Pulaski County will try and keep its winning streak alive Friday evening in Dobson Stadium as the Cougars will go for their sixth consecutive victory against Christiansburg in the 43rd Homecoming for PCHS.
The Cougars are establishing new records in the passing game, but the team has played very well defensively over the past month of the season as well. Following a disappointing opening loss to Northside and allowing 38 points, the Cougars have allowed just 54 in the other five games, only 25 in the past three. In addition to that, it has become a ball-hawking defense with 15 turnovers.
Pulaski County and Christiansburg have met on the gridiron 18 times and the Cougars have won 11 of those times, and 42-0 last season.
Last Friday the Cougars hit on all cylinders, and played well offensively, defensively, and on special teams. Quarterback Kade Akers set records in the passing game throwing for 350 yards, and E.J. Horton set receiving records, but the defense also came away with five big turnovers and linebacker Alex Akers returned one 47 yards for a touchdown. Field goal kicker Ryan Castle is now five for five on the season after connecting from 41 yards at Hidden Valley, and Conner Martin averaged a net 38 on his punts.
“It’s great when you see that,” said PCHS head coach Stephen James. “That’s what you strive for, to execute and perform in all three phases. That’s when you play well, that’s when you win.”
The past two season the overall kicking game has been a big problem for the Cougars, but it has become a huge asset in 2017. Now everybody looks like Shayne Graham. After a good laugh, James said, “It’s just hard work. Ryan and Conner worked hard to get better. They really focused and it shows, and our execution has been excellent. Chandler Dunnigan is excellent at snapping for the kids, Mason Clark is a good holder, and things are just happening like they are supposed to. I like it a lot better,” smiled James.
The Cougars are favored to win over the Blue Demons and James wants that winning streak to reach six. Last Saturday Georgia and Tennessee played an SEC game, and combined, both teams barely passed for 200 yards. On the night before, in what amount to a full quarter less of playing time, Pulaski County passed for 350 yards at Hidden Valley.
“I hope we can carry over our execution from last week at Hidden Valley. Our passing game was really a quick strike. Kade Akers is doing an outstanding job at quarterback for us, but it’s not just him. Our receiving corps is a very capable group with good speed, and good hands. Kellen Dalton, E.J. Horton, Mason Clark, Braeden Blevins, and tight end Noah Bradley really give us a good overall passing package. We just need to run good routes, make good decisions on who and when to deliver the ball, and we can get better. We’re also going to continue to work with our running game. We want as much balance as we can get, and we’re getting a bit better there too,” said James.
And the defensive improvement? “We’re getting good senior leadership out of Reymon Williams, Alex Akers, and Dalton. We’ve found some kids on the defensive front that have done a good job, and we’ve played pretty smart. That’s a bunch of turnovers and that really helps. Our kids have developed a bit in places, and we feel good about that, and it makes our future look bright,” said James.
Offensively, Jaxon Callahan, 6-0, 250 junior, will start at center for the Cougars, 6-1, 240 jr. Cody Talbert and 5-10, 190 sr. Alex Akers will be the guards, two steady hands, 6-3, 270 sr. Chandler Dunnigan and 6-0, 270 sr. Brody Fields are the tackles, Bradley, a 6-3, 215 sr. is the tight end.
The wide receivers will be Dalton, a 6-0, 150 senior who is having an outstanding multi-purpose season in all three phases of the game, Horton, a 6-0, 160 jr., Clark, a 5-9, 160 sr., and Braeden Blevins, a 6-3, 165 sr. The tailbacks will be either Jaceri Eaves or Jaylin Nowlin. Kade Akers, 6-2, 215 jr. is the quarterback and Ryan Castle, a junior, five for five on field goals and 25 of 27 on extra point kicks will handle the placement duties.
Defensively, Pulaski County will have John Minnick, 6-0, 288 sr. at nose tackle, a pair of juniors, 5-10, 190 Ben Arnett and 6-0, 180 Camden Mariotti will be the down tackles. Playing on the edges will be 6-2, 175 jr. Noah O’Dell, and either 5-11, 200 sr., Eaves or 5-10, 160 sophomore Luke Russell. Dunnigan, Fields, 6-2, 240 soph Logan Fox, and Talbert could all see some playing time on the front.
The inside linebackers will be the pair of steady seniors, Reymond Williams and Alex Akers. Matt Click, 5-4, 175 jr. is the primary backup.
The secondary will have 5-10, 175 soph Gage Mannon, 6-1, 180 soph James Jackson, Dalton, Horton, 5-11, 190 sr. Conner Martin, Nowlin, and Kade Akers could also see some action as could freshman Jacori Finley. Martin will handle the punting.
In other important games in Class 4, Region D Friday, Salem visits Patrick Henry, Blacksburg travels to Cave Spring, Amherst will host Jefferson-Forest, Charlottesville will be at home against Fluvanna, E.C. Glass will host Rustburg, and GW-Danville is at home against Tunstall.
In the latest Virginia High School League Power Ratings, Glass leads the way in Class 4, Region D with a 4-1 record and a rating of 26.8. Blacksburg is second at 5-1, with a rating of 26.2. Charlottsville is third at 4-1, William Byrd fourth at 6-0, GW-Danville 5 at 4-1, Pulaski Co. is rated 6th at 5-1, Amherst is 7 at 3-2, and Salem 8th at 4-2. These are the eight teams that if the playoff began this week would make up the field. However, these ratings will change, and Byrd’s fourth rating with a 6-0 record makes it obvious that strength of schedule is a factor.
On the Air:
If you cannot make it out to Dobson Stadium for the game, it will be broadcast live on NASH/107 PSK beginning at 6:30 with the Dublin Insurance Center Pre-Game Show.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot