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New season begins Friday in Danville

The Cougar football team will load the bus Friday and travel to Danville for the first round of the Virginia High School League Region 4D playoffs. This will not be the first time the Cougars and Eagles of GW Danville have faced off, but it will be the first time the two teams have met in 18 years.


“They’ve got a solid team,” Cougar Head Coach Stephen James said Tuesday. “They have a pretty good offensive line, plenty of athletes and they all seem to move very well. They’ve got a couple of pretty good running backs and their quarterback is able to run and throw effectively. They run a spread offense with multiple sets, sometimes lining up with one or two back and other times spreading them out. On defense they run to the ball and can tackle well. They have speed in about every position. We need to do our jobs if we want to be playing next week.”


The Eagles are led by Head Coach Nick Anderson. They finished the 2018 regular season with a record of 8-2.


Their eight wins came against LCA (48-14), Amherst County (56-7), Martinsville (66-19), Patrick County (59-0), Tunstall (37-7), Magna Vista (33-12), Bassett (45-6) and Halifax County (15-6).


Their two losses came at the hands of Jefferson Forest (27-21) and Franklin County (16-14).


For Cougar fans looking for a ray of light, a look at the records of the teams GW Danville has beat may make the ride to the game happier. Only one team the Eagles have beaten, Tunstall, has a winning record. They are 6-4. LCA finished the regular season 4-6, Amherst County and Martinsville finished 1-9, Patrick County finished 2-8 and Magna Vista finished 5-5. Bassett was 3-7 and Halifax County was 5-5.


The two teams that beat the Eagles were Jefferson Forest, who was 7-3, and Franklin County, who finished 6-4.


“Any time you play you put miles on the players, so that really doesn’t matter as far as we’re concerned,” James said. “You make your schedule before anybody knows for sure how anybody else is going to be. Sometimes your opponents just have a down year. If anything their players might be a little less banged up, which works in their favor. We don’t practice and prepare for people based on their records. We’ve preached all year long that we have to play and compete against ourselves. We have worked hard for our guys to get better every play and every game. At the start of the season we had a bunch of very young players, many of them seeing their first varsity action. Those sophomores and juniors are 10 games older now. Youth is no excuse. We need to go out and execute.”


For Pulaski County this is a crucial game. Not only does this game have the “win or go home” aspect to it, but there is more at stake. The Cougar football team has not won a playoff game to this point in the Stephen James era. Each year that Pulaski County has made the playoffs under James, the Cougars have fallen in the first round.


In fact, the last playoff win for the Cougars was in 2012 when the Cougars defeated a depleted Magna Vista team 32-0 under then head coach Todd Jones. A good portion of the Warriors starters had been suspended or removed from the team the week prior to that game. Pulaski County lost to Salem the next week, 14-17.


Overall, the Cougars have won 26 playoff games and lost 25. The Cougars have earned 16 district championships since opening the doors, seven region titles and have played for three state championships, winning the Group 6A State Championship in 1992.


To get the Cougars back to the level of play and the level of expectation that the Cougar Nation wants, Pulaski County must start winning playoff games.


“Our guys have worked hard and I think we have started building the program to where we want it to be,” James said. “We can’t be satisfied right now with just making the playoffs. That has never been our goal and it never will be. We need to keep winning or we don’t get to play until next season. Our seniors need to understand that this is it. Win or we’re done. Taking that uniform off for the last time is tough, but it’s a lot easier if you take it off that last time with a win. To do that, we’re going to need to bring everything we’ve got from this point forward.”


A quick look at the playoff bracket shows that the task will not get any easier should the Cougars find a way to win Friday. The winner of this game will move on to play the winner of the Blacksburg/LCA game. Fans may recall the seven-point loss, 14-21, suffered at the hands of the Bruins Oct. 12 at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium. The Cougars had every opportunity to win that game, but failed.


Should the Cougars find a way to make it through those two games, they would face either Salem, Jefferson Forest, EC Glass or William Byrd in the state semi-finals.


“That’s the last thing on our minds right now,” James said. “We’re going to focus on the task at hand and worry about that. If we take care of business there, we’ll have a chance to think about the next week. Until then it would be a waste of time, and we can’t afford to do that. Our players and coaches need to be focused on G.W. Danville and nothing else.”


Those making the trip to Danville will want to make sure to leave early. The team will depart Pulaski County High School at 1 p.m. Friday, stopping in Roanoke to eat a pregame meal and arriving in Danville around 5 p.m.


The drive, which has a short route of two hours and 11 minutes going through Hillsville or a longer route that goes two hours and 29 minutes, will take drivers and riders through a beautiful but at times empty path. Be sure to look ahead for gas and a spot to eat a pregame meal.


Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at GW Danville High School Friday.


***DIRECTIONS*** For anyone looking for directions to GW Danville High School, this is the route we will be taking. We’ll go from Pulaski to Hillsville first, where we will get on the Danville Pike, also known as US 58. After 19 miles continue onto Jeb Stuart Hwy (still US-58) for 36.8 miles. Then take a right and take the ramp onto William F. Stone Hwy (US-58 E/US-220 S) toward Greensboro/Danville and go 9.8 miles. Take the ramp onto L. Philpott Hwy (still US-58 E) toward Danville for 22.3 miles. Take the ramp onto Central Blvd. (US-29) toward Central Boulevard/VA-86 S/Downtown/Greensboro for .7 miles. Turn right onto Christopher Lane for 301 feet, then turn left and go 85 feet. This will put you at 701 Broad Street, Danville, VA 24541-2627. That is the address for GW Danville High School. For those that live closer to Radford, you can also go through Riner and Floyd down Route 8 and get to L. Philpott Hwy. that way, then just pick up the same directions from there.



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