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Cougars crumble against Spartans, fall to 3-3

By DAVID GRAVELY

editor@southwesttimes.com

 

Pulaski County took one of their worst losses to any team in history Friday night. The Salem Spartans walked out of Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium with a 55-6 win over the Cougars. A 49 point loss is hard for Pulaski County players, coaches and fans to swallow.

 

Blacksburg scored 53 points on the Cougars in 2017, leaving the final score at 28-53. GW Danville beat the Cougars 56-13 in 1990. The worst loss ever dates all the way back to the 1975 season when the Cougars lost to Bluefield, West Virginia, by a final score of 12-69, a margin of 57 points.

 

“It just stops you in your tracks,” Cougar Head Coach Mark Dixon said. “As a coach or a player, you can accept taking a loss. You never like it, but if you go out and you play hard and leave it all on the field, you can at least have that to hang your hat on. We obviously have some issues we need to fix. Losses fall on the coach, not the players. That’s just the way it is. We knew the odds were against us tonight. Salem has a pretty good football team and we’re facing some challenges right now. Our program is not going to make excuses. We knew what we had to work with and we didn’t get the job done. We made a few mistakes and then we made a few more. The question is how did we react to it? I saw a lot of heads down out there tonight. Our goal is and always should be to get better every time we take the field. That didn’t happen tonight.”

 

The scoring started when DaRon Wilson completed a pass to Jake Massey for a nine-yard touchdown pass with 3:37 remaining in the first quarter. Wes Cross hit the point after to put the Spartans up 7-0.

 

Pulaski County answered. After a Salem kickoff went out of bounds, the Cougars set up shop at the 35-yard line. John Lyman took the ball off the left side and raced 65 yards to ring the bell for Pulaski County. The PAT by Nathan Pratt was wide right, leaving the Cougars trailing 7-6 with 3:37 remaining in the first.

 

That was as close as the Cougars would be for the remainder of the game. Salem took the kickoff out to the 46-yard line. The Spartans struck with a 54-yard run by Cam Leftwich for a score. Cross hit the PAT and the score was 14-6 with 3:17 left in the first.

 

The Spartans struck again to open the second quarter. After a turnover on downs gave Salem the ball at the Cougar 45-yard line, a 48-yard pass put Salem at the Cougar two for first and goal. Two plays later, Leftwich scored his second touchdown of the night from two yards out with11:56 remaining in the half.

 

Trailing 21-6, the Cougars fumbled on their next possession, giving Salem another shot. Six plays later they settled for a 28-yard field goal by Cross to move the score to 24-6.

 

Four plays later, Pulaski County was forced to punt. Salem started at their own 40-yard line this time. It took four plays to reach paydirt, this time with Wilson completing a 30-yard pass to Jake Massey at the 5:19 mark of the second quarter. Cross hit the PAT and the Spartans led 31-6.

 

The Cougars were forced to punt again on their next drive. Salem got the ball out to the Cougar 49 yard line. It took six plays for the Spartans to cross the goal line. Leftwich ran the ball in from five yards out with 1:41 remaining in the first half. Cross hit the PAT and the lead was 38-6 for the Spartans.

 

Pulaski County took the second half kickoff and started their drive with a 23-yard completion from Chris Gallimore to JJ Gulley, moving the ball out to the Cougar 38-yard line. A Cougar penalty pushed them back 15 yards and the drive stalled, forcing another punt.

 

This time, the Spartans used a time consuming and ground eating approach to move the ball downfield. It took 12 plays to cover 46 yards into the endzone. The score came on another run by Leftwich, this time for five yards. Cross hit the PAT to make it 48-6 for the Spartans.

 

Cross hit a 27-yard field goal with 11:55 remaining in the fourth to move the score to 48-6 for Salem. Backup running back Isaiah Barlow ran a five-yard touchdown for the Spartans with 6:49 remaining in the game. Cross hit the final PAT to bring about the 55-6 final score.

 

Salem earned 405 yards of total offense on 54 plays. Of that, 211 came through the air as Spartan quarterbacks completed 9 of 14 pass attempts. Salem ran the ball 40 times for 194 yards and gained 18 first downs in the contest. They had one penalty for 15 yards late in the game.

 

Pulaski County had 144 total yards of offense on 35 plays. Gallimore completed five of 14 pass attempts for 36 yards, but that number could have been higher were it not for several dropped balls. The Cougars ran the ball 21 times for 108 yards and gained only four first downs. The Cougars also had four penalties for 35 yards and fumbled the ball twice, losing both.

 

John Lyman led the Cougar rushing attack with two carries for 67 yards. Trevor Burton had 14 carries for 58 yards. Keyontae Kennedy ran once for two yards.

JJ Gulley caught one pass for 23 yards. Lyman caught two for 7 yards and Tyler Underwood caught two for six yards.

 

“We’ve got a lot of soul searching to do this weekend,” Coach Dixon said. “We have to come in Monday with a good attitude and get this team together. I saw those heads down tonight and we can’t have that. We’ll win together and we’ll lose together. These kids have been through a ton of adversity this season. We can’t give up on them now and we can’t let them give up on each other. It’s easy for people to ride or die with you when you’re winning. Now we find out who really wants to be a part of this thing. Winners never quit. We need to keep moving forward.”

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