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Cougars win physical matchup with Bruins

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

Heading into the game with Blacksburg Friday, many experts predicted a big win by the Bruins. They claimed the Cougars were too banged up and simply didn’t have enough offense to get the job done.

 

Somebody forgot to tell Pulaski County.

 

The Cougars physically imposed their will against the Bruins in a bruising and grinding game. What it lacked in offensive fireworks was made up for in defensive lighting by the Cougars. It was the kind of game a football fan enjoys watching. Every yard gained by Pulaski County was fought for. Every yard given up by the defense, and there weren’t many, was done so grudgingly.

 

The Cougar defense held a fast and athletic Blacksburg team to negative rushing yards, minus 10 to be exact. The Cougars gave up 74 passing yards, most of that coming on Blacksburg’s second drive when quarterback Luke Goforth connected with Josh Gholston on a 54-yard pass down the home sideline that gave the Bruins the ball at the Pulaski County 30-yard line.

 

Blacksburg was unable to score on that drive.

 

The Bruins intercepted an AJ McCloud pass when Nathan Mathena made a good defensive play. Blacksburg made good on that drive when James Poland connected on a 35-yard field goal with 3:41 remaining in the first half.

 

Pulaski County stood up to the challenge, taking their next drive 89 yards on 14 plays. Broc Simpson sent the ball sailing through the uprights for a 28-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining in the half.

 

One thing that also happened in the first half was the rise of the Cougar defense. Players came from everywhere. Bruins quarterback Goforth must have felt surrounded at times as he was hit from every angle. That continued in the second half. Each time a Blacksburg player was hit, they got up a little slower.

 

Something else began to happen too. Cougar running backs Chris Shay and Keyontae Kennedy began to find room to run. It wasn’t much, but four yards here and three yards there began to add up. Both backs ran hard behind linemen who seemed determined to prove a point.

 

That all continued through a scoreless third quarter. With 9:25 remaining in the game Simpson connected on his second field goal of the night, this one from 27 yards to give Pulaski County the 6-3 lead.

 

This has happened before, but it’s been a long time. Historically, Cougar football teams were good special teams and defensive squads. A good offensive unit was always a big help, but many games were won through the years off the toe of a Cougar kicker and it looked like the game might be heading in that direction again.

 

Simpson was ready to add a third field goal, this one a good deal longer, but a delay of game penalty moved the ball back five yards. On the kick from around 52 yards, Simpson came up just about three yards short. The ball went into the end zone, however, leaving the Bruins with the ball at the 20-yard line.

 

The Cougar defense rose to the occasion again. The Bruins were forced to punt, giving Pulaski County the ball back at the Bruins 32-yard line. Inch by inch … yard by yard … Pulaski County got it done. Chris Shay crossed the goal line from four yards out with 1:55 remaining in the game. The two-point attempt was no good, but the Cougars had a 12-3 lead.

 

Blacksburg players continued to fall to the Cougar defense. Blacksburg finished the game with their third quarterback on the field. His final pass was intercepted by Corvin Carter, his fourth of the season, to end the game.

 

Pulaski County moves to 7-1 on the season, will likely move up in the power rankings, and more importantly will now go into their bye week and give the Cougars a chance for some must needed rest before going into the Patrick Henry and Salem games.

 

Cougar Head Coach Stephen James was pleased with his teams’ performance Friday.

 

“It’s always good to win, but to win a physical ball game is even more satisfying,” he said. “Our kids played a great game out there. We still made a few mistakes here and there, but I think we learned a little something too. Some of us are a little tougher than we thought we were. That’s a good thing. Now we just need to build on this and take it to a higher level.”

 

The Cougar offense ran 53 times for 217 yards, something that put a smile on the entire coaching staff’s faces.

 

“We didn’t really do much different, we just tried to move a few things around and focused on doing things the right way,” James said. “Execution is what matters. I thought our line executed very well tonight. I thought AJ did a great job of controlling the tempo of the game and our backs ran hungry and with a chip on their shoulders. We needed this win in a bad way. We’ll enjoy it for now but get back to work in the film room this weekend. This was a very good win for our program.”

 

Chris Shay led all rushers with 22 carries for 90 yards. Right behind him was Keyontae Kennedy, who carried 20 times for 89 yards. McCloud ran 11 times for 38 yards, showing a toughness and determination Pulaski County has needed.

 

“Our defense did an outstanding job tonight,” James said. “Blacksburg is a very good football team and they have a bunch of very good athletes. To come in here and win like this is a big deal. Our guys still aren’t at a hundred percent, but a week of rest will be a big help. I’m excited to see how the season plays out.”

 

The Cougars finished the night with 242 yards of total offense while holding Blacksburg to just 64 yards. Pulaski County gained 15 first downs. Blacksburg gained just five, two of those coming thanks to penalties against the Cougars.

Game Stats

First Downs

PC: 15

BB: 5

 

Rushing

PC: 53 att/217 yards

BB:  25 att/-10 yards

 

Passing

PC: 1-7-2/25 yards

BB: 3-14-1/74 yards

 

Total Yards

PC: 242 yards

BB: 64 yards

 

Penalties

PC: 7/70 yards

BB: 4/34 yards

 

Return Yards

PC: 28

BB: 127

 

Individual Stats

Rushing

PC: Shay 22/90, Kennedy 20/89, McCloud 11/38

BB: Goforth 9/24, Mitchell 9/-2, Epperley 6/-25, Gholston 1/-7

 

Passing

PC: McCloud 1-7-1/25 yards

BB: Goforth 2-5-0/66 yards, Epperly 1-8-1/8 yards

 

Receiving

PC: Lyman 1/25 yards

BB: Gholston 2/66, #7 1/8

 

Interceptions

PC: Carter

BB: Gholston, Mathena

 

Fumble Recoveries

PC: Worrell

BB: none

 

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