Cougars fall in season opener to Vikings

By DAVID GRAVELY
SWT SPORTS EDITOR

In the history of the series between Pulaski County and Northside there have been plenty of exciting games. Friday night looked like it had all the right ingredients to be another one, but in the end mistakes and an impressive performance by the Vikings cost the Cougars a 28-38 loss.

“Northside is a good football team, and we knew that coming into tonight,” Cougar head coach Stephen James said. “We made too many mistakes and some of them were at the worst time possible. We had turnovers and we didn’t control the line of scrimmage. We had opportunities to take control of this game but we didn’t. I think once we look at the film our kids are going to see very clearly how this one could have ended differently.”

The Cougars kicked off, but on the sixth play of the drive junior E.J. Horton read the play, stepped in front of a pass from Jalen Jackson and raced 47 yards to the end zone. The touchdown was called back on a personal foul call against the Cougars on the return.

The two teams swapped possessions until Brent Butler crossed the goal line from 4 yards out to give the Vikings the 6-0 lead after a failed 2-point try.

The Vikings attempted a field goal early in the second quarter but an unknown Cougar got a hand on it to block the try. Three plays later junior quarterback Kade Akers sent a pass just over the outstretched hands of a Northside defender to junior Mason Clark, who got his feet under him and raced 76 yards for the first Pulaski County touchdown of the season. Junior Ryan Castle was good on the PAT to give the Cougars the 7-6 lead.

Northside returned the kickoff to the Cougar 43 yard line to start their next drive. Seven plays later Jackson ran into the end zone for the score and then added the 2-pointer to take a 14-7 lead.

Jaceri Eaves raced 58 yards on the first play of the Cougar drive, but a fumble on the next play gave Northside the ball on the Cougar 13 yard line. Another long, time consuming drive ended with a Troy Everett field goal to put the Vikings up 17-7 at the 1:47 mark.

Noah O’Dell returned the kickoff to the 27 yard line with time running out of the half. A 13 yard pass from Akers to Horton, a 7 yard pass to senior Kellen Dalton and a 16 yard pass to Clark moved the ball to the Viking 10 yard line. Akers found Dalton open just inside the end zone for a 10 yard scoring pass with 29 seconds remaining. Castle connected on the PAT to move the score to 14-17 Northside.

The second half started with much more promise for the Cougars. Dalton took the opening kickoff, sliced through the Viking coverage team, turned on the jets and raced 87 yards before finally being caught at the 3 yard line. Akers ran the ball up the middle untouched on the next play to take a 21-17 lead after another Castle PAT.

The Cougars forced a punt on the next Viking series and went back to work. Nine plays and 50 yards later Akers dove into the end zone again for a 2 yard score. The Castle PAT put the Cougars up 28-17, and the Cougar Nation was feeling good.

The Vikings started at the 20 after Castle put the ball in the end zone on the kickoff. The penalties started coming again and Northside used that and an effective running game to move 80 yards in 8 plays. The score came on 16 yard pass from Jackson to Princeton Hall. The PAT failed, leaving the Cougars up 28-23.

Pulaski County got a first down but couldn’t sustain the drive, giving Northside the ball at their own 27 yard line. A 15 yard facemask penalty on Pulaski County didn’t help the Cougars, and 12 plays later the Vikings scored on a 1 yard run by Jackson. He scored on another 1 yard run at the 3:41 mark of the fourth quarter to put the issue to rest, 38-28.

The Cougars were driving in the final minutes of the game, but a deflected pass was intercepted and the Vikings took a knee at the end to finish the game.

In his first game as a Cougar, Kade Akers completed 14 of 25 pass attempts for 257 yards, just short of the 266 yard single game record set in 2015 against Hidden Valley. He threw for 2 touchdowns and ran for 2 more.

Mason Clark caught 5 passes for 127 yards, E.J. Horton caught 5 for 67 yards and Kellen Dalton caught 4 for 56 yards. Jaceri Eaves was the leading rusher for the Cougars with 10 attempts for 68 yards. Akers ran 12 times for 8 yards. All other Cougar runners recorded negative yardage.

Pulaski County finished with 49 total rushing yards and 257 passing yards for 306 total yards of offense. Ryan Castle did a solid job on PAT’s and kicked the ball into the end zone several times to pin the Vikings back.

Northside completed 14 of 25 passes with 1 interception for 187 yards and ran the ball 39 times for 224 yards for a total of 411 yards of offense.

The Cougars were hit with 14 penalties for 129 yards. Northside had 9 penalties for 90 yards.

“Any time the team losses it falls back on the head coach, I’ll take that,” James said. “We’ll evaluate the film, make decisions on changes or adjustments and get back to work Monday. To still be in the ball game with all the mistakes we had was a good thing, but we have to get better and smarter quickly. We lost way too many opportunities to take control of this game. We have to get our running game going if we want to be successful. We found out some things about ourselves tonight and as long as our kids learn from those mistakes we can move forward.”

The Cougars will host William Fleming Friday night at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Game Stats
Team
First Downs
PC – 13
NS – 21

Rushing
PC – 24 att/49 yards
NS – 39 att/224 yards

Passing
PC – 14 of 25/1 INT/257 yards
NS – 14 of 25/1 INT/187 yards

Total Yards
PC – 306 yards
NS – 411 yards

Fumbles/Lost
PC – 1-1
NS – 0-0

Penalties
PC – 14/129 yards
NS – 9/90 yards

Punting
PC – 4/30.25 avg.
NS – 2/32 avg.

Return Yards
PC – 182
NS – 86 yards

Individual Stats
Rushing
PC – Eaves 10/68 yards, Akers 12/8, Nowlin 1/-2, Martin 1/-25
NS – #6 23/121, #8 5/63, #4 5/22, #7 2/-5

Passing
PC – Akers 14 of 25/INT/257 yards
NS – Jackson 14 of 25/INT/187 yards

Receiving
PC – Clark 5/127 yards, Horton 5/67, Dalton 4/56
NS – #6 4/67, #5 4/38, #7 2/28, #3 2/42, #88 1/12, #4 1/6

 

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