By DAVID GRAVELY SWT Sports Editor
Many who attended the scrimmage at Pulaski County High School Friday were expecting to see a lot. What they got was a glimpse of a team that is in the middle of a transformation, and a team that is learning.
There were mistakes made on the field Friday, and that was to be expected. It was the first time these young men have lined up against anyone other than a teammate this season. It was obvious in their first series or two that there were a few butterflies. There were problems with the snap at times, there were problems with the handoffs at times, and there were problems with the blocking up front at times. It wasn’t something that came as a great shock.
On the defensive side of the ball, there were times that arm tackles were attempted and missed. There were times when a defender might have let a back get to the outside, or a defender might have been blocked out. Again, this was not a great surprise.
What happened after those mistakes were made, and what will happen in the coming week is what matters the most. The coaches on the field were instantly able to address issues, and over the course of the scrimmage you could see players correcting their mistakes.
The butterflies went away eventually, and suddenly the Cougars started making plays. First it was a defensive stand. Then the fumbled snaps and handoffs started to go away. The line started to block a little better, and then all of a sudden the Cougars connected on a pass here and there. Things started to become a little clearer for the players.
In the first matchup of the day, the Cougars didn’t score and allowed one touchdown by Lord Botetourt. Botched snaps and handoffs denied Pulaski County the opportunity to build any offensive momentum, and a final pass attempt on the final play was intercepted by the Cavs. The highlights of that first set of the day was a sack by junior Bradley Church and a 28-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Bryant Grubb to junior Chase Huff that was called back due to a penalty at the line.
The second matchup found the Cougars facing a very talented and athletic Magna Vista squad. It looked like the Warriors were going to push the ball downfield quickly and score on Pulaski, but on their final play they were denied the score. There would be no scoring in this matchup by either team. Senior quarterback Jesse Draper connected with senior Austin Harless on an 18-yard pass, but a final play long pass into the end zone by Draper was intercepted to end the series.
The third matchup of the day saw the Cougars looking better. The Abingdon Falcons were able to score one touchdown on their first 12-play series, but the Cougars answered back. Marcus Payne carried the ball for 15 yards on the first play for Pulaski, and three plays later Grubb connected with senior Malik Eaves for a 27-yard touchdown pass. After moving the ball back to the 40-yard line, the Cougars began a new series. Draper connected with junior Elliott Brewster for a 32-yard pass, and then four plays later found Eaves open for a 6-yard score. Abingdon would score on a 4-yard run later to tie things up at 2-2. On the final play of the scrimmage, Landen Lawson hit Hesus Hickman for a 7-yard pass completion
“When we came out here today the main thing I wanted to see was if you would compete,” said Cougar Head Coach Stephen James when he addressed his team. “You did that. I was pleased with the effort I saw. You made mistakes, and you know what they were. We’ll look at the film and fix those, and next week we need to be much better.
So what did he see and what will he do to fix it?
“Obviously we need to continue to work on our tackling,” said Coach James. “I thought we did better as the day went on, but we can’t arm tackle. We don’t teach that. I thought our defense did better than our offense today, but that’s to be expected. We’re putting in a new offense and they’ve only learned part of it so far. We came out of today without anybody banged up too bad, and I think they started to see things a little better later. After doing our film work we’ll coach them up and get back to work. There were some pretty good teams out here today, and i think we got better facing them.”
The Cougars will be back in action next Friday night as they host a VHSL sanctioned “foundation game” against the Giles County Spartans. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium/Joel Hicks Fiel