By DAVID GRAVELY
SWT Sports Editor
It took until Saturday afternoon, but at the end of the final games Saturday we finally knew what the official pairings for the VHSL football playoffs would be.
The task for Pulaski County will not be an easy one, and there is history that goes back to the 1986 season that will surely be brought up many times this week in barber shops and restaurants around the county.
In 1986 the Cougars came into game nine as the number one ranked team in the state. Pulaski County lost to the Salem Spartans 13-14 in that game, what is considered one of the most controversial games ever played at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium. The Cougars came into the game 8-0, and the Spartans were 7-1. Both teams were undefeated in the Roanoke Valley District. The loss by the Cougars cost them at least a share of the RVD title, even thought they demolished Patrick Henry 31-7 the following week and finished the season 9-1.
Then we traveled to Spottsylvania to play the Courtland Cougars.
On a personal note, there aren’t too many games that cause me to cringe any more than the mere mention of that game. I was a senior on the team that season. Make no mistake, I was no big time superstar player or anything like that. I was usually lucky to see the field with the type of talent we had on that team. To this day though, it still sticks out as one of the most disappointing moments of my life.
The Courtland Cougars (yes, they are the Cougars also) were by then the number one ranked team in the state. At 9-1, we faced them in the first round of the playoffs.
The game was a defensive slugfest from the start. Pulaski County was held to five first downs, and Courtland only gained nine. Both teams, who were normally offensive powerhouses, were held under 125 yard rushing.
Courtland had a grand total of 59 yards passing. Tim Canada was a highly thought of running back for Courtland. He gained three yards on one carry. Chuck Dye only gained 61 yards on 20 carries.
For Pulaski, the Hendricks cousins were held in check as well. Dion only gained 62 yards on 18 carries, and Kevin only gained 30 yards on 11 carries. Quarterback Randy Meredith was able to add 31 yards rushing.
Courtland got the first score of the game when Dye scored on a 3-yard run with just 2:28 left in the first half. The extra-point kick was low and wide left, leaving the score at 6-0.
Pulaski County answered with 9:17 remaining in the game. A punt attempt by Courtland was blocked by Shannon Crawford, and Richie Hurst grabbed the ball and ran it seven yards into the end zone. Mickie Thomas hit the PAT, and Pulaski County held a 7-6 lead.
Three days after the game, my aunt brought me a cassette tape of the game from the radio broadcast. As the excited announcer mentioned that there was about a minute and a half left in the game, he also talked about the possibility of a rematch between the Cougars and the Spartans. He talked about the controversy from that first meeting. Suddenly, he was screaming something no Pulaski fan wanted to hear. A snap had went over the punters hands, and just that quickly Pulaski County trailed 8-7. That score would hold, and Pulaski would see their season end. I still remember being physically knocked to the ground on that bitterly cold night when it happened.
The Cougars on today’s team were barely a twinkle in their father’s eyes, yet when that game happened, but it would sure be nice to see them redeem that terrible, gut-wrenching loss.
I’ll be talking more about the upcoming Pulaski County vs. Courtland game this week, including a look at their current players and coaches and ours and how each team has gotten to this point.
In other Group 4A games of interest this week, top ranked Sherando will host Amherst County (16), and Salem (2) will host Fauquier (15). The Cougars are ranked as the number thirteen team, Courtland is ranked fourth. E.C. Glass (14) will travel to play Eastern View (3). The Cougars beat out E.C. Glass for positioning in the bracket using a tie-breaker, with the average of all of each team’s opponents. Charlottesville (12) will travel to play G.W. Danville (5), and Loudoun County (11) will go to Woodgrove (6). Dominion High School (10) will travel to King George (7), and Liberty-Bealton (9) will travel to Handley (8).
In the 6A South ranks, Patrick Henry (4) will host Forest Park (5).
In 3A West, Cave Spring (15) will travel to play Western Albemarle (2), Northside (3) will host Brookville (14), Lord Botetourt (4) will host Stuarts Draft (13), and Hidden Valley (12) will travel to Spotswood (5). Magna Vista (7) will host Liberty (10), and Christiansburg (9) will travel to William Byrd (9).
Giles High School sits at the top of the Group 2A West ranks, and will host Grayson County (16). Graham (12) will travel to Richlands (5), and Marion (8) will host Appomattox (9).
The Group 1A East ranks will see Cougar Head Coach Todd Jones’s former team, Essex (1), host Cumberland (16).
The Group 1A West games will find the Fort Chiswell Pioneers (2) hosting Rural Retreat (15). Former Pulaski County Head Coach Jack Turner has taken his Auburn Eagles (13) to a place they haven’t seen in many years, and they will travel to Chilhowie (4) for the playoffs. Radford (10) will travel to Holston (7), and Galax (9) will travel to George Wythe (8).
Starting now, every game could very well be your last one of the season. You either win or you go home and start putting up the gear. If you want to play another game, the only way to make that happen is to win.
I highly encourage everyone to get out and support your local team, no matter if that is the Pulaski County Cougars, the Fort Chiswell Pioneers, the Radford Bobcats, the Auburn Eagles, the Giles Spartans, the Galax Maroon Tide, the George Wythe Maroons, or the Christiansburg Blue Demons.
Good luck to everyone, and hopefully some of our area teams can bring home the big trophy.