By DAVID GRAVELY
SWT Sports Editor
No other team is so much like Pulaski County, and there just isn’t another team on the schedule has been through as many of the same things as Pulaski County.
For many of the early years of the school’s history, Pulaski County was considered an outsider. We lived up on the mountain, away from the rest of the then Roanoke Valley District.
So did Franklin County.
For years we had a somewhat larger enrollment than most of the other Roanoke schools.
So did Franklin County.
For a whole lot of years, the schools, players, fans, and media took every opportunity to show that Pulaski County was made up of a bunch of “country folks” who just didn’t understand that the Roanoke schools were supposed to win and we were supposed to lose.
Again, this is much like what Franklin County has and still goes through, even today.
Some media outlets made a big deal out of the fact that Pulaski County was one of the schools that opposed Franklin County joining the River Ridge District back in the later winter and spring when the VHSL restructured their alignment system from a 3A to a 6A system. Franklin County is a member of the Class 6A South.
Quite to the contrary, Pulaski County has never had a problem playing Franklin County in any sport, and while there have been some truly great football games in the history of the series, Pulaski County has held a big advantage since tying the series up with a 7-3 win in 1977. The Eagles earned the lead on more time in 1978 with a 14-0 win, but since then the Cougars have owned the matchup.
Overall, Pulaski County holds a 27-6 advantage over the Eagles. The average score in a Cougars vs. Eagles game is Pulaski 29, Franklin County 14. The Cougars owned an eight game streak over the Eagles from 1979 to 1986, and then a sixteen game winning streak over the Eagles from 1988 to 2005.
The last time the two teams faced off, Pulaski County earned a 40-14 win on the same night in 2008 that the playing surface of Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium was named in honor of legendary former Head Coach Joel Hicks.
The Eagles come into Friday nights contest under the leadership of Head Coach Chris Jones, who is in his fifth season as the leader of the Eagles and hold an overall record of 32-20. This season the Eagles are a disappointing 1-5 headed into Friday nights contest, but that has been against some solid opposition.
In week one, the Salem Spartans came to Rocky Mount and left with a 38-0 win. Franklin County bounced back in week two with a 49-19 win over Bassett. Magna Vista got the best of them in week three, as the Eagles fell 14-27. Christiansburg won 34-6, and then a strong Massaponax team beat them 33-15. Last week, the Eagles held their own for a while before falling 25-34 to Patrick Henry.
“They’ve had some bad breaks, and they’ve had some injuries along the way, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they are a bad football team,” said Cougar Head Coach Todd Jones. “They play a very physical game. They have every intention of imposing their will on you throughout the game. They want to keep hitting and grinding it out until the other team gives. With that, they also have some very good athletes. We’re going to have to play well. This is a very dangerous team.”
The Eagles will be running a split-back veer, an offense that relies on the use of the triple option, specifically the inside veer. Army, Navy, and the Air Force Academy all run versions of this offense, as well as Georgia Tech.
When they go under center, the man at the quarterback spot will be junior Bradley Parcell (6’1″, 181). The running backs will be senior Carlton Adams (5’10″, 165) and a very explosive freshman, Andrew Harris (5’9″, 150). The wide receivers will be senior Ethan Adams (6’7″, 185) and junior Braxton Wheeler (6’1″, 152). The tight-end will be junior Tyler Bennett (6’4″, 212).
The front line is even bigger.
The center will be senior Tyler Layman (6’1″, 305). The guards will be seniors Alveno Matthews (6’1″, 242) and Devin Young (6’2″, 278). The tackles will be seniors Kris Luckett (6’2″, 275) and Jack Boone (6′, 260).
Senior Andrew Williams (6’4″, 200) will see time at wide receiver, and seniors Shaun Rinn (5′, 190) and Hunter Ingram (5’9″, 175) will see some action at running back.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles have lined up in several formations, but are expected to use a 5-2 or 5-3 defense with an odd front.
The defensive line will be made up of Luckett, Ingram, and Rinn, with Williams and Matthews at the ends. The middle linebacker will be senior Garrett jennings (5’11″, 213), with senior Jarred Brown (6′, 165) and junior Logan Palmer (6′, 201) at the outside linebackers. The corners will be Adams and senior Nick Hairston (6’3″, 190). The safety will be Parcell.
“They’re tough,” said Jones. “They get to the football well. Their corners are very good. They are a very disciplined football team. Against their offense, our defense is going to have to be very disciplined too. The bottom line to winning is going to be playing mistake free football and being very physical.”
The Cougars will take the field with most of the same lineup as last week.
On defense expect to see Bradley Church, Rob Quesenberry, and Kareem Calfee up front, with Elliot Brewster and Chase Huff outside. Noah Patterson and Heath White will handle the outside linebacker spots, with J.D. Sutphin holding down the middle. The corners will be Marcus Payne and Jesse Draper, with Jake Tabor lined up at the safety. Brandon Jones and Dillon Alley could also see time in the secondary, and Malik Eaves may be in the mix after a week battling a case of turf-toe.
On the offensive side of the ball, Tanner Dotson be the center. The front line will consist of James Reynolds, Rhen Jones, Bret Smith, and Daniel Puckett. The tight-end will be Jake Callahan. Brandon Jones and Dillon Alley will be lined up as the wing-backs, Quincy Rollins will be the running back, and Tyler Ervine will be at the split-back. The only question for Pulaski will be at the quarterback spot. As of our my interview with Coach Jones on Tuesday, senior Marcus Johnston had been practicing at regular speed, but if his ankle becomes a problem then Jesse Draper will be called on again to take that position.
“The bottom line is that we are going to have to treat every game like a playoff game,” said Jones. “Not counting if we were to make it to the playoffs, this group of seniors only has about 16 or 17 practices left in their football season. There isn’t any time to make mistakes or second guess what we want to do. We need to go out and get it done. I believe in these guys.”
Game time for the contest is set for 7 p.m. in Rocky Mount. To get to the school, take I-81 to Roanoke, then turn onto 581 towards the mall area. Continue until you get on 220 South, and then turn on the Route 40 exit. Turn left at the stop sign onto Tanyard Road. The school will be on your left approximately a half mile. You can also put the address 700 Tanyard Road, Rocky Mount, VA 24151 into your GPS.