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Cougars hosting Bruins, looking for consistency




The Cougar football team will return to the friendly confines of Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium/Joel Hicks Field Friday to take on the Blacksburg Bruins.


Blacksburg is led by Head Coach Eddie Sloss, who is in his third season with the Bruins. Sloss coached at Carroll County from 2014-17 and earned a record of 5-35 with the Cavaliers. Sloss took over for Thad Wells, who is now the head coach at Richlands High School.


The Bruins have had a tough run of luck this season.  After losing a ton of talent to graduation, starting quarterback Parker Epperly suffered what is expected to be a season ending injury in their game against the Salem Spartans.


Considered one of the top players on the already thin roster, the loss of Epperly has forced the Bruins to look at new plans for their offense.


With the opponent clearly in a rebuilding phase, fans might worry that the Cougars could be caught napping. The last thing anyone wants to see is Pulaski County caught looking past what appears to be a team going through some serious growing pains.


“Who we play is the least of my concern,” Cougar Head Coach Mark Dixon said. “It should never matter who we play or where we play. The only thing that matters is what we can control, which is how we execute. If we do our jobs, we put ourselves in a position to be successful. Our job is to go out each day and compete. We have to improve every time we walk out on the practice field. If we do that, the games will take care of themselves.”


The Cougars lead the series with Blacksburg 13-9, including the two meetings from last season. Pulaski County defeated the Bruins in Blacksburg 12-3 on the road during the regular season, then won 17-14 in the playoffs. Overall, the Cougars have outscored Blacksburg 521-381.


The Bruins come into the Friday contest with a record of 0-3. They opened the season with a road loss to Salem, 0-50. In their home opener they fell to Patrick Henry 0-58. Last week the Bruins lost on the road 7-34 to Cave Spring. After their game with Pulaski County, the Bruins will have Hidden Valley and Christiansburg remaining on their schedule.


While Blacksburg is the focus now, Dixon and his staff have spent the week attempting to correct the mistakes noticed from the Christiansburg game.


“We had a lot to fix,” Dixon said. “I was disappointed to see us making mistakes in things we had covered all week. It was a rough Monday for us in practice. The film showed a lack of defensive discipline. We weren’t reading our keys. We played hard, but everybody does that. There’s no reward for that. I think we’ve corrected it after our Monday practice and they understand that it’s unacceptable. I think that message got through.”


“In the back of their minds I know they’re thinking about who we play, but the focus is on us and what we can do today,” Dixon continued. “Attention to detail is huge. We have enough to keep us busy throughout the week that we don’t really put a lot of time into thinking about who we play until around Thursday. We can game plan all we want, but if we don’t go out and perform like we’re supposed to, none of that matters.”


With three games under their belt, the Cougars have a record of 3-0 and are currently the second ranked team in the VHSL power ratings. Salem (3-0) is number one with 24.00 points. The Cougars have 22.667 points. Jefferson Forest (1-0) is currently third with 22 points. GW Danville (1-1) and Amherst County (1-1) are currently tied at fourth with 17 points each.


Only the top four teams in each region will make the playoffs this season. Blacksburg is currently sixth with 12.677 points, followed by EC Glass (0-1) and Halifax County (0-1) with 11.00 points each.


The Spartans will finish off the regular season with Cave Spring and Hidden Valley away, followed by Pulaski County at Salem April 2. If the Cougars and Spartans were to both win out, the April 2 matchup would determine which team is top seed in Class 4 Region D heading into the playoffs.


This week, however, all focus is on Blacksburg.


“They’ve got some really good players,” Dixon said. “They are going to come out and do everything they can to beat us. Our job is going to be to play better than we did last week. We tried some things out and some of the them worked, but we can’t hang our hat on any single player to be the answer. We need to see our offensive line do what I feel they are capable of doing and they need to be consistent about it. We need our defense to read their keys. We need good snaps to the quarterback. We need to take the right first steps and use eye discipline. I’m still seeing improvement overall, but we can’t and won’t be satisfied.”


The running effort of senior Ethan Gallimore instantly gained attention last week, with Gallimore earning 149 yards on 21 carries, most of those into the heart of the Blue Demon defense.


“Obviously I was happy with what Ethan did,” Dixon said. “He ran the ball great and gave us a power running game that we desperately need. We also blocked better, so I believe that with that our other running backs can do a lot of the same. But you can’t take away from his performance Friday. He was the man. So he’s going to get some carries, but we also need to balance it out so that he has the legs for defense, where he is also a key player. Not having a regular summer training program to get ready worries me when we think about giving him 30 carries a night.”


As has been the case all season, changes can be expected in the lineup Friday night. Dixon and his staff continue to challenge and evaluate players throughout the week


Game Notes

Game time Friday is set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast online live at mvp.gamedaymagazine.com. Fans can also listen in on 107.1FM WPSK as Rick Watson and Shay Dunnigan bring the play by play live on the radio.


Other games of interest

Patrick Henry is scheduled to host Cave Spring, GW Danville travels to Halifax County and Lord Botetourt hosts William Byrd. Hidden Valley will host Christiansburg.


Former Class 4 Region D members Carroll County have started the season off well, earning a 3-0 record to start the season. They’ve defeated Floyd County 20-14, Bassett 21-7 and Giles 42-13. The Cavs will host James River this week, then finish the regular season off with Galax and Radford at home.


Fort Chiswell is now 1-1 with a 12-6 loss to Rural Retreat and a 41-19 win over Auburn last week. They have Bland County this week, followed by Grayson County, George Wythe and then Galax.


Auburn, led by former Cougar Cam Akers, is now 1-1 with a 36-12 win over Eastern Montgomery and their loss to Fort Chiswell. The Eagles will travel to Grayson County this week, then play George Wythe, Galax and Bland County.


The Radford Bobcats earned a 46-8 victory over James River last week in their season opener. The Bobcats will travel to Alleghany Friday, host Glenvar April 19 and Floyd County April 26. They’ll finish out the regular season on the road against new region foe Carroll County.



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