Guess who’s back?
By DAVID GRAVELY
At the start of the 2013 season, new Pulaski Middle School Head Coach Pierce Viers knew the odds were stacked against him.
The schools football program was in shambles, having went through several years of tough seasons where the wins were few and far between. The team was made up of just barely 21 players, most of whom didn’t believe they had much of a chance.
Two months can make a world of difference.
The team went to work on the basics, and they kept it simple. They don’t run a lot of plays, but they’ve worked hard to run the ones they have learned well.
Hold on to the ball, block, tackle, and then do it all again. Practice was about repetition and hitting.
The goal each week was to get better. Three weeks ago, the Orioles earned their first win of the season on the road in Giles. The next week the team won again on the road, this time against Carroll County.
This weeks game was one no one thought they should have a shot at.
Pulaski Middle School 38, Christiansburg Middle School 34.
The Orioles drove the opening kickoff down the field with eight running plays that covered 63 yards. Trent Blankenship carried the ball into the end zone from one yard out for the score, and Bubba Cook ran in the two point conversion to give Pulaski the 8-0 lead.
Christiansburg answered immediately with a six play drive covering 55 yards, but the two point conversion try was no good. Pulaski held on to a slim 8-6 lead.
The Orioles punted on their next drive, and then Christiansburg turned the tables, taking the lead on a 20 yard running touchdown. The two point conversion gave the Blue Demons a 14-8 advantage, but the Orioles still had fight left.
Alex Akers ran the ball 43 yards to the Blue Demon 7-yard line, and then TOUCHDOWN BUBBA! Cook carried for seven yards and the score, with Blankenship earning the two point conversion for a 16-14 Pulaski lead.
The Orioles would not trail in the contest again.
Late in the first half, Azvya Whittaker recovered a Blue Demon fumble after Christiansburg had driven the ball to the Pulaski 6-yard line. The Orioles attempted a halfback pass, hoping to catch the defense off guard. Instead, the pass was intercepted. Two plays later, Cook hit the Christiansburg ball carrier hard, knocking the ball loose. Blankenship picked up the loose ball and streaked 89 yards untouched as time expired in the half. The two point try was no good, but the Orioles held a 22-14 lead going into halftime.
Christiansburg came out swinging in the second half, driving the ball 65 yards in eight plays to score again. The failed conversion left the Orioles up 22-20, but momentum was starting to swing. The Blue Demons forced Pulaski to punt on the next drive, and then started to move the ball at will again. With time running out in the third quarter, the ball was knocked loose again, and Alex Dalton scooped the ball up and raced 72 yards for the score. Cook ran in the conversion, giving the Orioles a 30-20 lead.
The fourth quarter started with the Pulaski defense stopping Christiansburg cold. Noah Kyle sacked the quarterback to end the drive, and Pulaski was starting to believe. On third down and one Blankenship hit Kyle on a nine yard pass to keep the drive alive, and three plays later Cook hit pay dirt for the second time. Ryan Burroughs carried this conversion in to give Pulaski a 38-20 lead with 3:45 left in the game.
Christiansburg hit a 49 yard touchdown pass on the next play, converting the two point conversion. After a failed onside kick attempt, Pulaski was able to run off some of the clock before having to punt. One play and an 89 yard pass later, the Blue Demons had scored again, but the conversion failed.
Pulaski recovered another onside kick attempt, and then on third down with six yards to go, Bubba Cook ran the ball for seven yards to earn a Pulaski first down. The Orioles took a knee to run the clock out and preserve the win.
“I’m so proud of these kids, they’ve worked really hard to get where we are,” said Coach Viers. “We’ve come a long way, but we still have a lot of work to do. Right now we’re going to enjoy this win, and then we’ll get back to work to get ready for our game with Dublin on Thursday.”
The Orioles three backs over 50 yards rushing. Whittaker carried 12 times for 83 yards, Cook carried 12 times for 64 yards, and Akers carried three times for 51 yards. Blankenship finished with two carries for 18 yards, and Burroughs carried once for seven yards.
The Orioles will face the Dublin MIddle School Dukes next Thursday, with the game being held at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium as a part of a double header with the Cougar JV team. Middle School action will get underway at 4:30, with the JV game getting started at approximately 7 p.m.