Too many missed opportunities cost Cougars in loss
By DAVID GRAVELY
“If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all.”
That song is familiar to most that grew up in the “Hee Haw” era of television, but it was also the story of the game for Pulaski County in their 17-10 loss Friday night against Cave Spring.
Penalties that Pulaski County in long first down situations, penalties that stalled drives, fumbles, interceptions, and most importantly injuries were all a part of the formula that will move the Cougars down the list when the VHSL ratings come out on Monday.
With several key starters already injured before the game started, the Cougars were already looking to fill several holes. Senior Jake Tabor, who normally plays safety and is on most special teams, is also a backup running back. Senior Tyler Ervine was also sidelined with an ankle injury, taking away an offensive and special teams threat.
The numbers were about as close as the score. The Cougars gained 222 yards on the ground, even after senior running back Quincy Rollins went down in the second quarter with an apparent ankle injury. Two Cougars, Marcus Payne and Elliot Brewster, had interceptions for Pulaski County. Two Knights had interceptions for Cave Spring. Jake Callahan recovered a fumble for the Cougars, and the Knights also recovered a fumble.
“We can’t catch a break,” said Cougar Head Coach Todd Jones. “Sometimes you just need something good to happen. Tonight would have been a good night for it. I thought we moved the ball pretty good at times, but then we would stall out. We didn’t finish our drives. The penalties hurt us, but when you start having key starters go down, it’s hard to replace that guy right away. You hope your next guy is ready, and I think we had some kids come in and do some good things tonight. We’ve got some holes to fill and some questions to answer before next week though.”
The Cougars kicked off to start the contest, and after an incomplete pass, a bad snap that turned into a 14 yard loss, and a short rush the Knights punted the ball to Pulaski.
Pulaski County returned the favor after gaining one first down, pinning the Knights back to their own 13-yard line. Cave Spring punted, and Pulaski returned it to the Knights 49-yard line. Two plays later Ty Albritton picked off a Marcus Johnston pass at the 30-yard line for Cave Spring.
It took the Knights ten plays to cover 70 yards, with Jon Roach crossing the goal line from five yards out. Daniel Seymour hit the point-after touchdown attempt to give Cave Spring the 7-0 lead.
The second quarter started with a running play by Dillon Alley, but on the next play another Johnston pass was intercepted, this time by Sebastian Wellford, giving the Knights the ball at the 5-yard line after a 31 yard return.
Alex Emery completed a short pass to Albritton for the second Knights score, and the Seymour PAT moved Cave Spring ahead 14-0.
Malik Eaves returned the next kickoff to the 27-yard line, and the Cougars put Rollins to work. The senior had runs of 9, 8, 18, 8, and 2 yards during the 12 play drive, along with runs by Brandon Jones of 7 and 2 yards and two one yard runs by Johnston, with the score coming on his last one yard run. Shane Chrisley hit the PAT, moving the Cougars within a score at the 5:29 mark.
Both teams moved the ball for the rest of the first half, but neither could cross the goal line.
Pulaski took the second half kickoff, with Brandon Jones returning it to the 31-yard line. Despite starting the drive with a holding call, the Cougars caught the Knights by surprise with the speedy running of junior Cody Semones, who was in for the injured Rollins. Semones gained 38 yards on four carries, combined with 12 yards rushing from Jones and 13 yards from Johnston. The drive stalled, and Shane Chrisley was good on a 34-yard field goal attempt to tighten the score to 14-10.
The Knights answered with a ten play drive that moved the ball to within long field goal range, and Seymour made good on the 33 yard attempt to extend the Knights lead to 17-14.
The Cougars missed several opportunities throughout the remainder of the game. A 30-yard field goal attempt by Chrisley was blocked with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter. Marcus Payne intercepted a pass later in the fourth quarter, which looked like it was going to give us excellent field position. On the return, a Knights player hit him from behind and stripped the ball, sending it bouncing on the turf field. It took a funny bounce, as if to run away from the Pulaski County players standing around it, and was recovered by the Knights.
Somehow the Knights continued the drive, gaining three first downs before Brewster made his interception at the 35-yard line.
The Cougars could only manage to lose ground by this point, and were forced to punt again. The Knights gained just enough yardage to earn two first downs and run out the clock and seal the win.
“We know Quincy is out, and he may not be available next week,” said Coach Jones. “We’ll know more this weekend, but it doesn’t look good. Senior defensive lineman Rob Quesenberry also went down with an ankle or foot injury, and will need to get it x-rayed as well. Brad Church may have banged his ankle up some too. We’ll just have to see how things go this weekend, and then on Monday we’ll look at who we can shuffle around to get the job done. We can’t complain about tonight. We had our chances and we didn’t take advantage of them. We didn’t execute well and we didn’t finish drives. We also let them get some big plays. We had no big plays what so ever.”
Pulaski County will need to figure out a plan quickly, as they host their final regular season home game this coming Friday against Hidden Valley. The Titans had the week off this past week, and were no doubt in attendance to watch. They will come into the game with a 3-4 record.
Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium.