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Cougars prep for first road trip, Falcons ready




The Pulaski County Cougar football team will leave Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium for the first time this season as they visit Abingdon High School for game three this week.


Spirits and expectations are high in Falcon country. They come into Friday night with a 2-0 record. They opened the season with a 45-14 win over John Battle. Last week they won a 35-28 war over a Gate City team that opened the season with a 34-29 win over a usually tough Richlands squad.


They have an offensive line they are proud of, and they should be. It’s manned by five seniors who have put in the time and work to be successful. The center is 6’3”, 205 pound Spencer Buddington. The guards are 6’2”, 245 pound Dylan Hale and 5’11”, 255 pound Taylor. The tackles are 6’3”, 255 pound Tyler Mullins and 6’3”, 305 pound Major Cook.


Last week junior running back Martin Lucas (6’3”, 223) carried the ball 42 times for 227 yards and three scores. Senior quarterback Jadon Boothe (6’, 160) added to the offensive attack, completing four of six passes for 104 yards, including touchdown passes of 48 and 13 yards.


“They’ve been working hard and have a really good program building down there,” said Cougar Head Coach Stephen James. “They run the ball hard, their line blocks very well and their defense has some very solid players that aren’t afraid to hit. If we’re going to be competitive we need to improve a lot from last week.”


The Cougars have never lost in their series with Abingdon, but there have only been two game in that history. The 2017 Cougars earned a 27-20 road win against the Falcons. Last year the Cougars dominated Abingdon 42-14.


“They have a bunch of really good players back from last season,” Coach James said. “They run a spread and they also throw in a few other wrinkles offensively. Defensively they’ll come after you and they play physical football.”


A quick look at the Abingdon Falcon Football Fans Facebook page shows just how much of an emphasis the team is putting on that physicality. They have a group known as the “Falcon Cowbell Posse” on Twitter. Each week they award the “Bell Ringer of the Game” to the player who attacks the ball the hardest.


The first winner of that award was defensive end Tyler Harless, who is listed on their Maxpreps.com roster as 5’9”, but their official roster lists the junior as 6’, 190 pounds.


“We showed our guys some things on the film that we need to improve on and we had a good practice Monday,” James said. “We still have work to do on our offensive line, but we did continue to make progress and improvements last week. I thought our running backs did a better job last week as well. We didn’t throw the ball very much, but what we did was effective for the most part. We’re going to keep focusing on doing the little things right and cutting out the mistakes. We can’t afford to shoot ourselves in the foot.”


Defensively the Cougars were pleased with their effort Friday.


“We gave up 92 passing yards Friday, 59 of that came on one play late in the game,” James said. “We gave up 77 rushing yards, a lot of that came late in the game as well. We held Northside to 25 yards rushing and 48 yards passing. I think it’s OK for us to feel good about that. It’s what we want to do. We’ve made it clear that our defense is going to have to help carry us until our offense gets to where we want it. They’re doing that.”


Offensively, things did improve for the Cougars against Bassett. The return of junior quarterback AJ McCloud (6’3”, 185) was an obvious boost not only at that position, but it also added depth to an already strong running back stable. Senior Chris Shay (6’, 190) didn’t take snaps last week, but he did run the ball four times for six yards. Junior Drew Dalton (6’,190) took the final snaps of the game, helping the Cougars drive for a final score.


The running backs will likely continue to rotate as Coach James and his staff work to keep fresh legs in the game. Junior Jakari Finley (6’, 185), senior Gage Mannon (6’, 195), senior Luke Russell (5’11”, 190), senior Austin Gallimore (5’9”, 205) and sophomore Keyontae Kennedy (5’10”, 180) will all likely see time. Mannon finished last week with 77 yards, Finley had 70. Both scored rushing touchdowns.



The Cougars will start the offensive line with junior center Levi Young (6’, 280). Junior Jacob Turman (6’, 290) and sophomore Markus Wright (6’1”, 270) will be the guards. Juniors Cooper Dunnigan (6’3”, 280) and Clay Phillips (6’2”, 285) will be the tackles. The tight end will be sophomore Caleb Perfater (6’, 205). Junior Zeke Surber (6’3”, 280) sat out last week, but could be back this week as either a lineman or tight end.


The wide outs will be a rotation of seniors Logan Burchett (6’, 170) and Landon McDaniel (6’1”, 170) along with sophomore John Lyman (5’8”, 160), junior Layne Suthers (6’2”, 180) and junior Chase Dotson (5’11”, 190).


The defense for the Cougars will senior tackles Tristan Bowden (5’9”, 190) and Tyler Brookman (5’10”, 240) along with juniors Surber and Will Bishop (5’9”, 180). The defensive ends will feature juniors Ethan Gallimore (5’10”, 190), Chayton Rollins (6’2”, 220), Finley and Grayson Deu (6’, 180). The cornerbacks will be Burchett, Suthers, McDaniel and junior Corvin Carter (6’, 180). The safeties will be Shay, Mannon, Dotson and Kennedy. The starting linebackers will be Austin Gallimore and Luke Russell.


Junior Broc Simpson (6’, 180) will handle the placekicking and punting duties for the Cougars this season.


Game time Friday at Abingdon High School is set for 7 p.m. The school is located at 705 Thompson Drive, Abingdon, VA 24210. The stadium is located behind the school.


In other games of interest around the area Fort Chiswell will take on Radford, Auburn will host Floyd County and Galax will host Carroll County. Giles will be looking to avoid their first ever 0-3 start as they travel to Graham, Christiansburg will host Patrick County and Blacksburg will host Amherst County. In what could be one of the better games of the week Lord Botetourt will host Bluefield, West Virginia.



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