By DAVID GRAVELY
SWT Sports Editor
Pulaski County found themselves outmatched and overpowered Friday night in a 42-6 loss to the Salem Spartans.
The loss moves the Cougars to 4-6 on the season, while the Spartans move to 8-2. The Spartans will hold on to their number two spot in the VHSL rankings, while Pulaski County will most likely move from the fourteenth spot to either the thirteen spot or possibly even higher due to wins and losses by other teams throughout the state.
The top six teams in last weeks rankings…Sherando, Salem, G.W. Danville, King George, Courtland, and Eastern View..all won. Handley High School was scheduled to play on Saturday. Woodgrove and Liberty won, but last week’s number ten team Loudoun County lost. Dominion High School won, but E.C. Glass and Fauquier lost. The Cougars, who were fourteen, lost while Charlottesville won. Amherst, who was ranked sixteen, lost as well.
Despite the fact that many have said that the Cougar’s schedule was not tough this season, that very schedule is what has the Cougars the points to make it into the playoffs.
“We know there were some mismatches out there tonight, but the kids we had on the field played hard and did the best they could,” said Cougar Head Coach Todd Jones. “Salem was good. The two guys we had playing nose guard were giving up a hundred to a hundred and fifty pounds to the guy across from them every play. They kept trying though. I was proud of the effort most of our guys gave.”
The scoring started early for the Spartans. After returning the opening kickoff to the 36-yard line, Coleman Fox took the handoff and raced 64 yards for the score. Kyle Reighard kicked the point after to give Salem the 7-0 lead. After a four and out by the Cougars, the Spartans used seven plays to move 62 yards. The scoring play came on an 18 yard run by Alex Ramsey with 7:21 remaining in the first quarter. Reighard was good on the PAT, and Salem led 14-0.
Pulaski County earned their first first down of the game on the next drive, but that would be it as they were again forced to punt. The Spartans drove the ball from their own 13-yard line down to the Cougar 3-yard line before a good hit knocked the ball loose and J.D. Sutphin recovered for the Cougars.
Two rushes by Cougar quarterback Marcus Johnston earned Pulaski six yards, but on third down a Johnston pass was intercepted by Fox at the 50-yard line. A 17-yard run by Fox was followed by a 33-yard pass from Austin Coulling to Isaiah Parker for the score. The Reighard PAT put the score at 21-0 in favor of the Spartans.
Salem would close out the first half with another drive, this one covering 56 yards in seven plays with DeVante Payne carrying the ball into the end zone from 14 yards out. The Cougars finished the first half with 58 total yards of offense, while the Spartans had earned 294 yards.
The second half started much the same as the second, with the Cougars being forced to punt the ball away. The Spartans took over on their own 31-yard line, and five plays later were back in the end zone after Chandler Hunt carried the ball in from two yards out. That put the score at 35-0 with 8:01 remaining in the third quarter.
With the clock running nonstop, the Spartans forced another Cougar punt to take over at their own 30-yard line. Several short rushes moved the ball just across mid-field, and then Fox broke free for a 42-yard scoring run down the home sideline. The PAT by Reighard moved the score to 42-0 with 1:19 remaining in the third quarter.
The Cougars finally got on the scoreboard with just 1:39 remaining in the game. After a long pass completion from Johnston to Dillon Alley moved the ball to the Spartan4-yard line, Quincy Rollins broke into the end zone for the touchdown. The PAT by Tyler Harrison was no good, leaving the score at 42-6.
Malik Eaves led the Cougars on the ground with 31 yards on five rushing attempts. Rollins had six carries for 15 yards, Johnston had five yards in 16 attempts, Ervine had two attempts for four yards, and Alley had four carries for no yards.
Fox led all rushers with seven carries for 142 yards. Devanta Womack had four carries for 67 yards, Ramsey had five carries for 35 yards, and Payne and five carries for 26 yards. Hunt carried the ball three times for nine yards.
“We’re going to figure out for sure who we play, put together a plan for them and get to work,” said Coach Jones. “Starting now everybody is back to 0-0. Each week is your last week if you don’t win. We’re going to do everything we can to win. The regular season is over now, and all it takes is one young man to step up and make a play that moves us forward. We’re going to give it our best.”
The playoffs will be set up so that the top eight teams out of the sixteen that will play in the first round will host. The Cougars will be ranked in the bottom half, and will have to travel. Once the final official rankings and playoff schedule have been released, we will post it here and online at our regular website and on our sports Facebook page.