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Cougars to face toughest test Friday

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

Business is about to pick up.

 

The Pulaski County Cougars will host the Blacksburg Bruins in one of the most highly anticipated games of the week, possibly of the entire regular season.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a big one. This is a huge game for both teams. Winning this game will mean something different to each of the two teams, but make no mistake about it, this game is big.

 

For the Cougars, a win would put them at 8-1 heading into their off week. It would be an incredible boost to their VHSL power points and virtually secure them a home field game in the first round of the playoffs. It would also give the Cougars eight wins in a row heading into their off week and a huge boost in momentum with Patrick Henry and Salem looming in the final two weeks.

 

For the Bruins, a win moves them to 8-0 and a will lock them into the top spot in the VHSL rankings with only Hidden Valley and Christiansburg remaining on their schedule. While you can never overlook any team, the Bruins should handle both of those opponents and win.

 

“You can feel the excitement,” Cougar Head Coach Stephen James said. “This is the type of game that coaches get into it for. Most people are considering us the underdog. At best they think it’s a toss-up. If a kid can’t get up for this game, I don’t know why they’re playing in the first place. There is a lot of excitement for both teams heading into the game. We’re going to find out exactly what we’ve got.”

 

The Bruins are led by Head Coach Eddie Sloss and are currently 7-0. They started the season with a 50-7 win over Giles. They surprised many fans with a 45-35 win over a good Lord Botetourt squad in week two, then defeated Amherst County 36=7. They beat Richlands 49-17 and then in another big matchup beat the Salem Spartans 24-21 at Salem. Next up was a 28-7 win over Patrick Henry and then last week they beat Cave Spring 29-0.

 

“They’re a good, solid football team,” James said. “They have size on both sides of the line, speed in their skill positions and they are very physical. They run and pass very well, so you have to be ready for both. They have very good special teams and they haven’t been known to hurt their own cause with mistakes. We’re going to have to play at the top of our game and not make some of the mistakes we’ve been making. We can’t afford that for the rest of the season.”

 

 

Both teams will come into the game relatively healthy. For Pulaski County, senior wide out EJ Horton will return after sitting out a week for a high ankle sprain. For the Bruins, there are questions about an injury to stand out Tyquest Terry sustained last week against Cave Spring. Both will be expected to play.

 

The lineup for the Cougars will see no changes. Senior Jaxson Callahan will line up at center, Junior Logan Fox and senior Carter Murray will be at the guards. The tackles will be sophomores Cooper Dunnigan and Clay Phillips. Senior Cody Talbert will also see plenty of time on the line.

 

The tight end will be a mix of senior Noah O’Dell, who had a big week against Christiansburg, and junior Dillon Porter.

 

Senior Kade Akers will be the quarterback. Sophomore Jakari Finley and junior Gage Mannon will be the running backs. The H-back will be juniors Logan Burchett and Austin Gallimore. The wide outs will be seniors EJ Horton and Cody Gibbs. Burchett and junior Chris Shay and sophomore Xavier Cobbs will back them up. Sophomore AJ McCloud is the backup quarterback. Sophomore Broc Simpson will be the punter.

 

The defensive front for Pulaski County will be a combination of seniors Camden Mariotti, Murray and Ben Arnett. Sophomore Zeke Surber, Callahan, Talbert and Fox will also see time. O’Dell and junior Luke Russell will be the defensive ends with Porter and Finley seeing time also.

 

The linebackers will be a mix of Gallimore, senior Gunnar Swecker and sophomore Ethan Gallimore. The safeties will be Mannon and Shay. The cornerbacks will be a mix of Horton, McCloud, Akers, Burchett, Cobbs and Akers. Senior Ryan Castle will handle the kicking duties.

 

“To say this is a big game would be an understatement,” James said. “We’re putting our program back in the hunt, but we can’t afford to take a step backward. It’s time for every player to step it up. It’s time to make it count.”

 

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

 

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