By DAVID GRAVELY
SWT Sports Editor
Pulaski County held a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter Friday night, and on third down and twelve senior quarterback Marcus Johnston called his own number and attempted to move the ball on the ground. As the pile of players rolled off, Johnston didn’t get up. After a few tense moments, the three year starter was helped off the field to the bench with what appeared to be an ankle or leg injury.
The moment it became clear he was injured, the coaches called out junior quarterback Jesse Draper’s name, and he calmly jogged onto the field.
Pulaski County didn’t miss a beat.
While his first play was a seven yard gain on a quarterback keeper that resulted in a fourth down and punt, he didn’t panic. In fact, he didn’t even come out of the game. He just kept on playing defense. Seven plays later, Carroll County was forced to punt.
On the second play of that drive, just seconds after the start of the second quarter, Draper hit senior Tyler Ervine on a 54-yard touchdown pass that would have made Joe Montana proud.
“Marcus is our quarterback, but the team needed me,” said Draper after the game. “If a man goes down, we put another gold helmet in his place and we keep moving. I was excited to get to the chance to play, and Tyler made a great catch on that first pass, but all that matters is for all of us to do our jobs. If the team needs me again, I’ll be there. Marcus talked to me on the sidelines and helped me out. All that matters is that we won.”
Prior to Draper entering at quarterback, Shane Chrisley had hit a 29-yard field goal to give Pulaski the 3-0 lead. Drapers pass to Ervine and the Chrisley PAT kick put the Cougars ahead 10-0 with 11:50 left in the first half.
Carroll County would then put together a thirteen play drive that moved the ball from their own 25-yard line to the Cougar 7-yard line before the Pulaski defense pushed them back to the twelve. The Cavaliers would kick a 29-yard field goal to move within seven points of the Cougars, but it would be their only points of the night.
“We hurt ourselves at times tonight, and right after their field goal was a good example of that,” said Cougar Head Coach Todd Jones. “We took the kickoff and drove it all the way down the field, but then we fumbled right at the goal line. We can’t do that. It’s going to cost us a game.”
That drive covered 79 yards to the Cavalier 1-yard line before a bobbled snap was recovered by Ethan Underwood for the Cavaliers, who were able to gain just enough yardage to run out the clock and end the first half.
During the halftime Homecoming events, Lonnie Mattox was named the Homecoming King and Julia Hager was named the Homecoming Queen. Four Cougar football players, Alley, Ervine, Jones, and Johnston, were nominated for the court, and Dillon Alley was selected as the Duke.
With that behind them, the Cougars missed a chance to extend their lead early in the third quarter when a 38-yard field goal attempt by Chrisley was wide. Another Carroll County punt put the Cougars back on offense at their own 22-yard line.
Enter Quincy Rollins, who has continued to improve as the season progresses.
The senior bulldozer ran for gains of 22 yards and 4 yards before another senior, Dillon Alley, earned a first down with a nine yard run. On the next play, senior Brandon Jones did something he’s been waiting to do most of the season and broke free for a 43-yard touchdown run. The PAT by Chrisley was good, and the Cougars were ahead 17-3.
At that point of the game, the Cougar defense decided enough was enough, and Carroll County was not allowed to gain another first down for the remainder of the game. Even when Pulaski began to move new players into key positions, the defense held strong.
Pulaski left three more points on the field when a 29-yard field goal attempt was blocked with 1:04 remaining in the third quarter. Draper added to his memorable night when he found a seam and streaked 64 yards untouched for the final score of the contest with 6:16 remaining in the game. Chrisley hit his third PAT of the night, and the Cougars started to think about Saturday night and the Homecoming dance.
“I’m going to the dance, and I’m dancing with my girl,” said Rollins in the locker room.
He quickly grew serious, however, and talked about how much it meant to win his senior season homecoming game.
