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Picking up the pieces, moving forward

The Pulaski County High School Cougar football team began the process of putting away the gear this week. It wasn’t the outcome they had hoped for, but it was the one they got. No one was particularly happy about it, as it should be.

 

When the final whistle blew Friday night in Lynchburg, it was a tough thing to watch. It always is. Every season must eventually end, but you always want one more game. For the Cougar seniors, there will be no more games.

 

The locker room, as it always is, was tough to see. That last time in the locker room is hard enough on everyone, but it pierces the seniors to the center of their beings. There were tears. There always are. There is no shame in that.

 

The members of the senior class left a mark on the program. There is no question about that. Every year when this time comes around, we hear a lot of talk about what’s coming. While that excitement will still be there to a point, most fans who know a little realize that this was a special group of seniors. We know this was a group that could have gone further, which makes falling short sting a little bit more.

 

The Cougars lost a very tight ballgame to a pretty good team Friday. The final score was in no way an indication of how close this game was. In fact, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Hilltoppers took the lead.

 

That 14-10 score held until there was only 1:04 remaining in the game. Then a tremendous run put the Cougars down 20-10. Still fighting and trying to claw their way back, an interception resulted in six more points with just 41 seconds on the clock, leaving the Cougars down 27-10.

 

Three big plays are what made the difference in the game.

 

Almost 80 of the 218 rushing yards came on a long run in the closing seconds of the first half. That run allowed EC Glass to score before halftime. The second was a pass for a first down that kept a Glass drive alive. The third came when EC Glass running back “Q” Craighead broke free for the 24-yard scoring run to put the Hilltoppers up 20-10. The interception return for a touchdown didn’t matter at that point.

 

The usual internet and social media babbling took place as expected and started before most of the fans who made the trip to Lynchburg even made it back to their vehicles. Fingers were pointed and names were named. None of that matters. The internet experts are nothing more than cyber blowhards who seem to enjoy making themselves sound smart, despite the fact that they really only sound ignorant and misinformed. If they really knew the answers, they would be out there winning games for us with all of their expertise.

 

But one thing was said that bears asking again. So what happens now? What does Pulaski County have to do to get past Salem and the second round of the playoffs?

 

The elements, for the most part, were there this season. The players put in the work during the offseason. They had the talent, at least in most positions, and they had the desire. Being “not big enough” or “not the right size” has never really mattered to Pulaski County. We’re more well-known for lining up and smacking the other guy directly in the mouth than for having cookie-cutter sized athletes.

 

A lot of that came back this season, at least defensively. Pulaski County played a physical brand of football. There have only been a handful of Cougar teams that played defense the way this one did. The other teams found that out the hard way.

 

But in football, like in most other things in life, you can’t have just a few or most of your players getting it done and expect to reach your goals. It has to be a total team effort. Everyone has to be all in.

 

There were some spots in the Cougar lineup this season that had little to no depth after the injury bug came to visit. There were a few spots that we could have used another body. That’s high school sports. We needed a standout player on offense, but one never really emerged. Most gave it their best shot, but there wasn’t a Josh Calfee, Kevin Hendricks, Hunter Thomas or Nubian Peak to call on. We didn’t have “that guy” and we needed one.

 

Pulaski County must get better offensively next season. While the defense should still be solid, those key seniors will be missed. Offensive production will be a critical part of the equation for Cougar success.

 

While the program, coaches and fans will certainly miss the Cougar seniors as they move forward, the program will go on. That’s the great thing about it. Individual players come and go, but the Cougar Nation remains.

 

Those individual players now join the long line of former players who will spend the remainder of their lives remembering what it was like to walk down those 63 steps. They will get goose bumps when they hear that first note of 2001 played. They’ll hold their heads a little higher and remember their time in those gold helmets.

 

Thank you for your efforts gentlemen. They were very much appreciated.

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