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Cougars gear up for battle with Bassett

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

The Cougar football team will take the field Friday night for their second game of the season, but there are still question marks for Head Coach Stephen James.

 

Susan Burchett/SWT – Luke Russell (8), Austin Gallimore (4) and Tristan Bowden (52) celebrate as Ethan Gallimore (3) helps up the Viking quarterback after another sack Friday night. The “Wrecking Crew” caused problems for Northside throughout the game.

“We were pleased with the effort we got for our guys Friday against Northside, but the film always shows you things you need to work on,” James said Tuesday morning. “I think our defense is at a good place and will hopefully keep getting better. We need that to carry us until we find some things out on the offensive side of the ball. Both of our touchdowns last week came after big defensive plays. We’re going to take a look at some offensive adjustments this week and keep working on getting better.”

 

The Bassett High School Bengals will pay a visit to Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium this week with the hopes of earning their first ever win over a Pulaski County Cougar football team. The two squads have played twice in the past. The 2015 meeting resulted in a 47-14 Cougar win at home.

 

The 2016 game was held in Bassett and turned out to be a huge game for former quarterback Bryant Grubb, who broke the career passing record held at that point by Luke Watson. Grubb finished the night with 145 passing yards to put him at 1,714 total yards passing. He also helped his team break the record for most offensive yards in a game. The old record was 542 yards set back in 2000 against Franklin County. The 2016 Cougars earned 574 yards. The 96 combined points by the two teams broke the old record for most points in a game, which was 89. The 69 points scored by Pulaski County tied the record for most points in a game. A failed extra point attempt would have broken the record.

 

The Bengals have had a tough run the last 10 seasons. Since 2009 Bassett has earned just 29 wins and suffered 75 losses. Their last winning season was 2008. They made the playoffs that season and lost to Salem in the first round 0-42 to finish the season 7-4. Salem visited Pulaski County the following week and were shutout as the Cougars moved on.

 

The 2007 season was good for Bassett fans after they finished 11-1, again losing to Salem in the playoffs. The 2006 season was 7-6 with a loss to Amherst County in the playoffs. Bassett has not been in the VHSL playoffs since the 2012 season.

 

The Bengals did begin to put some things together last season, winning three of their last five. Third year head coach Brandon Johnson has made improvements to the program since taking over and has several starters back from last season. Despite all of that, the Bengals lost their season opener 20-0 to Rustburg last week. The Bengals had 86 yards of offense against the Devils. Only two runners in their lineup had over 10 yards rushing.

 

“This week is going to be one of those weeks where we need to focus less on who we are playing and more on who we are,” Coach James said. “Anybody can beat anybody. Our goal isn’t to just play better than the team we’re up against. We need to focus on our players getting better fundamentally each week. We need to get the little things right. We did better in the penalty department last week, but we still need to do better. We need to protect the ball and we need to move the chains. Defensively I think we have a good grasp on things, but we were able to see several things on film that we need to correct.”

 

The lineup for the Cougars will for the most part be the same as last week, but there could be a few big changes. The quarterback situation is still questionable. Senior Chris Shay put in a good effort last week, but a shoulder injury from his sophomore season still causes issues. Junior Drew Dalton is still in the mix, but the possible return of junior AJ McCloud could take place soon.

 

The running backs and wide outs will continue to rotate as players need a break. One big addition to the offensive line last week saw junior Zeke Surber (6’3”, 280) wearing jersey 88 instead of his customary 58 as he lined up at the tight end spot.

 

Junior kicker Broc Simpson did an outstanding job as the kicker and punter against Northside. Two of his kickoffs went into the end zone for touchbacks and one of his punts pinned the Vikings inside their own two-yard line. Defensive backs Corvin Carter and Layne Suthers, both juniors, had solid games in the Cougar secondary.

 

One of the highlights of the defense is the group that has been dubbed “The Wrecking Crew.” Brothers Ethan and Austin Gallimore along with Gage Mannon, Luke Russell and a host of others pounded Viking players throughout the game.

 

“We had some good moments Friday, but we need to continue to progress,” James said.

 

Kickoff Friday is set for 7 p.m.

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