“We’re working harder every week, and it’s making us better,” said Rollins. “We’re going to leave it all out on the field every week. This feels so good. These guys are the best, and I’m so proud to be a part of this team.”
“It is a privilege to lead this team as a senior,” said lineman James Reynolds. “These guys are my brothers. We stick together and we’ve got each others backs. That’s just the way it is.”
Johnston was quick to admit that his ankle was just a minor injury that should be fine in a day or two, but also had nothing but good things to say about Draper and his team.
“The whole time I was on the bench, guys kept coming over to check on me,” said Johnston. “Jesse came by to make sure I was ok, and I just told him to keep the team going. He did a great job for us, and we got the win. I’m proud of our guys.”
Coach Jones was pleased with the win and the effort, but was still unhappy with the penalties for Pulaski.
“We can’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot like that,” said Jones. I thought our defense and special teams did a great job of giving us good field position tonight, but we still made too many mistakes. It’s going to be a tough practice on Monday and Tuesday, but we have to fix this stuff. We can’t go to Blacksburg and make these same mistakes.”
When ask about the new look for Pulaski tonight, Jones smiled and was glad to tell the story about the black Cougar game jersey.
“These guys have been going at it since January. We needed a little excitement, just something to get them fired up. I talked to Skipper Duke this week, and he wasn’t going to be able to make it to the game because of his surgery. He was hospitalized late last week due to an aneurism. The kids haven’t’ walked down those steps without him before, so we knew it was going to be different. I had ordered the jerseys earlier, but wasn’t sure if they were going to be here this week or not. I didn’t even know until late today that they were going to be here, and I never told anyone else, not even the other coaches about it. When the last group went down the steps to warm up in their cardinal jerseys, my wife put the new black jerseys in their lockers. They didn’t know anything about it until we came back up. Their reaction was priceless. It’s not something we plan to use again, but we wanted to do something special for Homecoming and I think we did.”
“All I heard as I was coming up the steps and into the tunnel was people getting hyped up,” said Johnston. “When I got into the locker room and saw them, I knew we were going to play hard.”
Pulaski will be on the road next week, as they are scheduled to travel to Blacksburg to take on the Bruins. Blacksburg earned a 44-19 road win over Floyd County Friday night, and are currently holding a 3-1 record with wins over Carroll County (17-14) and Radford (37-0). Their lone loss of the season came in week one against the Giles Spartans, 38-37.
Cougar Game Stats
PC – 52 att/329 yards
CC – 31 att/88 yards
PC – 3 of 8/94 yards
CC – 5 of 23/68 yards
PC – 423 yards
CC – 156 yards
PC – 18
CC – 9
PC – 89 yards
CC – 75 yards
PC – 9/80 yards
CC – 6/40 yards
PC – 4/1
CC – 2/1
PC – Rollins 20 att/119 yards, Jones 8 att/77 yards, Alley 13 att/71 yards, Draper 4 att/65 yards, Ervine 1 att/15 yards, Semones 2 att/3 yards, Grubb 2 att/-7 yards, Chrisley 1 att/-14 yards
CC – Edwards 11 att/38 yards, Lundy 10 att/21 yards, Underwood 4 att/13 yards, Blankenship 5 att/10 yards, Goins 1 att/6 yards
PC - Johnston 0 of 1/0 yards, Draper 3 of 7/94 yards
CC – Lundy 5 of 23/68 yards
PC – Ervine 3/94 yards
CC – Underwood 2/33 yards, Blankenship 1/16 yards, Bowman 1/11 yards, Davis 1/8 yards
PC – Tabor
CC – Haga
PC 9:08 29 yard field goal Chrisley 3-0 PC
PC 11:50 Draper 54 yard pass to Ervine, Chrisley PAT 10-0 PC
CC 5:45 Goins 29 yard field goal 10-3 PC
PC 3:41 Jones 43 yard run, Chrisley PAT 17-3 PC
PC 6:16 Draper 64 yard run, PAT Chrisley 24-3 PC