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Cougars brace for tough final stretch

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

The Pulaski County High School Cougar football team has a tough task in front of them Friday night as they host the undefeated Graham G-Men.

 

It will be the first official meeting between the two programs, but there have been rare preseason scrimmages between the two groups in the past.

 

Graham comes into the matchup with a perfect 6-0 record with a combined score of 212-62. In the season opener they got the best of Tazewell, 34-6. Week two found them at Richlands, where they earned a 35-0 victory. Six days later they earned a tough 28-27 win over Union High School. September ended with a 28-0 win at Galax. The G-Men started October off with a 31-6 win over normally strong Bluefield. Last week, they took Virginia High School to the woodshed, 56-23.

 

The G-Men are led by Head Coach Tony Palmer, who is in his seventh season with Graham as the head coach, has a combined record of 74-15. Coach Palmer has led his team to the playoffs each year. The G-Men lost in the first round in 2015, but made it to the third round in 2016 and 2017.

 

In 2018 Graham lost their season opener 14-38 to Bluefield, but put together 14 straight wins to take the state championship, 31-9, over Goochland. The 2019 team finished as the state runners-up with a record of 11-3, falling 13-28 to Appomattox. Last year they fought the same battles against COVID-19 that the rest of the world fought, but were able to put together a 5-1 campaign that ended in the first round of the playoffs with a 24-30 loss to Union.

 

“They’ve got a solid program and several really solid players,” Cougar Head Coach Mark Dixon said. “If we want to compete, we’ll need to execute much better than we have been. This is where we find out who really wants to play football.”

 

The G-Men are led by a familiar name to those who know the history of that school. Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw (6’, 185, SR), the son of former Graham and NFL standout Ahmad Bradshaw. Last week in their big win over Union, who also came into the game at 5-0, Bradshaw scored five touchdowns despite being shaken up and leaving the game for a play midway through the first half. He answered with three touchdown catches, a touchdown run and a kickoff return for a touchdown.

 

Those touchdown passes came from Graham quarterback Zack Blevins, who also ran in the first touchdown for the G-Men after Union hit paydirt to open the game. Ty’Drez Clements (5’10”, 160, SOPH) added 138 yards as a part of the ground attack. Blevins finished the game with 136 yards rushing and 92 yards passing.

 

The G-Men also feature a strong, fast and large, strong and capable linemen. Cody Dolin (6’2”, 230, JR), Connor Roberts (6’3”, 255, JR) and Brody Meadows (6’7”, 330, SR) and only a few of the examples. Center Ethan Alvis (5’9”, 225) is another solid contributor on the line. Meadows has verbally committed to play his college football at UVA.

 

“Our guys know what they need to do,” Dixon said. “Injuries are something everyone is dealing with now, so it’s not just us. At this point everyone has bangs and bruises. For us, how well or how poorly we execute will determine everything. We cannot afford to attempt arm tackles. We cannot afford to sit back and watch the game. We need to read our keys and fly to the ball. Offensively, our line has got to step up. Who gets the ball doesn’t mean anything if our line doesn’t get the job done.”

 

The Cougars did get some good news last week as junior lineman Evan Alger returned from the injured list. He performed well in the Blacksburg game, showing very little signs of rust after being out since the Northside game. Tyler Underwood was out last week, but will be returning to the lineup for this week. Others listed on the Cougar injury list are still questionable at best for this week or the remainder of the season.

 

Before the game there will be a brief ceremony to officially acknowledge the naming of the press box at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium/Joel Hicks Field as the Dan Callahan Press Box. Members of the Callahan family are expected to be on hand for the pregame event.

 

Kickoff Friday at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium in Dublin is set for 7 p.m. If you can’t make it out to the stadium, be sure to tune in to 107.1 WPSK for the live broadcast.

 

Post Blacksburg game note

With his six receptions for 180 yards Friday night against Blacksburg, John Lyman did in fact break the single game receiving record which was previously held by Malik Eaves with his 162 yards in 2014 against Cave Spring.

 

The six receptions by Lyman also puts him at 33 receptions for 539 yards this season, which trails the record for most receiving yards in a season, currently held by EJ Horton who recorded 827 yards in 2017, by 288 yards.

 

The 539 yards by Lyman at this point, along with his 10 receptions in the COVID season for 205 yards, moves him into third place overall for career receiving yards. This moves Mark Frank (700 yards, 1986-87) to fourth place. That list also includes Gary Clark (669 yards, 1978-79) and Nubian Peak (620 yards, 2005-08). Horton holds onto first with 1,526 career yards from 2017-18. Zack Akers in second at 768 yards from 2010-12.

 

At the end of the season we will take a full look at the official stats and update any records, individual and team, that need to be updated.

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