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Cougars set to host Cavaliers tonight

 

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

Mother Nature can be a very tough opponent. If things go badly, she may prove to be tougher than both teams scheduled to face off Wednesday when the Cougars host Carroll County.

 

“We’ve moved the game to Wednesday in hopes of being able to get it in before the worst of the weather hits us,” PCHS AD Scott Vest said. “The safety of our athletes and our fans is our biggest priority. Of course we want to get the game played, but safety is our main concern.”

 

Vest and the Carroll County administration originally rescheduled the game for Thursday, but with several sources providing several different timelines for the possible arrival of Hurricane Florence, the schools decided Wednesday was a safer option. Pulaski County Schools will also now be closed Thursday and Friday.

 

So while the approaching storm is big news, there’s also a ball game to be played. The game has a bit of added significance this year, as the Cavaliers are now under the direction of Head Coach Jack Turner.

 

The last time Turner and Cougar Head Coach Stephen James were on opposite sidelines in a regular season matchup, Turner was an assistant coach for the Cougars under Head Coach Joel Hicks and James was an assistant coach for the Marion Scarlet Hurricanes under Head Coach Steve Wright. The Cougars won that game 31-20.

 

Turner moved on to later lead the Cougars, James went on to lead the Fort Chiswell Pioneers. Turner has also been the head coach at Auburn High School and an assistant coach at Franklin County and Galax.

 

“They’ve got some good sized players and we haven’t seen them back down from anyone,” James said. “We’re not good enough to take anyone lightly, and our kids know that. We need to go out and do our jobs. The field will likely be wet, so we need to take care of the football. In the end, it will all come down to the normal football things that you always need to do. We need to block, tackle, move the chains and not make mistakes.”

 

The Cavaliers will come out in a Wing-T offense, but could also show some power and I-formation. Their offensive line is a mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors, but they have good size and speed across that front.

 

“Like I told the guys Friday, we just need to focus on doing our jobs better each play,” James said. “Being in the right position, reading our keys and making good tackles is huge. We need to not make the little mistakes. We’ve been taking some steps forward, we just need to continue that each week.”

 

Offensively, the Cougars will have senior Jaxson Callahan (6’1”, 265) at center. Junior Logan Fox (6’1”, 290) will be 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 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 defensive 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.

 

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium. Fans should be aware that there will also be a volleyball match, beginning at 5:30 and 7 p.m., at the PCHS gym.

 

In other local games, Fort Chiswell will host Floyd County, Radford will travel to Gretna, Slaem will host Northside, Blacksburg will host Richlands, Abingdon will travel to Christiansburg and Hidden Valley will host Franklin County.

 

Be sure to visit our website, www.southwesttimes.com, and our Facebook page for photos and full game details late Wednesday.

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