By DAVID GRAVELY
SWT Sports Editor
The Cougar football team found themselves behind early and were never able to catch up in a 30-14 loss to the Christiansburg Blue Demons Friday night.
Pulaski received the opening kickoff, and Tyler Ervine returned it to the 16-yard line. Brandon Jones took the first handoff from quarterback Marcus Johnston, but was swarmed by the defense for a 2-yard loss. A short gain by Dillon Alley was followed by a personal foul against the Cougars, moving them back to the 8-yard line. Johnston regained some of the lost yardage, but was forced to punt on fourth down.
Christiansburg wasted little time, with Tanner Reed taking the ball for gains of 10 and 5-yards on his first two carries. Logan Adkins added another 5-yards before Kory Hendricks gained 4-yards. Quarterback Charlie Jackson tried taking the ball into the middle of the defense, but only gained 1-yard. Reed broke loose for 7-yards and a first down before Adkins took the ball the final 11-yards into the end zone with 6:51 remaining in the first quarter. Jake Hamley added the point after touchdown to give Christiansburg the 7-0 lead.
The Cougars took over at the 20-yard line, but again the Blue Demon defense broke through to tackle Alley in the backfield. Johnston gained 3-yards on the ground before completing a 7-yard pass to Alley on third down, but it was just shy of the first down marker, forcing another Cougar punt.
Taking over on the 48-yard line, the Blue Demons were again able to use a solid ground gain to move the ball. Runs by Adkins, Reed, and Hendricks earned a first down, and then a pass was nearly intercepted by cornerback Jesse Draper. Christiansburg went back to the rushing attack, with Reed and Hendricks gaining 19 yards in three plays. A run for no gain and a penalty left the Blue Demons with a third down and long, but Jackson completed a 20-yard pass to Ryan Saunders for their second touchdown of the night. The PAT by Hamley moved the score to 14-0.
After the ensuing kickoff went out of the end zone, the Cougars took over at the 20-yard line. Quincy Rollins ran for 7 yards on two carries to end the first quarter, but Alley was tackled in the backfield to force Johnston to punt for a third time. This time he put his leg into it, sending the ball 49 yards. Offsetting penalties forced Johnston to punt the ball again. This time the ball sailed 54-yards and over the heads of the Blue Demons for no return.
Finally, the Cougar defense started to get things together and on third and eight held strong to force the first Christiansburg punt of the night. The Cougars took over at their own 28-yard line.
Alley started the drive off with a rush, but the defense again held him to no gain. Rollins carried the ball up the middle for 2-yards, and then the Cougars found a crack in the Blue Demons defense. Johnston faked the handoff and hit a wide open Ervine down the home side of the field. The shifty runner secured the ball, dodged a would-be tackler, and headed downfield for what would be a 64-yard gain to the Blue Demon 6-yard line. Brandon Jones powered the ball into the heart of the defense for the first Pulaski score of the game. Shane Chrisley hit the PAT to move the score to 14-7 in favor of the Blue Demons.
Christiansburg returned the kickoff to their own 16-yard line and went back to work. A run by Adkins was followed by an 8-yard pass to Jake Hamley. James Reynolds and Chase Huff made a big play for Pulaski when they met at the quarterback on the following play, sacking him for a 6-yard loss. Heath White would get into the action a few plays later, sacking Jackson for a 7-yard loss. Several Cougars would combine to sack him again on fourth down for an 8-yard loss. Johnston would drop back to pass in the final seconds, but with all receivers covered would run for 11-yards to run out the clock.
The second half started with the Blue Demons adding to their lead on a four play drive that ended with a 54-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to Hendricks. Hamley added the PAT to move the score to 21-7.
Pulaski began to gain some offensive momentum, moving the ball 41-yards on five plays before the ball was fumbled and recovered by Christiansburg. The Blue Demons moved the ball to within striking distance, but the defense held strong and forced a 44-yard field goal attempt that went wide-right.
Another Pulaski drive ended in a punt by Johnston. The Blue Demons earned a first down, and then Heath White got into the backfield for another sack of Jackson and a 5-yard loss. Jackson was tackled again on second down for another 5-yard loss, but Adkins broke free for 34-yards to earn a new set of downs. The Cougars were called for pass interference on the next play, moving the ball to the Pulaski 9-yard line. Andrew Dunn took the ball in two plays later for a 5-yard score, and Hamley added the PAT to make the score 28-7.
After Ervine returned the kickoff to the 17-yard line for Pulaski, Johnston called his own number. The speedy quarterback headed left, broke a tackle, and then broke free down the visitors sideline for an 83-yard touchdown run. Chrisley added the PAT to move the Cougars within two scores, 28-14.
A penalty and another sack by White and Alex Simmons forced Christiansburg to punt the ball back to the Cougars. A 15-yard run by Alley was followed by a 7-yard run by Rollins, and then Alley gained another 8-yards for another Pulaski first down. The drive stalled after that, and the ball was turned over on downs.
Another penalty against the Blue Demons and an incomplete pass forced Christiansburg to punt. Pulaski took over at their own 20-yard line. A fumble resulted in a 3-yard loss on first down, then a sack cost Pulaski another 10-yards. An incomplete pass left the Cougars with a fourth down and long to go, and the Blue Demon defense broke through the line to sack Johnston in the end zone for a safety, moving the score to 30-14. Christiansburg took a knee on the following two plays to end the game and hand Pulaski their first loss of the regular season.
Pulaski was led offensively by Johnston with 13 rushing attempts for 65 yards. He also completed 3-of-4 passes for 73 yards. Rollins had six rushing attempts for 38 yards, Jones carried the ball five times for 19 yards, and Alley carried the ball seven times for 12 yards. Ervine had one reception for 64 yards, Alley caught one pass for 7 yards, and Rollins caught one pass for 2 yards.
Christiansburg’s rushing attack was led by Adkins, who had 16 attempts for 97 yards. Hendricks and Reed both carried nine times for 50 yards each. Jackson carried 14 times for 31 yards, and Aaron Dridlin carried two times for 7 yards. Jackson completed 7-of-9 passes for 119 yards. Hendricks caught one for 54 yards, Reed caught three passes for 34 yards, Saunders caught one for 20 yards, Hamley caught one for 8 yards, and Adkins caught one for 3 yards.
Pulaski County earned 8 first downs in the contest, while Christiansburg earned 22 first downs. The Cougars fumbled the ball three times and lost one, while Christiansburg fumbled once but recovered.
The Cougars will now regroup and prepare for “The Battle of the Bridge” against the Radford Bobcats next week.