carry.
Lawson completed two of three passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Elliott Brewster caught one pass for an 82-yard touchdown while Hunter Thomas caught a 13-yard pass.
The Cougar defense was led by Chase Huff with an impressive 7.5 tackles and one sack which caused a fumble. Bradley Church had six tackles followed by Elliott Brewster and Landen Lawson with 5.5 each. Sam Grissom had four tackles, including two sacks. Tyler Sechrist recorded 4.5 tackles followed by Kevon Houston (3.5), Bryant Grubb (3), Drew Allen (3), Jeff McDonald (2.5), Dontay Brown (1.5), Zach Dones (1.5), Mathias Honaker (1) and Cody Akers (.5).
“This victory was a team effort,” stated Head Coach Todd Jones after the game. “I’m really proud of the players. They played well with a lot of enthusiasm which of course is contagious. The special teams did a good job for us tonight, forcing the turnovers, getting us good field position and then getting us into the end zone. The kids on the sidelines were ready to go in at any time, and I was very pleased with how we fought through adversity tonight.”
The JV Cougar football team will play Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.