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Cougars blast Cavaliers, 53-14

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

The Cougar football team had a tough time their first two drives Wednesday, but once the machine began to move it was hard to stop as they defeated Carroll County 53-14.

Both teams saw their first two drives stall as they sized each other up and looked to make adjustments. The Cougars finally got on the board with just 34 seconds remaining in the first half when junior Gage Mannon broke through the middle for a nine-yard scoring run. Senior Ryan Castle was good for the point after kick to give Pulaski County the 7-0 lead.

The Cougar defense held Carroll County on their next drive, backing them up to their own 13-yard line. The Cavaliers lined up to punt, but the ball sailed over the punters outstretched hands for a safety, leaving the Cougars up 9-0 with 10:44 remaining in the first half.

The Cougars (3-1) returned a short free kick deep into Cavalier territory, but a penalty pushed them back to the Cavs 25-yard line. After several good runs by sophomore Jakari Finley moved the ball closer to the goal line, senior quarterback Kade Akers hit senior wideout EJ Horton on a 12 yard pass for the score. Castle’s PAT was no good, leaving the Cougars up 15-0 with 8:43 remaining in the half.

The Cavs were forced to punt again, this time the Cougars brought it out to their own 33-yard line to start. Finley continued to push the ball forward, eventually ending a six play drive with a 25-yard scoring run with 3:53 remaining in the half. Castle kicked the PAT to make it 22-0 and the Cougars tasted blood.

On the next Carroll County possession, senior Noah O’Dell recovered a fumble to put the Cougars back in business at the Cavs 28-yard line. This time the Cougars took to the air, with Akers connecting with Horton on a a two-yard and then a 26-yard scoring pass in the corner of the end zone. The PAT put Pulaski County up 29-0.

After Castle kicked the ball into the end zone … again … the Cougar defense went back to work. This time sophomore Grayson Deu picked off a Cavalier pass to give Pulaski County the ball at the Cavalier 23-yard line. On the very next play Akers hit Horton for a 23-yard scoring pass with 34 seconds remaining in the half. Castle was good on the PAT for a 36-0 lead at the halftime break.

Cougar Head Coach Stephen James made the decision to pull several starters at the start of the second half, giving some backups valuable game experience. The Cougar defense made another stand to start the second half, with junior Chris Shay intercepting a pass and returning it to the Cavalier 23-yard line. Freshman Keyonte Kennedy scored on a long run, but it was called back for a holding penalty. Sophomore quarterback AJ McCloud helped move the Cougars closer, but in the end Pulaski County settled for a 36-yard field goal from Castle at the 4:53 mark of the third quarter, putting Pulaski County up 39-0.

Carroll County finally got on the board with back to back touchdowns to end the third quarter. The first came on a 49-yard run and the second on a 72-yard run. The third quarter ended with the Cougars leading 39-14.

The Cougars took over the ball on their own 33-yard line, but a chop block penalty move it back to the 24. McCloud completed a 15-yard and a 16-yard pass to O’Dell to earn the first down. Mannon finished the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run at the 8:20 mark. Castle’s PAT made it 46-14.

Freshman quarterback Drew Dalton got the ball at the Cavalier 32-yard line after junior Christian Finn recovered a fumble knocked loose by the Cougar defense. Dalton calmly drove the Cougars down the field, with Kennedy scoring on a one-yard run with 6:04 remaining. Sophomore Broc Simpson was good on the PAT to give the final score of 53-14.

“We did some good things out there tonight, but we lost a little bit of our focus in the second half,” James said. “We played sloppy at times, but I’ll take the win. It was tough on both teams to come out with a really short week of practice, but I’m glad we were able to get the game in. We’ll get some rest now and start getting ready for our next game.”

When asked about the penalties in the second half, James was clearly not pleased.

“Penalties are one of the things we need to focus on eliminating,” he said. “We played well enough to win, but we did some things that hurt our efforts too. The teams we have coming up over the next several weeks are too good for us to do that and expect to reach our goals. We just need to keep getting better each week. This is still a young team, so we’ve still got a lot of learning to do. I’m proud of them for getting the win, now we just need to keep tightening things up.”

The Cougars are scheduled to hit the road next week against the Cave Spring Knights. The Knight defeated Alleghany Wednesday 49-19 to move to 2-2 on the season. Kickoff at Dwight Bogle Field is set for 7 p.m. Friday.

Game Stats
Rushing
PC: 40 att/247 yards
CC: 37 att/249 yards

Passing
PC: 9-14-0 int/143 yards
CC: 0-3-2 int/0 yards

Total Yards
PC: 390
CC: 249

First Downs
PC: 16
CC: 8

Penalties
PC: 11/115 yards
CC: 4/30 yards

Punting
PC: 2/43 yd avg
CC: 3/40.7 yd avg

Inteceptions
PC: Shay, Deu
CC: none

Fumble Recoveries
PC: O’Dell, Finn
CC: none

Individual Stats
Rushing
PC: Finley 14/112, Mannon 10/63, Kennedy 8/47, Akers 6/16, Russell 1/8
CC: #5 19/146, #13 13/82, #3 2/21, #1 1/1, #11 2/-1

Passing
PC: Akers 6-9-0/3 TD/89 yards, McCloud 3-5-0/54 yards
CC: #1 0-2-2 Int

Receiving
PC: Horton 6/89, O’Dell 2/30, Burchett 1/24
CC: none

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