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Dixon: ‘Business is about to pick up’

By DAVID GRAVELY

editor@southwesttimes.com

 

After an opening week of action that included two lopsided wins, Cougar Football Head Coach Mark Dixon remains pleased with the effort of his players but is in no way satisfied with their performance.

 

“We’ve been fortunate to play like we have and still come out of it with two wins,” Dixon said. “The film doesn’t lie. It doesn’t hide anything. We are very open and realistic with our players. If we do anything less than that we are doing them a disservice and I have always believed that. We have to be honest about it with them and with ourselves. Beating our chest and patting ourselves on the back for what we’ve done so far isn’t going to happen. We have a long way to go in how we execute and play.”

 

The Cougars earned a 42-0 road win over Cave Spring last Monday. They followed that up with a 48-7 win over Hidden Valley in their home opener Saturday. This week, the Cougars will face off with a much-improved Christiansburg Blue Demon squad that is looking to put their program back on the map.

 

“This is a good football team, the best we’ve played so far this season,” Coach Dixon said. “Coach Wilkins is doing a great job over there and they are going to continue to get better. He’s doing the right things. If you take a look at their first game, they played very tough against Salem. The final score of that game is a little misleading and if that’s all someone looks at, they’re going to get caught sleeping. There is no doubt this is the best team we have faced to this point.”

 

Blue Demon Head Coach Alex Wilkins took over in 2017 after former Head Coach Tim Cromer stepped down. His first season was tough, with the Blue Demons finishing 0-10. The second season was still rough, but they found two wins. Last season Christiansburg earned a record of 5-6, making the playoffs but losing to a tough Hidden Valley team in the first round.

 

Last week Christiansburg lost 13-35 to the Salem Spartans. Several times the Blue Demons threatened, but mistakes or solid Salem defensive plays kept them out of the endzone.

 

“They had a great game plan for Salem,” Dixon said. “Coach Wilkins knows his stuff and he’ll have them ready for whoever they’re playing. We’re going to need to execute much better than we have been.”

 

Pulaski County holds a 14-7 advantage in the series with Christiansburg. The Cougars have outscored the Blue Demons 646-387 during that time. Pulaski County has won the past five matchups, including a 14-6 win last season when a wounded Cougar squad took the field missing several key players.

 

Christiansburg senior quarterback MJ Hunter (5’10”, 152) was six for 12 for 66 yards passing against the Spartans, who have their normally tough defense right back where it normally is. Hunter also ran for 26 yards on 10 attempts. Senior running back Christian Cunningham (5’10”, 175) ran for 78 yards on one carry. Junior Kenyon Johnson-Buchannon (6’, 205) carried the ball nine times for 40 yards. Junior Casey Graham (5’11”, 180) also ran five times for 21 yards. Christiansburg posted 165 yards total of rushing on 28 carries. Four different Blue Demon receivers caught passes against the Spartans.

 

“They have a talented bunch of skill players, but their line is going to be the key,” Dixon said. “Just like with us, if our line can get the job done, we move the ball. They have a line with good size and speed, so that is going to be a pretty big challenge.  Offensive and defensive line play is what wins championships or loses them.”

 

For the Cougars, the starting lineups will again be a very fluid situation as Coach Dixon and his staff continue to promote competition in practice as well as during game time.

 

“If we want to get where we want to get, we cannot settle for good enough,” he said. “Every day we need our kids to come out, compete and get better. It also goes back to matchups. We may have some games where a particular player matches up against someone better. If that’s the case, we’re going to go with what gives us the best chance to be successful.  This is a team effort and to win we must function as a team, not individuals.”

 

Game time for the Friday night matchup at Christiansburg is set for 7 p.m. The game will be live streamed online at https://www.nfhsnetwork.com. The direct link will be found on the Christiansburg HS VA page. Fans can also listen in on 107.1 WPSK FM as Rick Watson and Shay Dunnigan broadcast the action.

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