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Cougars claw their way back for 19-14 win

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

VINTON – It wasn’t pretty, but the Pulaski County Cougars found a way to get it done and moved to 4-0 on the season with a come from behind 19-14 win Friday over the William Byrd Terriers on their homecoming night.

 

Unfortunately that win came at a cost immediately. Senior wide receiver and defensive back Landon McDaniel went down on the opening kickoff return and had to be taken off the field with what was later confirmed as a broken ankle.

David Gravely/SWT – Senior wideout Landon McDaniel gives the crowd a thumbs-up as he is taken off the field Friday at William Byrd High School.

 

 

“Obviously, we got off to a rough start,” Cougar Head Coach Stephen James said. “When Landon got hurt I think it took us out of our game and shook us up. The guys were really upset for him. We went into the halftime break, calmed everybody down a little bit and went back to work. While I’m disappointed in our offensive production, I’m proud of the way our guys fought back and earned the win. We know we need to get better by next week.”

 

After forcing the Cougars to punt on their opening drive, the Terriers went to work. The Cougars forced a punt, but muffed it and Byrd recovered. On the very next play junior Corvin Carter collected his third interception of the season. Unfortunately, Cougar quarterback AJ McCloud returned the favor a few series later to give the Terriers the ball deep in Cougar territory. They scored three plays and 20 yards later on a four-yard run by J. Moore. Nathan Patrick added the point after for the 7-0 lead with 11:25 remaining in the second quarter.

 

The Cougars couldn’t build any momentum. Christian Finn recovered a Terrier fumble, but that drive stalled. Byrd scored three plays later on a 56-yard pass from Logan Baker to Isaac Fix. The kick by Patrick put the Terriers up 14-0 with 5:03 left in the half.

 

The Cougars couldn’t catch a break. A broken up pass that should have been defensive pass interference wasn’t called and then at the end of the half a dead ball foul was called against the Cougars, forcing them to kick off in the second half 15 yards deeper.

 

Then something happened. On the kick off the Terrier return man touched his knee to the ground as he fielded the ball, pinning the Terriers inside their own 20. Carter defended another pass play and then Russell intercepted a pass from Baker and returned it to near the Terrier goal line. The laundry came out again, hitting the Cougars with another 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. The video clearly shows no foul and a clean block by the Cougar in question.

 

It was just enough to set the Cougars back, forcing them to attempt a field goal that was short. The Cougars forced a punt, but Pulaski County was called for a hold on their first play. The Terriers were finally hit with a pass interference call to give the Cougar drive new life. On third down McCloud found junior Chase Dotson open for a 14-yard scoring strike. Broc Simpson hit the PAT to make the score 14-7 in favor of the Terriers.

 

Pulaski County kept fighting. Constant pressure from the Cougar defense in the form of seniors Austin Gallimore, Tristan Bowden and others started causing the Byrd quarterback to twitch. A Terrier punt attempt was blocked by Russell, who was clearly having an outstanding defensive game, and recovered by junior Grayson Deu. On fourth down and 11, Simpson calmly kicked a 37-yard field goal to move the score to 14-10 with 11:53 remaining in the game.

 

The Cougar defense kept dialing up the pressure, forcing another punt. The Cougars got a big first down when McCloud found senior Logan Burchett open, who made a diving catch and drug his foot as he fell out of bounds. It looked like Pulaski County would get another first down after a Cougar receiver was mauled by a Byrd defender, but no flag was thrown. Simpson again calmly went out and split the uprights for a 31-yard field goal, moving the score to 14-13 in favor of the Terriers with 8:39 remaining in the game.

 

The William Byrd offense gave it a great effort, but were forced to punt again. This time the Cougars marched 71 yards in five plays to take their first lead of the game. That drive included a 22-yard pass from McCloud to Dotson and another long pass to Lane Suthers who bounced off several Byrd defenders to get extra yardage. Two plays later McCloud found Gage Mannon open and he raced 11 yards into the end zone for the winning score. The Cougars attempted a two-point conversion, but the officials hit the Cougars with a false start. While it should have been a dead ball play, no replay was allowed.

 

Leading 19-14 with 4:08 remaining, it was up to the Cougar defense to seal the deal. After an obvious block in the back call against Byrd was waived off by the officials, the Cougar defense held strong until Russell recovered a Byrd fumble to allow the Cougars to take a knee to end the game.

 

“Give credit to William Byrd, they came out ready to play,” Coach James said. “We made some mistakes, we know it. We didn’t help ourselves out at times, but we kept after it and got the win. The film will be a good teaching tool this week, because it’s all going to be right there. Defensively we gave up some yards, but when it mattered the most our guys hung in there. I’m proud of them for that. We just have to find some answers offensively.”

 

Pulaski County will return home next week to host the Cave Spring Knights. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

Game Stats

Rushing

PC: 26 att/59 yards

WB: 26 att/69 yards

 

Passing

PC: 12-25-1/125 yards

WB: 13-27-2/146 yards

 

Total Yards

PC: 184

WB: 215

 

First Downs

PC: 9

WB: 13

 

Fumbles/Lost

PC: 2/2

WB: 2/2

 

Return Yards

PC: 96

WB: 65

 

Punting

PC: 4/38.2 avg.

WB: 5/33.6 avg.

 

Individual Stats

Rushing

PC: Mannon 10/26 yards, Kennedy 9/24, Shay 1/8, McCloud 5/-1, Suthers 1/2

WB: #25 16/70, #2 10/-1

 

Receiving

PC: Dotson 4/50, Suthers 2/32, Shay 4/17, Mannon 1/11

WB: #9 5/26, #22 4/46, #5 2/11, #35 1/56, #25 1/9

 

Passing

PC: McCloud 12-25-1/125 yards

WB: Baker 13-27-2/146

 

Interceptions

PC: Russell, Carter

WB: #13

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