Drew Allen’s defensive effort helps Cougars hold on for victory
By JP WIDNER
ROANOKE- The air was cold and crisp as the JV Cougars took the gridiron against the winless Hidden Valley Titans Thursday night at Dwight Bogle Stadium. The temperatures dropped to the 30’s and the Pulaski County Cougars only had a couple minutes to warm up due to their arrival right at game time.
On the very first play of the game, Hunter Thomas split two defenders on the Titan kickoff team and raced 85 yards down the left sideline for the touchdown. Jeff McDonald scored the two-point conversion as the Cougars quickly led 8-0, and the talk of a rout was already spreading down the Pulaski County sideline.
The Titans had other thoughts, especially one sophomore who has Pulaski County roots. Logan Puckett, a grandson of the late John Puckett of Max Creek in Hiawassee, came into the game averaging over 161 yards per game. Andrew and Melissa Puckett’s son had even run for 247 yards against Blacksburg in a recent heart-breaking one point loss. Puckett would see the ball 35 times this Thursday night.
After the opening score, Hidden Valley took 12 plays to march down the field as running back Brian Daniel scored from 4 yards out. Puckett ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game 8-8 with 4:04 left in the first quarter.
The Cougar’s offense went three plays and a punt on their next possession. Once again, the Titans moved the ball down the field. The Cougar pass defense eventually came up big as Landen Lawson stopped the opponent at the 14-yard line after a short gain and Pulaski County took over on downs.
On Pulaski County’s next series, the Titans stopped their opponent in three plays as their defensive lineman penetrated the Cougar’s backfield all night long. After a nice 40-yard punt by Thomas, linebacker Drew Allen stepped up for the Pulaski County defense and intercepted the ball being thrown across the middle. The Cougars then moved the ball down to the Titan 30-yard line only to have the drive end with a dropped pass at the 10-yard line.
The Titans held on to the pigskin the next 12 plays thanks to two 15 yard penalties on the Cougars. Hidden Valley was finally stopped short as their powerful legged kicker Michael Driscoll barely missed a 46-yard field goal. The half ended 8-8.
After a very vocal and emotional time in the locker room at halftime, the Cougars came back out into the chilly air to the cheers of the 30 faithful Cougar fans in the stands. The Titans went back to their running attack right away. Eighteen plays and fourteen minutes later, Daniel scored his second touchdown of the night from two yards out. Driscoll added the extra point and Hidden Valley led the stunned Cougars 15-8 going into the fourth quarter.
Sophomore running back Landen Lawson put the Cougars on his shoulders the next offensive series, carrying the ball for 43 yards including slamming through the defensive line for a 3-yard touchdown run. Lawson barely came up short on the two point conversion as four defenders pushed him back. The Cougars trailed 15-14 as the momentum started to swing in the visitor’s favor.
The Cougar defense stepped up to force the Titans to punt after just three plays. A high snap to the punter and an alert and aggressive Mathias Honaker tackled the Hidden Valley player for a 15 yard loss and a turnover on downs. Freshman running back Jamall Edmonds ran through numerous tackles on the very next play to score from 32 yards out. Edmonds also ran in the two-point conversion and the Cougars led 22-15 with just 3:27 left in the game.
The Titans had one last chance and they continuously pounded the ball down the tired Cougar defense. Starting at their own 30-yard line thanks a nice kickoff by Levi Erickson and a massive tackle by Matt Coble, the Titans moved quickly down the field.
It looked as if Hidden Valley was stopped on a fourth down and 4 yards to go. Their quarterback threw deep into Cougar territory and Lawson went up for the game ending interception. The ball tipped the sophomore’s fingers only to have it drop into the arms of the Hidden Valley receiver who was falling down at the 10-yard line.
With new life and first and goal, the Titans took advantage of a pass interference call against the Cougars and Puckett used his 5’11″, 165 pound frame to get into the end zone with just 19 seconds to go in the game.
Trailing 22-21, the Titans chose to go for the win. The center snapped the ball directly to Puckett in the backfield, but his aim was not true as the football went to the right off the Titan superstar’s fingers. The pigskin bounced on the turf and sophomore Tyler Sechrist jumped on the loose ball for the Cougars to preserve the hard fought, come from behind victory. The Cougars raised their record to six wins against two defeats.
The Cougar rushing attack was led by Landen Lawson (6 carries for 42 yards and one touchdown), Jamall Edmonds (2 carries for 40 yards, one touchdown and one two-point conversion), Jeff McDonald (10 carries for 25 yards and a two-point conversion) and Hunter Thomas (5 carries for 15 yards and a kickoff return touchdown). Quarterback Bryant Grubb only threw the ball twice (one drop and one pass inference penalty).
Freshman Drew Allen led the Cougar defense with 11.5 tackles and one interception. Landen Lawson and Sam Grissom had 7.5 tackles each followed by Mathias Honaker (5.5), Bryant Grubb (5.5), Antonio Powell (4.5 and a quarterback sack), Matt Coble (3.5), Kevon Houston (3), Tyler Sechrist (3 and a fumble recovery), Jeff McDonald (3), Jamall Edmonds (3), Dontay Brown (2), Jesse Richardson (2) and Cherokee Widner (.5).
Hidden Valley High School was led by Logan Puckett with 138 yards in 35 carries, totaling 944 yards in the past six games. The Titans led the Cougars in total yardage 316-215 and first downs 15-5. Pulaski County had 5 penalties for 48 yards while Hidden valley had 5 penalties for 35 yards. The Titans outrushed the Cougars 160-121 and out passed them 74-0.
The Cougars will have a bye week and then host Salem High School on November 7 on Joel Hicks Field for the final game of the 2013 season.