Back on the Road: PCHS looks for first win at Fleming

     Pulaski County will try to get that first win of the season Friday evening as the Cougars are back on the road in Roanoke once again, this time the opponent if Class 5 William Fleming. The two schools have met 36 times on the gridiron and the Cougars hold a 21-15 series lead, and won last season in Dobson Stadium, 62-19.

      The Colonels had a tough opener in Lynchburg last week against strong Heritage and Pulaski County lost a disappointing, 29-28 game at Northside. So, both are looking for win number one. Fleming is under the direction of new head coach Jamar Lovelace who comes from E.C. Glass.  Pulaski County head coach Stephen James is in his fifth season as Cougar head coach.

     Pulaski County started 14 underclassmen at Northside and will do so again at Fleming. There were some learning pains in the form of poor execution, dropped passes, big problems with the kicking game, penalties, and just not good enough consistency. When a team is this young, mistakes in the season opener are not a surprise, but it’s really disappointing when the result is a one-point loss in one of the most important openers in the region.

     “We did a lot of things wrong,” said James this week. “We just aren’t consistent in any area at this time, but I believe that is going to improve. I expect it to improve this week. But it’s frustrating when you work on things like the blocking on the kicking game and then get two extra points blocked it makes you scratch your head, and the dropped punt snap was a major factor in the game. But those are the obvious things. There are others that are just as important, like reading our keys on defense, being where you’re supposed to be. It’s a team defense. Everybody needs to do their job. We need to tackle better. We need to do everything better.”

      Ryan Castle did get off a 37-yard field goal, and it was big, tying the game at 15 on the last play of the half. “Ryan is a huge weapon. He can be big for us. He’s the best field goal kicker I’ve ever had on a team. We must take advantage of him, and that means we need to block, get a good snap, and a good hold. It’s been a focus.  I really expect to see improvement in that area,” said James.

      Fleming is just what you expect every season. “They have speed. They have size up front. I think coach Lovelace has improved that team. It’s their home opener. They will be ready to go. We must read our keys. If we move two steps the wrong way on defense, somebody is going to blow by us.,” says James.

     What must Pulaski County do better to win Friday? “Pretty much everything. We just need to sharpen up, execute. The offensive line needs to get their blocks, the back need to hit the right hole, we need to catch open passes, defensively we need to play better everywhere, and we’ve already talked about the kicking game. We need to be a sharper football team, and totally focused on our assignments,” said James.

    And a win would do what? “Oh, it would be great for this young team. It’s always a good feeling when you get that first win of the season, and it would mean a lot to these kids. It’s a lot different practicing in 90-degree heat after a tough loss, than after a good win. We need a win, and it would be super for our team, no doubt,” added James.

     Fleming will be led up front by Tyriq Poindexter, 6-1, 265, Shane Johnson 6-0, 260, Ramal Weldon, 6-0, 250, and Sean Johnson, 6-0, 275. Dequan Nichols is a duel threat out of the spread offense and Keshon Johnson, 5-10, 200 who scored two touchdowns against the Cougars last season, is the number one running back.

The Cougars will counter with Jaxson Callahan, a 6-1, 265 sr. at center on offense, Logan Fox, 6-1, 290 jr. and Carter Murray, 5-10, 270 sr. will be the guards, Cooper Dunnigan, 6-3, 250 and Clayton Phillips, 6-3, 268 are both sophomore tackles, the quarterback is 6-2, 200 sr. Kade Akers, the slot back will be either 5-8, 155 sr. Cody Gibbs or 5-11, 150 jr. Logan Burchett, the H-Back will be 5-9, 195 jr. Austin Gallimore, the tailback 5-9, 175 soph. Jakari Finley, the wideout 6-2, 170 sr. E.J. Horton, and Castle is the kicker.

      Defensively, 5-10, 270 soph. Zeke Surber will be on the nose along with Carter and Fox, the tackles will be two small but quick seniors, 5-11, 195 Ben Arnett, and 5-11, 200 Cam Mariotti, the outside linebackers will be 6-3, 210 sr. Noah O’Dell and Finley. The inside linebackers will be 5-10, 170 jr. Luke Russell and Gallimore. James Jackson, a 6-3, 175 jr. and Horton are the cornerbacks, Gage Mannon, a 6-0, 190 jr. and Chris Shay, a 5-11, 175 jr. are the safeties.

Directions:

      I-81 to I-581. Take exit 3W Hershberger Road off I-581. Turn right onto Ferncliff Avenue, and travel approximately a mile until reaching second stop light. There will be a service station and Hardees at the stop light. Turn right at the light and William Fleming High School will be on your right in approximately one-half mile.

Cougar Paws:

      Tickets are $7.00, and gates will open at 5:30 pm. … The game will be broadcast live on NASH 107/PSK, airtime 6:30 with the Insurance Center of Dublin Pregame Show. … In other action of interest around the region Blacksburg is at Lord Botetourt, Northside is at Heritage, Staunton River plays at Cave Spring, Abingdon is at Gate City, Hidden Valley will play at Wm. Byrd, Magna Vista is at Jefferson-Forest, Christiansburg travels to Giles, Amherst is at GW-Danville, Salem hosts Franklin County, E.C. Glass travels to Halifax, Ft. Chiswell is at GW-Wytheville, and Galax plays at Radford.

By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot