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Dixon: ‘We have a long way to go’

Cougars set to face off with Hidden Valley Saturday



Most people would see a scoreboard that proclaims their team 42-0 winners and be happy. Cougar football Head Coach Mark Dixon is not one of those people.


“Not good, it just wasn’t good,” Coach Dixon said. “I was proud of the effort, I’m proud of the way we conducted ourselves, but it is what it is. When we went through the film with the players it was really the first opportunity we’ve had to teach. Without a scrimmage to work on things, we knew there would be mistakes and there were. We left a lot of opportunities on the field. I told the other coaches there really isn’t a lot to fuss about, but it’s a great opportunity for our guys to learn and get better. We just need reps.”


Pulaski County leads the series with Hidden Valley nine wins to eight. Last season the Cougars lost 14-35 in a game that found the Cougar sideline looking more like an emergency room than a football game as several Cougars were either out already or injured during the game.


Before the 2019 loss, the Cougars won four in a row between 2015 and 2018. Pulaski County has outscored Hidden Valley 425-362 overall.


Hidden Valley is now in their 19th year of existence after the new school was built and students were split from Cave Spring. The Titans have an overall record of 91-105 in that time frame.


The original head coach of the Titans was a younger Stephen Magenbauer, who went on to earn fame at Salem. His record at Hidden Valley was 5-14 during his two seasons there. J.R. Ed-wards took over the program and in five seasons earned a record of 31-23. Current Head Coach Scott Weaver is now in his 12th season with the Titans and has an overall record of 55-68.


Tuesday the Titans played at Patrick Henry, falling 14-6 in the season opener for both teams.


“I told the other coaches there’s really not a lot to fuss about, because this was the first time,” Dixon said. “This is the first time we’ve had to correct them. Little things like having your head on the right side. Stepping with the right foot first. It’s good to see we were blocking people and being physical, but a lot of the time we were blocking the wrong people. That’s an experience thing.”


Dixon is not known as a coach who will sugar coat things to his players.


“Saying we played with a great effort is one thing, but not being honest with them is a disservice,” he said. “You try to find a silver lining, but if there’s nothing great to find we’re not going to make it up. We need to be so much better overall. We’re very honest with our kids about that. But telling them that they played with a great effort is a big compliment.”


While the lineup for the Cougars will remain fluid as players take advantage of opportunities, several players are already starting to make themselves known.


Senior Drew Dalton (6’, 190) had a solid first outing, completing six of nine passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for two scores. Junior Keyonte (5’9”, 175) carried the ball 19 times for 69 yards to lead all rushers. Sophomores Quemaar Porter (5’5”, 145) and Trevor Burton (5’10”, 180) also showed promise in the backfield.


The front line, depending on the package being used, saw a host of familiar faces. Junior Demarcus Hayden (5’9”, 216) lined up as the center. The tackles were seniors Clay Phillips (6’3”, 266) and Zeke Surber (6’1”, 258). The tackles were senior Cooper Dunnigan (6’2”, 287) and sophomore Cole Albert (6’, 203), but sophomore Diego Turner (5’9”, 204) was one of several other linemen to work their way in.


Four Cougar wideouts caught passes Monday. Seniors Ethan Gallimore (5’10”, 191), Will Bishop (5’9”, 190) and Chase Dotson (6’, 197) were joined by junior Jacob Johnson (5’11”, 180) in the six Cougar catches. Senior Layne Suthers (6’2”, 169) was also a target.


Defensively the Cougars had several players show promise. Surber, Turner, Phillips and Dunnigan all made appearances across the defensive front. The ends were manned by senior Chayton Rollins (6’2”, 222) and Bishop, who also saw a little time inside. Gallimore, Burton and junior Caleb Yelton (5’0”, 170) saw time at the linebacker spots.


The secondary had an active night, allowing the Knights to complete only five of 17 pass attempts for 23 yards with two interceptions. Those interceptions were by Dotson and Porter. Others that saw time in the secondary include Suthers, Kennedy, Johnson and junior John Lyman (5’8”, 145).


The most dangerous players in the Tuesday game for the Titans include junior quarterback Sam Dragovich (6’1”, 172), senior running back Matt Strong (6’, 188), sophomore running back Jadon LaTempa (6’, 161) and junior Ashton Carroll (6’3”, 201).


The offensive front for the Titans includes senior Shawn Christian (5’10”, 218) at center, senior Troy Gowen (6’2”, 300) and junior Will Haynes (5’10”, 196) at tackles and freshman Jay Vincet (6’2”, 265) and senior Daniel Ramirez (5’11”, 235) at the guard spots. The tight end was normally Carroll. Wideouts included senior Tyler McDaniel (6’4”, 174), Pardon, senior Noah Simmons (5’7”, 132) and senior Steven Robertson (6’, 201).


“We need to game plan better and we need to execute much better,” Dixon said. “We’ve pointed out the mistakes in the film room. We’ve got some hungry younger players that showed good things Monday, so they are putting pressure on some of the older guys. That’s what we want. Every day should be a competition. It shouldn’t matter if it’s in the weight room, the practice field on in a game. Every day is a chance to compete and get better. We need to get a lot better all across the board. If you take care of the minor details, everything else will start to click. We’re going to push our kids. While wins are nice, we don’t judge solely by wins and losses. What matters is effort, attitude and improvement.”


Kickoff Saturday is set for 3 p.m. at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium/Joel Hicks Field.



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