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Cougars must regroup, finish season strong

Pulaski County found themselves in a tough spot Friday night against the Salem Spartans. With four key starters out with injuries before the game even started, things got even worse when another starter was pulled from the game for an injury that concerned the coaching staff and team trainers in the first quarter.


There are no three-week timeouts. There is no, “Hey we need a little more time.” The Cougars went back out on the field and did what they could. In the end, it wasn’t enough, and they suffered the second worst loss in school history to a talented Spartan squad.


The Cougars are not accustomed to losing badly. There have been exactly nine losses for Pulaski County during the history of the football program. The first, and worst loss of all time score-wise, was a 57-point, 12-69 loss to the Bluefield Beavers in 1975. That one stung. Another big loss came in 1976, this time at the hands of Patrick Henry by a final score of 7-50, a 43-point difference. In 1978 the Cougars fell to Cave Spring in a 0-42 shutout. All of those losses were under former Head Coach Dave Brown.


The 1979 season brought former Head Coach Joel Hicks to Cougarland. The Cougars didn’t suffer a loss of 40 points or more under Coach Hicks again until 1998, when Pulaski County traveled to Salem and lost 0-47.


The 2003 season brought about change. Former Cougar football standout Jack Turner took over as Head Coach after the retirement of Coach Hicks. Coach Turner had one team make this list, when his 2005 squad traveled to Christiansburg and lost 6-49, a 43-point difference.


The 2010 season saw the arrival of former player Todd Jones as the newest Head Coach for Cougar football. Coach Jones suffered two close shutout losses during his time, but no losses by 40 points or more.


Former Head Coach Stephen James arrived in Pulaski County in 2014 and did well, but he had two losses by 40 points or more on his record. The first was a 2014 road loss to Liberty-Bealeton in the opening round of the playoffs, 7-48, a 41-point difference. The second was a 14-56 loss to Salem in 2016. That score was 14-56, a difference of 42 points.


Friday night, under Head Coach Mark Dixon, the bruised and battered Cougars fell to Salem by a final score of 6-55, a 49-point difference.


That’s nine losses by 40 points or more out of 528 total games as Pulaski County High School. The Cougars have also suffered shutouts through the years. In 1975, the team lost to Andrew Lewis, GW Danville and Cave Spring by a combined score of 0-97. The 1978 Cougars had shutout losses to Radford, Cave Spring and Franklin County by a total of 0-69.


Those shutout losses quickly started becoming fewer and further between. The 1984 squad lost in the third round of the state playoffs to TC Williams 0-13. Four years later, in 1988, the Cougars lost in the third round of the playoffs to Fauquier 0-8.


There were two shutout losses in 1990. It started with a 0-10 loss at Salem. The last was a 0-7 loss to William Fleming. In 1992 the Cougars lost to EC Glass 0-20. In 2002, the Cougars lost to Blacksburg by the same score, 0-20. The 2005 season saw a 0-31 loss to William Fleming.


The last two seemed to hurt a little more. In 2010 the Cougars fell 0-14 to Amherst County on the road. A 2013 playoff loss to Courtland, which was a near rematch of the 1986 loss to the same team, ended with the Cougars falling 0-15.


In 528 total games, Pulaski County has a record of 333-192-3. That’s a .634 winning percentage. The Cougars have outscored their opponents 12,808 to 8,621, an average game score of 24.26 to 16.33 in favor of the Cougars.


Despite rumors to the contrary, Cougar football is not dead. The program is absolutely hurting right now, but from that pain comes the chance to rise together. From this slump comes the chance to retake control of your own future.


For the Cougars, the only thing that matters right now is the very next play. Win that play. Do absolutely anything and everything you can to win that play. After that, do everything in your power to win the next one. After that, string a few winning plays together. Focus on the basics. Do the little things right. Do the hard right thing, even when it’s easier to do the easy wrong thing.


For the seniors, set the example. Be the first one there and the last one to leave. Practice harder than you’ve ever practiced. Make good decisions. Be the example for your teammates.


You have four games remaining in the regular schedule. Make every single play of every one of those games count.


One thing that won’t help is what could be clearly heard from the stands Friday night and then later on social media. Unfortunately, any time a Pulaski County team has hard times, the bleacher coaches and those that know everything start telling everyone how to fix the problems.


Just a suggestion, and this was a suggestion made several years ago by a much better writer than me, but how about we just let the coaches coach, let the players play, and as fans … let’s just cheer them on.


Negativity toward the players or coaches has never solved anything. It causes issues in the locker room, and it causes issues in the community. While there may be a time and place for everything, publicly bashing or talking badly about our program is not only not going to solve anything, but it will also create more issues.


It’s time for the Cougar Nation to join together to support our kids and coaches, win or lose.




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