By DAVID GRAVELY
Cougars and eagles often inhabit the same areas in the wild, but this Friday there will be room for only one main predator inside the friendly confines of Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium as Pulaski welcomes a fresh face to the schedule.
Staunton River High School is located in Moneta, which is just north of Smith Mountain Lake for those that didn’t know. You can make the trip in an hour and thirty-five minutes if you take the fast route, or you can take the scenic route and spent well over two hours on the road.
The schools colors are gold, black, and white. The Golden Eagles are a member of Conference 31 in the 3A West classification. Other schools in that conference include Alleghany, Lord Botetort, Magna Vista, Northside, Rockbridge County, and William Byrd. The school has, according the the March 2012 ADM numbers, 1,070 students in grades 9-12. The top school in the 3A classification, Warhill High School, has 1,112 students. The closest comparable schools would be Christiansburg (1,092), Blacksburg (1,075) and Hidden Valley (1,053).
They are coached by Head Coach Chuck Poston, who is now entering his fourth season. His first season ended with an 8-4 record, with the team making it two games into the playoffs. A 7-5 record followed in the 2011 season, and then last year ended with a disappointing 4-6 record.
The program lost 24 seniors to graduation last season, and have four starters that have returned on each side of the ball.
This year has not started the way he had hoped for, and they will enter Fridays game with the same 1-2 record as Pulaski County. In week one, the Golden Eagles fell 32-13 on the road to the Liberty Minutemen. Week two was tougher to take, as they dropped their home opener to the Jefferson Forest Cavaliers 56-13. Last week they finally found the win column in a 28-0 shutout of the William Campbell Generals.
“They’ve got a pretty good football team,” said Cougar Head Coach Todd Jones. “They are still learning the single-wing they’ve put in, and that takes some time. They have some pretty solid athletes though. They play hard and from what we’ve seen they don’t have to play a lot of kids both ways. They really like to keep things mixed up though, so it’s kind of hard to tell. We’re going to focus on doing our jobs and not making mistakes.”
The Golden Eagles will come out with the single-wing on offense, similar to what Giles High School runs. Junior Trey Tumblin (5’9″, 176) will line up as the quarterback, with senior Ramir Hunt lined up at the tailback. Other backs you can expect to see in the backfield will include sophomore Jakob Divers (5’10″, 171) and senior Marcus Brown (5’8″, 150) at the wing. The weak side tight-end will be senior Damian Doolittle, and the strong side tight-end will be sophomore Jacob Thurman. Both of those players will tip the scales at just over 180 pounds. The center will be sophomore A.J. Sheets (6’1″, 187). The “strong guard” will be senior Sam Goode (5’11″, 275), and the “quick guard” will be senior Ryan Edmundson (6’2″, 206). The strong tackle will be junior Derek Miller (5’9″, 238), and the quick tackle will be junior Robert Tuck (5’10″, 195).
Defensively, the only consistent thing you can expect to see is that nothing is consistent.
“From what we’ve seen they run a 5-3 or a 3-3 stack style defense,” said Coach Jones. “They’ve put a bunch of different players in there on defense, but they all play hard and get to the ball well.”
Players to watch on the defense include Tumblin, who spends his time outside of playing quarterback playing on the defensive line. Junior Tyler Fink (5’10″, 156) and Doolittle will likely man the defensive end spots, with Brown as one of the main linebackers. Senior Austen Kerns (5’10″, 174) will join Tumblin on the defensive line along with Goode at the nose. The corners will be junior Clay Feazell (5’10″, 136) and senior Ramir Hunt. The safety should be senior Jordan Stinnette (5’10″, 162).
“We’ve had a good week of practice, the team came out Monday with a good attitude and worked hard,” said Jones. “The past few weeks we’ve been pushing them to be more physical. We line up in practice and we hit. Usually we hit on Mondays and Tuesdays, but we try to back off some leading into game day. We keep telling them we need to be more physical. We just need to keep banging on people. We missed a big chance last week to put a good team away, and we just can’t afford to do that. Our senior leaders are going to have to step up and take charge. We need to get back to playing physical football and hit people.”
The Cougars will line up with the same starting group as last week, with a few players working their way back into the mix. Marcus Johnston will lead the offense out at quarterback with Quincy Rollins at running back. The wings will be Brandon Jones and Dillon Alley, with Tyler Ervine at split end. Heath White will be the tight end. The center will be Tyler Dotson, with Kareem Calfee and James Reynolds at the tackles. The guards will be Bret Smith and Rhen Jones. Justin Trail or Daniel Puckett could come in to relieve any of those linemen, along with Austin Harless possibly coming in at tight-end.
The defensive front will have Rob Quesenberry, Bradley Smith, and Calfee. J.D. Sutphin and Heath White will be at the middle linebackers, with Chase Huff and Elliot Brewster as the outside backers. Jesse Draper and Marcus Payne will man the corners, with Malik Eaves at the safety. Jake Tabor will be back in the lineup for Pulaski, and could appear at either safety or a corner. Jones and Alley could also see time on defense, along with sophomore Noah Patterson and junior Austin Leeper. In certain situations, fans can also expect to see 6’5″, 401 pound senior Josh Epperly at the nose.
“It’s time to show up and play football,” said Jones. “Our kids need to get in the game and be more physical. They need to read their keys, do their jobs, and wrap up on the tackles. The big thing we need to do is finish. We need to finish every play and every drive. Nobody can take a play off. Every snap counts. We just need to get it done. I know these kids have it in them.”
It will be recreation league and middle school football recognition night, and prior to the game the future Cougars will all be introduced to the crowd. After that, all players should report to the bottom of the steps to welcome the team as they take the field.
It’s Friday night in Pulaski County, and it’s time to see some Cougar football.
Game time is set for 7 p.m.