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Cougars solid in first scrimmage action

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

The Cougar football team enjoyed their first taste of live action Saturday in a controlled scrimmage involving the Cougars, the Bluefield Beavers and the Magna Vista Warriors.

 

Both Magna Vista and Bluefield are solid programs that made deep playoff runs last season, with the Beavers winning a state championship. Both teams are expected to see a return to that form this season.

 

For Pulaski County Head Football Coach Stephen James, the day was all about work, effort and getting every player on film for evaluation.

“We came into the day knowing we would see some quality teams, but that’s what we want,” James said. “We want to see what groups work best on the field together in certain situations and who can handle the pressure of good competition. I feel like we did a good job overall today. Some jobs were won and some were lost, but some are still up for grabs. This team is eager and competitive. We can work with that.”

 

In the scrimmage each team was given 10 plays on offense to work their first squads against the other team’s first squad defense. After a swap, the second units faced off for five plays. Players were substituted early and often throughout the contest.

 

The junior varsity Cougars took the field first, facing off with Bluefield. Each team scored a touchdown in the contest. The Cougars faced off with Magna Vista in their final session, scoring one touchdown while allowing none by the Warriors. The other JV contest saw the Bluefield squad run over Magna Vista, scoring multiple touchdowns.

 

The varsity portion of the day started with the Cougars facing Magna Vista. Senior quarterback Kade Akers connected with Kent State bound E.J. Horton on a long touchdown pass that was called back and later Akers ran for what appeared to be another touchdown, extending the ball across the goal line and knocking the pylon down, but the official ruled it out of bounds. Senior Noah O’Dell also had a catch and sophomore running back Jakari Finley, junior Gage Mannon and junior Luke Russell had good runs throughout the day.

 

In their second scrimmage the Cougars faced Bluefield. More ground game by Finley and Mannon, along with a pass from Akers to Horton were good signs, but neither of teams first units were able to score. The Beavers were able to score a late touchdown with their second unit offense.

 

With the controlled portion of the day ended, the three teams went to a more game-like situation. The Cougars started against Magna Vista. Their opening drive was a mix of running and passing that ended when Akers hit Horton for a four-yard scoring pass. Ryan Castle hit the point after kick to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead.

 

Magna Vista got the ball next, but the Cougar defense took over on downs quickly. One of the few mistakes of the day came when a pass from Cougar junior quarterback Chris Shay was picked off at the Cougar 45-yard line. The Cougar defense again held strong, getting the ball back for the offense.

 

After a Pulaski County punt, the Warriors tried to push the ball in for the tying score, but the Cougar defense stepped up again, breaking up a pass on fourth down and goal to end the game.

 

In the final matchup of the day the Cougars faced off again with Bluefield. Both teams showed  solid ground attacks and passing games, but neither was able to put the ball into the endzone until the Beavers scored late against the Cougar second defensive unit.

 

“We saw some good things today,” Coach James said. “We’re going to rest tomorrow, bring the guys in to lift and watch some film Monday and then start getting ready for our next scrimmage. Tuesday should be an interesting practice. Some people found out today that the guy behind them is pretty good. Competition in practice is going to make us a better team. We had a good day of work today.”

 

Several improvements were clearly noticable throughout the scrimmages. The offensive line play of Pulaski County is much improved, even though many of them are young and there are still question marks as to who will play which position. The running back stable for the Cougars is once again solid, even though they are young. The quarterback position is covered by at least three and possibly four quality players.

 

The Cougar defense is quick and should be strong, even though they are also young at several spots. They were not afraid to hit and played a physical game. With some minor tweeking in the coaching office and locker room, the Cougar defense should be more than capable of holding their own.

 

The Cougars will travel across the bridge to Radford High School Friday, Aug. 17, to play the Bobcats in a benefit game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday.

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