By Dan Callahan
Who wants it? Just three little words, doesn’t total but 10 letters. In life and in football, much is determined by “Who Wants It?” Sometimes it’s not size, speed, talent or any of those obvious things. Sometimes the issue is decided on the gridiron by who wants it the most? Twice already the playoff issue could have been decided by Pulaski County’s football team. Twice it didn’t get it done. Here comes chance number three at Hidden Valley Saturday.
The numbers are close, both teams need to win the game for the same reason. The playoffs are possibly in the balance. Maybe it will be a game played with great intensity. Maybe the enthusiasm will run high. It should be like that, but the question is “Who Wants It?” Which team will take the field and take the game, rip it away from the opponent? That’s the question. It’s not enough to simply be good in big games. You must be locked in. Your goal should be to rip the spirit out of the opponent, find out how strong their “want to” is. This is chance number three for the Cougars. We’ll see.
Pulaski County is 11th in the latest VHSL 4A West Region Ratings. Drop below 12 and the season ends abruptly. The Cougars have little space to work with, but a strong finish and Pulaski Co. could move even as high as a 5th or 6th seed and host a home game when the playoffs begin. The wiggle room is gone, but the opportunity to climb and accomplish is still very much there. It comes down to “Who Wants It?”
Woodgrove is the region’s top rated team, Wm. Byrd is second, 3- Salem, 4- Millbrook, 5- Amherst, 6- Dominion, 7- GW-Danville, 8- E.C. Glass, 9- Heritage-Leesburg, 10- Loudoun Valley, 11- Pulaski Col, 12- John Champe. Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, and Sherando are the lurkers for the moment.
Pulaski County continues to put up some big numbers this football season. The Cougars are averaging 42.6 points per game, and the defense is allowing only 11.7 per game. The defensive number is just as impressive as the offense. The opposition has yet to reach a total of 100 points. The Cougar stoppers have given up just 94.
Hunter Thomas continues to have a banner senior season with 1,581 yards rushing on 141 carries, an 11.2 yard per carry average, and a per game average of 198 yards. Thomas presently has 4,087 career rushing yards. That’s 327 short of Josh Calfee’s record. Thomas has scored 21 touchdowns on the season and a two-point conversion for 130 points as he ranks high in Timesland in all categories.
Quarterback Bryant Grubb continues to add to his numbers with 542 yards rushing on 80 carries, a 6.75 average. Grubb now had eight touchdowns for 48 points. Jamall Edmonds also has eight TDs for 48 points, and 412 rushing yards on 73 attempts. A per rush average of 5.5.
Grubb is now 34 of 70 passing, right at 50 percent for 623 yards and five touchdowns. His leading receiver has been tight end Jeff McDonald who has nine catches on the season for 218 yards, and a hefty 24 yard per catch average.
It’s kind of becoming the American Way in some respects. I find it regrettable and it’s popping up far too often in public school athletics. It has long since been determined that Carroll County has basically forfeited any opportunity it has to accomplish anything in football because the Virginia High School League has allowed the Cavaliers to back away, and play down level teams in the hopes of being more competitive. I don’t want to appear unsympathetic. I hate losing. It’s difficult to deal with and to do it almost every time out has to be extremely discouraging. I get all that, we’ve had some difficult times in recent years at Pulaski County, but to give up and say I can’t, just doesn’t sit well with me. If you recall, even Christiansburg, a team that was riding high just three or four years ago, explored the same avenue two months ago.
Now Nelson County has done it. That football program will leave the AA Dogwood District for the next two seasons and play an independent 10-game schedule, and is voluntarily ineligible for VHSL playoff consideration. People want to state it in different terms as if that makes it better, but it doesn’t. Nelson County is backing away from competition among schools of the same size, and playing smaller schools so it can win some games. In other words, we’re not good enough, so rather than figure out how to go about becoming more competitive let’s just keep dropping down in the level of play until we find some other schools that are bad enough so we can win. Bottom line, that’s what it is.
Beginning next football season Nelson County will face schools such as Bath County, Page, Craig County, Grace Christian, George Mason, and Strasburg. Officials at Nelson say they hope to rebuild their program over the next couple of years and return to the appropriate level of competition. I really do wish them luck if that is the goal. It’s hard watching kids consistently lose. I get that. However, I don’t ever want to look at a kid and tell him he can’t compete either.
It’s a tough spot, but I do know this. If Nelson County really does want to be competitive and return to the Dogwood District and play Group AA size schools the way it’s supposed to, first and foremost, the school system must make a commitment. Realize what you need to do to get better, and do it. Pulaski County schools has only recently gone through a very like process. Your leadership either wants to make a commitment, and create a positive environment so its young people have an appropriate opportunity to compete, or it doesn’t. We are fortunate to have such leadership in our school system today. I hope that’s what happens in Nelson County.
Worst Statement in all of Sports:
“This Play is Under Further Review.” Are you sick of that yet? Just like a government that judges its success by how many new laws and regulations it puts in force, the game of football is being grossly over-legislated. They said replay would eliminate all the questions. No it hasn’t, it’s only added questions. There’s an ACC game in Boston, wait a minute, we need to call Greensboro. There’s an SEC game in Florida, wait a minute, we need to call Birmingham. The Big 10 even gives replay camera to on-field officiating crews so they can watch the replays just like they guys back in Indianapolis who are eating free pizza.
So what has happened is just what happens to us in our everyday life. When government tells me it is about to make a major change in an important aspect of life, just duck, the haymaker is on the way. Most new laws and regulations are for the satisfaction of special interest groups and the political elite who benefit from the new law. The rest of us, we pay for it, and suffer. Now I suffer through countless replays, and listen to announcers who spend countless boring minutes explaining to me the same thing over and over, and telling me this runner may have touched his elbow, and debate for 15 minutes the quality of a simple tackle. And frequently it’s all determined by how the officiating crew determines a play, and many times, different officiating crews don’t see the same thing the same way.
Throw the instant replay out, and while you’re at it, throw a lot of people in Washington out with the wash as well. Anybody that wants a new law, or add to the rules, throws them all out.