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It hurt because it’s supposed to hurt

Nobody likes losing. I personally may hate it more than most other people I know, but that could be debated. One thing I do know for sure, however, is that Cougar Head Coach Mark Dixon does not like to lose.

 

Things are changing in Pulaski County. They are changing for the better, or at least that what the facts are showing. The Lady Cougar basketball team finished as the Region 4D champions and state runner-up. The JV Lady Cougars finished their season undefeated, as did the PCMS Lady Cougar basketball team.

 

The Cougar indoor track and field team finished as the state runner-up, with Armonte Hill-Lewis earning an individual state championship in the long jump. The Lady Cougar indoor track and field team took just four young ladies to the state meet and placed sixth our of 28 teams.

 

The Cougar wrestling team saw four wrestlers compete for gold in the state meet. Three of them finished sixth in the state. The team is young and will without a doubt show even more improvement next season.

 

The Lady Cougar volleyball team defeated Salem Thursday evening, finishing out their regular season with a winning record of 7-5. They’ll start the playoffs Tuesday at Blacksburg.

 

The cross country team has shown great improvement throughout the season and will also be competing at the region meet Tuesday in Blacksburg.

 

And then we have the football team.

 

Under the direction of a new head coach, locked down by the many COVID-19 restrictions and unsure of their schedule until just days before the first game, this team came out ready to battle. They breezed through the early portion of their schedule, as was expected, earning a quick 4-0 record.

 

Those four games may have done more harm than good, looking back, as they did not exactly prepare the Cougars for the tougher opponents they faced in the final three games. Christiansburg offered the most resistance of the first four games, but the Cougars won that matchup 28-7 on the road.

 

The final three opponents of the season are all in the playoffs and are all solid programs. Patrick Henry is ranked as the top team in Region 5D. Salem is the top ranked team in Region 4D. GW Danville, despite a humbling 70-6 loss to Lord Botetourt in their season opener, is likely the second best team we played this season.

 

The last game of the season is always a tough one. It doesn’t matter if you finish the season with a playoff run to the state title game or in the last game of the regular season with a loss, when it hits the players, especially the seniors, that the season is over emotions boil over.

 

The locker room after the game Thursday was like most every other locker room I’ve been in at the end of the season. There were tears and that’s OK. There were players who sat on the bench in the locker room, with helmet on and fully dressed, refusing to take that gold helmet off for the last time. There were hugs and there were handshakes.

 

When the realization starts to sink in that you’ll never walk down those 63 steps again, it hurts. When it flashes in your mind that you’ll never have the Golden Cougar Marching Band play 2001 as you walk down those steps, it hurts.

 

It hurts because it’s supposed to hurt. If it didn’t, that would mean that the entire effort was for nothing. Pulaski County may not have gotten the final result they wanted Thursday in Danville, but they represented our hometown and school in a way they can be proud of. Cougar Pride is alive and well in Pulaski County.

 

As is always the case, it will sting for a while. Players will begin getting ready for spring sports, if they play them, and they’ll start thinking about the quickly approaching new season of Cougar football. Coaches will begin pushing the players in the weight room and doing all the things that you have to do in the offseason to be successful during the season.

 

For the seniors, this is the end of their journey with Cougar football. A few will be taking their talent and skills to the next level. Most will never wear a football uniform again. Graduation will be upon us before we know it.

 

This senior class has been through the wringer. They dealt with a worldwide pandemic while still trying to lead as much of a normal life as possible. That normal life included sports. Had it not been for the dedicated efforts of the PCHS staff and administration, along with that of the school board, these seniors may not have been able to enjoy the experience they had in this strange season.

 

To all of the seniors, thank you for your hard work and dedication to the program. You’ll always look back at your time as a Cougar football player and smile. You’ll still get goosebumps when you hear the first notes of 2001 on Friday nights. Your blood will still get pumping when you see the next team take the field.

 

Once a Cougar, always a Cougar. Never forget that.

 

To the River Ridge District, Region 4D and the rest of the Commonwealth … work hard. Pulaski County is coming back.

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