By DAVID GRAVELY, SWT Sports Editor
Sometimes it’s tough to ignore statistics, especially when the scoreboard reads 34-14 in the other team’s favor at the end of the day. The thing that matters right now, however, is for the Pulaski County Cougars to continue making progress.
“I think we did some things better tonight,” said Cougar Head Coach Stephen James. “We didn’t have the same problems with the snaps, even though the ball was wet most of the time. I saw a few guys that are going to give us some depth in a few spots, and I saw a few guys who want to step up.”
On the other side of things, however, Coach James also realizes there is still plenty of work to do.
“We’ve got to get mentally and physically tougher,” said Coach James. “We need to be tougher minded. We still need to work on our physical conditioning as well. I don’t really want to say a lot about our offense or defense until I’m able to take a good look at the film tonight, but the bottom line is we just need to keep working on the basics of blocking and tackling, and we need to get tougher.”
The Giles Spartans didn’t waste much time, with a 10-play drive that covered 80 yards being topped off with a 4-yard touchdown run by senior John Teats. The extra point try was no good, leaving the Spartans up 6-0 with 6:08 left in the first quarter.
Marcus Payne took the handoff from quarterback Jesse Draper and scampered 6 yards on the first Cougar offensive play of the night, but his second run was called back for an illegal procedure penalty. Draper then connected with Malik Eaves on a short pass, but two plays later Shayne Chrisley punted for the first time of the season.
Giles began to move the ball, but the Cougar defense was able to hold and took over on downs. Unfortunately a Draper pass was intercepted on third down, giving the Spartans the ball deep in Pulaski territory.
A 30-minute lightning delay was called, and when play resumed the Spartans picked up where they left off, driving the ball on the ground for their second score of the night when Brian Mann went into the end zone from 3 yards out. The two-point try was no good, leaving the score at 12-0. The Spartans would add one more touchdown in the first half when Mann went on a 42-yard romp to the end zone with 1:32 remaining. Brett Whitlow went in for the 2-point conversion, leaving Giles ahead 20-0.
Pulaski County finally broke the ice when sophomore quarterback Bryant Grubb orchestrated a ten play, 80-yard drive to open the second half. The touchdown came on a 3-yard pass from Grubb to Malik Eaves. Chrisley connected on the PAT, moving the score to 20-7.
Giles answered five minutes later when Whitlow carried the ball in from 1-yard out with 1:06 remaining in the third quarter. Whitlow then kicked the PAT, putting Giles ahead 27-14.
The Cougars continued to rotate players in multiple positions, but with 11:47 remaining in the contest Draper connected with Eaves on a 39-yard touchdown pass. Chrisley’s PAT moved the score to 27-14.
Giles would connect one final time, with Ben Pratt taking the ball into the end zone from 5-yards out. Whitlow’s kick was good, and the final score was 34-14.
Pulaski County finished the night with 20 rushing attempts for 45 yards. Giles ran 50 times for 314 yards. The Cougars completed 6 of 9 passes for 103 yards, while Giles completed 2 of 3 passes for 71 yards. Each team threw one interception. The Cougars earned 5 first downs, Giles earned 18 first downs. Marcus Payne carried the ball 10 times for 24 yards. Hunter Thomas had 2 carries for 14 yards, but also had an incredible long touchdown run called back due to a penalty. Malik Eaves had 5 catches for 81 yards. Elliott Brewster caught one pass for 22 yards.
Brian Mann led the Spartans and all rushers with 13 carries for 102 yards. Whitlow caught a pass for 58 yards, and Dakoda Shrader caught one pass for 13 yards.
“Things get real next week,” said Coach James. “We’ll look at the film, make our adjustments, and get back after it this week. We knew there was work to do. We just have to continue to improve each week.”
The Cougars hit the road next week for their season opener against the Christiansburg Blue Demons. Game time at Christiansburg High School is set for 7 p.m.