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Cougars must focus for battle with Bruins

By DAVID GRAVELY

editor@southwesttimes.com

 

With a record of three wins and three losses, the Cougar football team has found themselves in a tough spot heading into their Friday night road trip to Blacksburg High School to face the Bruins.

 

The Cougars are sitting in the ninth spot in the VHSL power points, which means if the season ended today, Pulaski County would be packing up the gear and getting ready for the off-season. This is not what the players or coaches hope to see happen.

 

“Our kids are going to keep working hard,” Cougar Head Coach Mark Dixon said. “We’re going to ask some of them to do things that they may not have been expecting. Some are going to have to play in spots they never considered playing. That’s what a real team player does. This is not about the individual, it’s about the team. Yes, there will be a little bit of a learning curve when a player takes on a new role, but I believe our kids can do it. We have some tough games ahead of us and it’s going to take everyone putting in a full effort to get things done.”

 

The Bruins come into the game Friday with a record of no wins and five losses. They dropped their season opener at Giles 21-28. They lost their home opener to Lord Botetourt 6-42. A trip to Grundy ended with a disappointing 19-20 loss. Patrick Henry made quick work of the Bruins in Roanoke, 0-42. Last week Blacksburg fell to their cross-county rivals, Christiansburg, by a final score of 0-49.

 

“They have some athletic players,” Dixon said. “They’ve obviously improved from last season, but like us, they are young in some spots. What they won’t do is show up and just hand anybody a win. They want to win just as much as anyone else.”

 

Blacksburg is led by Head Coach Eddie Sloss, who is in his fourth season as the Bruins leader. During the spring COVID season, Blacksburg lost all six games by a combined score of 275-7. They were shut out in five of their six games.

 

In 2019, Blacksburg finished the regular season with a record of 6-4 before falling in the first round of the playoffs to the Cougars, 14-17.

 

The 2018 Bruins squad won 13 games in a row, including a 21-14 win over the Cougars in Dublin, before falling to Woodgrove 23-26 in the state semifinals.

 

So far this season, the Bruins have shown some improvements offensively, putting up 21, 6 and 19 points while being shut out three times. Defensively, they have given up far too much yardage through the air and on the ground.

 

For the Cougars, Tuesday was a little too early to still have an absolute starting lineup nailed down. Injuries that were already affecting the team are still injuries and on top of that there are now a few additional question marks after the Salem game.

 

“I’ll never let a player go on the field injured, but at this point every team has players that are hurt,” Coach Dixon said. “There’s a big difference between injured and hurt. I think we need to buckle down and be a little tougher at times. You have to have the right mindset for football. You’re going to have bumps and bruises. That’s a part of it. Having that right mindset will also help you make a stop on third and short instead of letting the other team get a first down.”

 

Sophomore Chris Gallimore will still be the starter at quarterback. John Lyman, Trevor Burton and Keyontae Kennedy will still line up in some combination of running back or wideout. The offensive line will once again likely see new faces this week as Coach Dixon and his staff work to fill in empty spots. The same will happen defensively.

 

The Cougars haven’t put up horrible numbers this season. With the exception of the Salem game, the Cougars have put up decent numbers offensively. As a team, Pulaski County has 94 first downs through the first six games. They’ve run the ball 214 times for 1,347 yards. Cougar quarterbacks have completed 56 of 109 pass attempts with eight interceptions for 868 yards.

 

Individually, a few numbers stand out. Cam Cooper, in the games before he was injured, completed 41 of 71 passes with five interceptions for 726 yards. Chris Gallimore has now completed 15 of 38 passes with two interceptions for 142 yards.

 

Trevor Burton has led the way in the ground game with 65 carries for 571 yards. Keyontae Kennedy has 77 carries for 436 yards. John Lyman has 28 carries for 240 yards.

 

A couple of Cougars have done well catching the ball also. Lyman has 27 catches for 359 yards. JJ Gulley has 14 catches for 325 yards. Tyler Underwood had made 7 tough catches for 31 yards. Kennedy also had 3 catches for 33 yards.

 

“We need to worry about what’s happening right now, at this moment, on each play,” Coach Dixon said. “We have to get our focus and do the right things fundamentally. We need to play football. If we do that and focus on getting better, good things will happen.”

 

Kickoff Friday at Bill Brown Stadium in Blacksburg 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.

 

 

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