Pre-game: Cougars go for three in a row

Pulaski will try to win for the second straight week on the road and for the third straight time this season when the Cougars travels to Hillsville to take on the Cavaliers of Carroll County Friday.

 

The two teams have met on the gridiron 11 times in PCHS history, and the Cougars have never lost to Carroll. PCHS won, 50-7 last season. The Cougars are 2-1 overall on the season, Carroll 1-2.

In last week’s victory at Abingdon it was a sluggish first quarter for the Cougar offense before head coach Stephen James went to his “RPO” package, and Pulaski Co. totaled over 200 yards of offense in the second quarter and scored on four consecutive possessions.

“It’s a run, pass, option series,” said James this week.  “We bring a wide receiver around, dive over the ball with the tailback, and then the quarterback options down the line and can either turn it up and keep, or pitch to the training back, plus is he sees his receiver open down field, he can pull up and pass. There are actually four different options on the play if you count the deep back coming over the football, but what happens is determined by how the defense reacts. If they fall back, we run, if they close hard, we can throw it over the top, or we can pitch or keep with the quarterback. It was the first time this season that we really went with that package for more than just a couple plays and we were pleased with the results. Our execution was pretty good, it can get better, but we got the job done,” said James.

Quarterback Kade Akers passed for 185 yards and ran for 34. E.J. Horton with five catches led the way in the receiving department, but Mason Clark caught three aerials, Braeden Blevins and Kellen Dalton both had two so the passing attack is getting spread around and the Cougars have multiple weapons with good speed.

“I wish we were better in some areas, and we’re going to keep working and try to be,” said James, “but with so many players getting involved in the offense in a variety of ways is what I meant by our attack being more multiple this season.”

But it’s no secret that the Cougars are thin in certain areas, and the line of scrimmage keeps getting thinner. With D.J. Gathers already out along with Logan Fox, now nose tackle John Minnick who played his finest half of football at Abingdon last week, is out of action with a knee strain this Friday.

“Somehow we keep piecing things together,” said James.  “We have moved some players around. We’ve had kids change positions, and go both ways for periods of time, and some of the kids have sacrificed a bit for the good of the team. We’re pleased about that. But you do what you have to, and we’ll keep putting something out there, and see what happens,” laughed James.

Already last week senior Alex Akers changed his jersey number from 12 to 50. That was so he could play offensive right guard. That was the first time in his career that Alex Akers had ever lined up at guard. Alex Akers is a starting inside linebacker, and has at times in his career played wide receiver, quarterback, H-Back, and defensive back. Now he is also an offensive guard. Not many high school players can ever say they played as many positions as Alex Akers.

Pulaski County will be a heavy favorite in Hillsville, but James does not look at the game that way at all. “Our goal is to get better every week. I could care less who’s favored. Every time we take the field it is an opportunity to get better. And if we keep getting better, we’ll be the best we can be at the right time of the season. This is another week of work, to continue to work on our execution, and get a third straight win. It’s another week to get better, and if we don’t I’ll be disappointed.”

The starting lineup for Pulaski County gets a little more jumbled with each passing week. Offensively, Jaxon Callahan will be the center, Cody Talbert and either Alex Akers or Travis Byrd the guards, Chandler Dunnigan and Brody Fields will be the tackles, Noah Bradley will start at tight end. Alex Akers is also the backup at tight end.

The wide receivers and H-Backs will be Dalton, Horton, Clark, Noah O’Dell, and Blevins. The tailback positions was uncertain at press time, but Jaylin Nowlin is the likely starter. Kade Akers is the quarterback. The kicker is Ryan Castle who is four for four on field goals, and has missed but one extra point conversion.

Defensively, the front will come from the group of Ben Arnett, Camden Mariotti, Carter Murray, Talbert, Dunnigan, Byrd, and Fields. The inside linebackers will be Alex Akers and Reymon Williams. The outside backers will be Sean Spencer and Jaceri Eaves. The secondary will be made up of a group consisting of Horton, Dalton, Conner Martin, Nowlin, O’Dell, Gage Mannon, and James Jackson.

Cougar Paws: If you cannot make the trip to Hillsville the game will be broadcast live over NASH/107 PSK. Air time will be 6:30 with the Insurance Center of Dublin Pre-Game Show…………In other games of interest in the region and River Ridge District Friday night Blacksburg will travel to Richlands, Salem will play at Northside, Hidden Valley will travel to Franklin County, Abingdon will play at Christiansburg, and Cave Spring will host Alleghany. The Cougars will host Cave next week.

By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot