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The pain is real

I miss football.

 

Today is Monday, Aug. 31, and I miss football more than I can explain. Yes, I miss the other sports too, but football is without question my favorite.

 

Last year at this time the coaches were going over the film from the Northside game, using mistakes made on the field as teaching moments. The Cougars won that game 14-0.

 

Last year at this time we were locked in on the upcoming game against Bassett. We went on to win that game 42-6. Over the next few weeks, Pulaski County knocked out four more wins to reach 5-0 before everything that possibly could go wrong did on the road against Hidden Valley.

 

That game stung. We lost so many players to injuries both before and during that game that it left the Cougars in a very bad spot heading into the game against Christiansburg. We bounced back, winning that one 14-6, but we did that with a squad of players who were limping in some spots and filling in at others.

 

The following week the Cougars beat Blacksburg 12-3 on the road. That was a good win. The open week came at a great time the following week, allowing us time to heal.

 

A road trip to Patrick Henry opened November. The Cougars won that one 27-10 to bring their record to 8-1 heading into Salem week.

 

I won’t talk about the Salem game because it was such a disappointment. We should have won that game. End of story and enough said.

 

The 12-6 loss to Salem left Pulaski County hosting Blacksburg in the opening round of the playoffs. The Cougars battled for a 17-14 win to advance. Next up was a road trip to Lynchburg to take on EC Glass. The Hilltoppers had a solid squad, but we should have won that game as well. The 10-27 score does not give a good indication of how that game actually went.

 

The score was 10-14 with 1:04 remaining in the game. The Cougars had the ball and had begun putting together a drive. A fumble was costly and Glass scored on a huge run, putting the score at 20-10. With nothing to lose Pulaski County tried, but a pass attempt was intercepted and Glass went on to score again in the final seconds.

 

I like looking back at last season, but only because it reminds me of what could and possibly should have been. The Cougars should have been playing for another week, at least. Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck and Pulaski County didn’t find any that night in Lynchburg.

 

Now we find ourselves sitting at home with football season delayed until at least spring. “At least” until spring means that we’ll have football IF there is no sharp rise in COVID-19 and the powers that be allow it. Keep doing what you can to help and keep your fingers crossed.

 

The utter desperation and frustration of the spring sports athletes was tough to take when their seasons were canceled. I can only imagine how the Auburn High School basketball team felt after getting to Richmond for their state championship game and then having the rug pulled out from under them.

 

With that said, that same frustration is now being felt by the fall sports athletes. The first sports we will see at the high school level this year, if things go smoothly, will be winter sports. All we can do is continue to hope and pray that things go smoothly when students start going back to school to prevent any other delays.

 

I miss football for a lot of reasons. First, I just like football. Outside of that, football brings us all together. There is nothing like a Friday night in the fall at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium/Joel Hicks Field. When the Golden Cougar Marching Band strikes that first note of “2001” and the lights on the steps turn on, Pulaski County shines.

 

A lot of things will be different this year. We still have no idea if or how many fans will be allowed into the games. We have no idea how many games they will get to play or how the playoffs will work if we have them.

 

For Cougar football, there will be other noticeable differences as well. A new head coach, Mark Dixon, is now in charge. Most of the former coaching staff has stayed on to help provide consistency, but there is a difference in Cougarland. A lot of sweat is pouring out of Cougar players in the weight room. It’s different, due to the restrictions put in place over COVID-19, but the hard work is being done.

 

One thing that will NOT be different is the fact that expectations are and will be high. Despite the amount of talent lost to graduation, Pulaski County will be expected to be one of the big dogs in the yard. That’s how it should be. Despite the players and talent lost to graduation, the Cougars could be even better this year.

 

The young men and women who put on the Burgundy and Gold to represent Pulaski County in athletic competition are currently working hard getting ready. Every sport at the school wants to win. The hunger is there. The work is being put in.

 

Over the weekend I was able to watch high school football. No, it was not in person. I watched teams from Texas, Ohio, Tennessee and Oklahoma battle it out in some very entertaining matchups on television. It was odd to see games being played with fewer fans in the stands and everyone, including the coaches, wearing face masks. The only ones not wearing a mask were the players on the field.

 

But they played. For some teams it was their second game already. No huge outbreaks have been reported, at least not yet, and the teams will be back in action this week.

 

I understand the need for caution. I understand the need for patience. I also understand that some areas are more affected by the virus than others. I’m still not sure how Northern Virginia will play sports, but not every community is affected like they are.

 

Baseball and softball have been playing for several weeks now at the pro and AAU levels. Rec league is practicing and will start games soon. Basketball has been busy with conditioning and the Cougar boys took a trip to South Carolina over the weekend for an AAU tournament. The Lady Cougars are doing conditioning and working hard getting ready for their season too. Other sports are also conditioning and getting ready.

 

All we need now is games. The VHSL postponed their planned meeting for Sept. 3 that may have put the wheels in motion for planning a schedule. That will now take place Thursday, Sept. 17.

 

Keep your fingers crossed Pulaski County.

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