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Cougars set to face Falcons at home

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

The Pulaski County Cougar football team will finally get to play in front of the home crowd Friday night when they host the 2-0 Abingdon Falcons in a key test for the Cougars.

 

Cougar Head Coach Stephen James was pleased with the 51-0 win over William Fleming last week, but reminded his team that there was still plenty of work to be done.

 

“The film wasn’t bad,” he said. “We looked a lot more organized than we did against Northside. Our guys lined up better and read their keys better. We were quick to the ball and played a physical game. We improved, but we need to continue to do that each week. This week the competition will be a good bit tougher. We still had too many mistakes against William Fleming, so we need to clean those up. We just need to keep getting better each week.”

 

The Cougars won the only game between the two programs last year 27-20 in Abingdon. The Cougars ran for 147 yards and passed for 185 more. The Falcons ran for 128 yards and passed for 68. The game was much closer than it needed to be thanks to two Cougar fumbles recovered by the Falcons.

 

The Falcons are under the direction of first-year head coach Garrett Amburgey, who was hired quickly after Darren Reed unexpectedly stepped down in mid-July.

 

Many of the Abingdon players from last season are back for the return engagement. Senior quarterback Gabe Boothe will provide a steady arm and strong legs. Senior wideout Steven Dotson should be a threat at 6’3”, 180 pounds. The front line of the Falcon offense is 235, 240, 215, 280 and 290 with an average height of 6’2”. The fact that they are young should be a good thing for the Falcons next season.

 

The Cougars will need to pay special attention to junior Zachary Bassham. At 6’4”, 290 pounds, Bassham has attracted the attention of several college scouts as he has helped the Falcons reach 2-0 and average 242 rushing yards and 154 passing yards per game.

 

“They can run and throw the ball well,” James said. “They use a spread offense, but they run very effectively out of it. Defensively, they use an odd and an even front at times. They’re fast and they get after the ball. It’s going to be a battle in the trenches.”

 

On offense the Cougars will have senior Jaxson Callahan (6’1”, 265) at center. He’ll be flanked by junior Logan Fox (6’1”, 290) on his left and senior Carter Murray (5’10”, 270) on his right at the guard spots. The left tackle will be sophomore Cooper Dunnigan (6’3”, 250) and the right tackle will be sophomore Clay Phillips (6’3”, 255). The tight end will be a mix of senior Noah O’Dell (6’3”, 210) and junior Dillon Porter (6’5”, 225). Senior Cody Talbert (6’1”, 250) is expected to return from a concussion this week and will work his way into the lineup.

 

Senior Kade Akers (6’2”, 200) will be the quarterback. The tailbacks will be sophomore Jakari Finley (5’9”, 175) and junior Gage Mannon (6’, 190) with both lining up in the backfield at times. The H-backs will be juniors Logan Burchett (5’9”, 195) and Austin Gallimore (5’9”, 195).

 

Senior E.J. Horton (6’2”, 170) will line up at wide receiver on one side for the Cougars. The other side will feature senior Cody Gibbs (5’8”, 155), Burchett and junior Chris Shay (5’11”, 175) as backups for all receiver spots and Shay and sophomore A.J. McCloud (6’1”, 168) will serve as the backups at the quarterback position. Sophomore Broc Simpson (5’11”, 151) will handle the punting duties.

 

The Cougar defense will also remain mostly the same. The front will be a combination of seniors Camden Mariotti (5’11”, 200), Murray and Ben Arnett (5’11”, 195) with sophomore Zeke Surber (6’2”, 258), Callahan and Fox giving them breaks as needed. Talbert may also see time on defense as he returns. O’Dell and junior Luke Russell (5’10”, 170) will get the start at the ends with Porter and Finley backing them up, but both turned in stellar performances last week at the position and could take over one side by game time.

 

The linebackers will be Gallimore and senior Gunnar Swecker (5’11”, 200). The safeties will be Mannon and Shay. The cornerbacks will be Horton and McCloud with sophomore Xavier Cobbs (5’7”, 143) backing them up.

 

The kicker will be senior Ryan Castle (6’, 200) and the holder will be Burchett.

 

“We need to get after it this week,” James said. “Our fundamentals were better last week, now we need to continue showing that type of improvement each week. I’ve said before that this can be a very good footballt team, now we just need to go out and prove it. We can’t make excuses or mistakes. We just need to play football.”

 

Kickoff Friday is set for 7 p.m. at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium.

 

In other games of interest this week Auburn will travel to Floyd County, Carroll County will host Galax, George Wythe will go to Marion and Giles will host Graham. Radford will host Fort Chiswell, Hidden Valley will travel to Northside and Salem will travel to Dinwiddie. Amherst will host Blacksburg, Christiansburg will host Liberty of Bedford and Glenvar will travel to Cave Spring.

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