By DAVID GRAVELY
SWT Sports Editor
The Cougar football team found the going rough on the road, falling to the Franklin County Eagles by a final score of 34-19.
Things started out bad for Pulaski County when Dillon Alley was tackled behind the line of scrimmage on the first offensive play of the night. That story would be repeated many times throughout the night, as the Cougars were held to negative yardage on the ground.
Pulaski lost seven more yards over the next two plays before Marcus Johnston punted for the Cougars.
It took Franklin County exactly five plays to cover 42 yards, all on the ground, with Carlton Adams scoring from three yards out. Jonathan Saunders hit the point after touchdown kick, and just that quick the Eagle led 7-0.
Tyler Ervine returned the kickoff to the 36-yard line, but a bad snap put the ball on the ground at Johnstons feet, resulting in another lost yardage play on first down. On fourth down Johnston punted the ball away again, and the Eagles took over on their own 38-yard line.
This time it took the Eagles nine plays to cover 62 yards. Adams again took the ball into the end zone for the score, this time from three yards out. Another PAT by Saunders gave Franklin County the 14-0 lead.
The Cougars finally started a drive off with a positive yardage gain when Alley moved it five yards to the Cougar 36-yard line. A run for a loss of two yards and an incomplete pass put Johnston back to punt, and the Eagles took over at their own 27-yard line.
The Cougar defense began to stiffen just a little, and this time it took 12 plays for Adams to cross the goal line, as Franklin County moved 73 yards on the ground for another score. The PAT moved the score to 21-0 with 6:26 remaining in the first half.
At this point, Pulaski County could have given up. They were down, they were on the road, and the Eagles showed no sign of giving any slack. They didn’t do that, however, and things started to get exciting.
Alley returned the kickoff to the 19-yard line, and then Jones and Alley took turns carrying the mail for Pulaski. Quincy Rollins added six yards on a first down run, and then Johnston faked the handoff twice then hit Ervine down the middle on a 40-yard touchdown strike. The PAT attempt by Chrisley was no good, but the hardcore Cougar fans that made the trip to Rocky Mount finally had something to cheer about with the 21-6 score.
Franklin County went back to work, attempting to put together another time consuming, ground eating drive. On second down from the Cougar 47-yard line Eagle quarterback Bradley Parcell attempted to put the nail in the Cougar coffin, but Marcus Payne made a leaping interception and returned it 41 yards to the Eagle 29-yard line.
Two plays later, Johnston tossed the ball to Alley on a short pass while scrambling. Alley ducked right, then left, then ran through the secondary of the Eagles for the 29 yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score at 21-12.
After returning the kickoff, the Eagle were able to gain a first down and run out the clock to end the first half.
The Eagle received the kickoff to start the second half, but this time the Cougar defense was ready. The Eagle offense was only able to gain four yards before they were forced to punt.
Ervine took the ball at the 40-yard line, followed his blockers for a time, and then cut across the grain to race 60 yards for the special teams score. Chrisley made good on the PAT, and suddenly it was 21-19 with 10:13 left in the third quarter.
The Cougars kicked off and forced another punt, and it looked like Pulaski County had the momentum going their way until the ball slipped out of a ball carriers hands and was recovered by Alveno Matthews for the Eagles.
This time it only took six plays, but the Eagles were forced to use their passing attack to get the ball into the end zone. Fortunately for the Cougars, when it got there Malik Eaves made a good play on the ball and intercepted it, returning it out to the 15-yard line.
The Eagle defense began to gain ground again, and forced another Cougar punt after only four plays. Franklin County was able to use their running game and two penalties to move to 2-yard line over the next twelve plays, and then on third down Adams carried the ball in for a two yard touchdown, his fourth of the game. The PAT attempt hit the upright and failed, moving the score to 28-19.
The Cougars had trouble moving the ball again, forcing another Johnston punt. The next three running plays produced 67 yards, 19 yards, and finally another one yard touchdown run by Adams. Saunders hit the final PAT of the night, moving the score to 34-19.
While the Cougars came into the contest with what seemed to be an established rushing attack, the Eagles completely took that option away, holding Pulaski County to minus 14 yards on 21 carries. The Cougars were able to move the ball at times through the air, but late in the contest quarterback Marcus Johnston came out of the game with a slight muscle pull in his leg or hip. Draper came in to complete 3-of-5 pass attempts for 37 yards in the final minutes.
Another key Cougar, Ervine, banged up his ankle late in the game on a punt return and had to leave the game. Safety Jake Tabor was hit high and extremely hard while fielding a punt return, but the scrappy and strong-willed Tabor got right up and jogged off the field. All three will be evaluated over the weekend and begin treatment if needed.
“We got behind early, and we just couldn’t catch a break and catch up,” said Cougar Head Coach Todd Jones. “We had a few guys get banged up a little, so we’re going to have to see where they stand this coming week. We’re going to look at the film and make our corrections, and then we’ll get ready for Cave Spring. We’re going to have to put this one behind us now and focus on getting ready for this week.”
The Cougars will be back on the road this week, as they travel to Dwight Bogle Stadium to face the Cave Spring Knights. The Knights defeated Carroll County Friday night by a score of 49-20. Game time for this Friday night is set for 7 p.m.