By DAVID GRAVELY
SWT Sports Editor
It took the William Fleming Colonels just over three hours to make the bus ride from Roanoke to Cool Springs Field on Dora Highway Thursday, thanks to a detoured traffic route and then a wreck on the detour.
Minutes into the first quarter, Mother Nature decided to make things even tougher, sending a soaking rain that lasted until the end of the first half. She would ease off, but then return with a vengeance to end the night early with a lightning show that turned out to be better than some fireworks shows.
The game started, finally, with Pulaski Middle School taking the opening kickoff out to the 27-yard line. Running back Azvya Whitaker followed the determined blocks of his offensive line for runs of 6, 7, 12, and 8 yards on the first four plays of the game. A 6-yard run by Christian Cook and another 5-yard run by Whitaker had the Colonels on their heels, and a timeout was called.
A bad snap resulted in a 4-yard loss for Pulaski, but Cook earned that back on the next play. A 6-yard run on fourth down and six was barely an inch shy of the first down marker, and the Colonels took over the ball.
Fleming attempted a pass that fell incomplete, but a 20-yard run earned them a first down. An apparent 52-yard touchdown run was called back for holding, and Mother Nature started to make things difficult. With the rain coming down, the snap went over the Fleming quarterbacks head for a 6-yard loss. Another incomplete pass left the Colonels with a third down and long. The quarterback fumbled the ball and Wayne Donaldson came up with the recovery to give Pulaski the ball at the 46-yard line.
After a 4-yard run by quarterback Trent Blankenship, the Orioles started the second quarter at the 50-yard line. Whitaker carried the ball for four and then six yards on back to back carries. Cook got the ball next, but a hard hit sent the ball to the ground, where Cook recovered for the Orioles. With another third down and long in front of them, Blankenship faked the handoff and dumped the ball to tight-end Noah Kyle for an 8-yard gain. A 1-yard run by Whitaker wasn’t enough, and the ball went back to William Fleming.
The Oriole defense would be tested again, as the strong Fleming running back ran for what appeared to be a 63-yard score. Once again, a block in the back penalty took the points off the board. The Colonels took the ball at the 35-yard line, but Cook sacked the quarterback for an 8-yard loss.
Fleming earn that yardage back on the next play, and then another 8 and 9-yards on the next two plays. With the ball resting on the 9-yard line, the Colonels were poised to put the first points on the board when a hard hit sent the ball to the ground. After a scramble for the ball, trevor Kessinger came up with the ball for the Orioles. Pulaski used their ground game to run out the first half, with no score for either team.
The Colonels got the kickoff to start the second half, and returned the ball to the 49-yard line. Pulaski almost found the spark they needed right away as Donaldson made a good read on an obvious pass play. The cornerback jumped on the route, batting the ball up into the air and back towards the Fleming goal line. After ten yards of Donaldson trying to catch up with the ball it finally hit the ground incomplete. On the next play, the Colonels running back broke free for 61-yards and the only score of the game. The two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score at 6-0.
Pulaski was unable to move the ball in their next possession, and it looked as though the Orioles were going to hold Fleming on third down and 15 when the first lightning streaked across the sky over Pulaski. The game was called minutes later by PMS officials. While it first seemed like a hasty decision, it quickly became obvious that the storm was there for the duration.
Orioles Head Coach Pierce Viers made it clear to his team in the locker room that their improved efforts did not go unnoticed.
“The difference between this week and last week is huge,” said Viers. “You guys came out and hit them tonight. You didn’t back down, and you found your hearts. We knew this was a good team, but that’s only going to make us better. We still have plenty of work to do, but tonight I’m proud of how far you’ve come.”
Viers was noticeably frustrated about the game being called after the long delay in the starting time, but only because he needs his team to play to get better.
“We’re working on building our program,” said Viers. “It’s an exciting time for us. We’re going to be a little fired up, and as we get better we’ll get even more excited. We moved the ball well tonight. I’m proud of our kids. We know we’ve still got work to do, but I’m proud of the way they are coming along.”
Whitaker led the way offensively for the Orioles with eight carries for 56 yards in the three quarters of play.
Pulaski will be back in action next Thursday when they host Andrew Lewis. Game time is set for 5 p.m. at Cool Spring Field.