By MASON CLARK
Even though this week is only a benefit game that has no bearing on either team’s final record, the hype for Friday’s Pulaski County vs. Radford football game is high. Both teams want to win, not because of playoff points or standings, but for something that both programs are built upon – pride.
The Cougars rank fourth in win percentage in Timesland history at .631 (or 63.1 percent), while Radford is right behind at .625 or 62.5 percent. Both have won many region and district titles through the years and each team has state championships in its program’s history. There will always be a lot of passion and pride when the two teams get together, whether for a scrimmage or real game.
The Cougars will welcome the neighboring Radford Bobcats to Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium Friday. Even though the Cougars and Bobcats have met just ten times since PCHS opened in 1974, there is plenty of history between the two.
The rivalry, if it should be considered one, runs deep, all the way back before the merger of Dublin and Pulaski high schools after the 1973-1974 school year.
Back then, the Dukes and Orioles were in the New River District with the Bobcats, where the three battled things out for years. The Bobcats won back-to-back state championships in 1971 and 1972, and narrowly beat the Dukes in each of those two seasons. Over the final 17 years of Dublin’s existence, the Dukes beat the Bobcats in the series 10-6, with one tie. They also won the final meeting ever between the two, with a 12-0 win at Soldiers Field, before some 10,000 fans.
For the Orioles, Radford proved to be a harder team for them to beat. Pulaski won just three times over the last 17 years of their existence. Even though “the Birds” as they were referred to at the time won the NRD in 1973, the Bobcats still beat them that season.
Then the two merged to become Pulaski County High in the fall of 1974, and the Cougars didn’t play the Bobcats in either 1974 or 1975. But after a few years of anticipation, the rivalry, though in a new form, would be renewed.
Our players made the trip across the bridge, to “the hill” as many refer to it, to play Radford. Over 10,000 people packed into Radford’s stadium to see the first-ever meeting between the newly merged PCHS and Radford.
Jerry Hendrix rushed for 130 yard and 2 touchdowns to lead the Bobcats to a 32-12 win. Norm Lineburg had Radford’s program rolling by this time, while Cougar head coach Dave Brown was trying to mesh two bitter rivals while also building a winning football program.
Cougar standout Timmy Venable did all he could, but it proved to be futile. Isiah McClanahan and Venable scored the two touchdowns that day for us.
The next year, perhaps the best Cougar team up to that point hosted Radford in 1977. Venable ran for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns, but it would only result in a tie. This also happens to be the most recent time the Cougars had a game result in a tie, and it will almost certainly be the last, as overtime was implemented in the 1987 season.
The 1978 year was a tough 3-7 season for the Cougars, and the Bobcats defeated the visiting Cougars that year 13-0, completely shutting down the Cougar offense.
We were winless against Radford in our first three tries.
Then a man from West Virginia came to town. Joel Hicks’ very first game as the head coach of the Cougars came at home (County Stadium at the time) against Radford. The Cougars totally shut down Radford, holding them to just 89 yards of total offense on 42 plays (about 2 yards per play) in a 13-0 win.
Perry Reese had an interception return for a touchdown, and future NFL Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion Gary Clark caught 3 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown to lead the way. The late, great King Harvey was also on the team, rushing for 52 yards.
With this, the Bobcats didn’t play us anymore for 30 years. I’m not sure why, but I would imagine they knew they had no chance against a Joel Hicks-led AAA Cougar team.
Many years passed, and finally, the rivalry was renewed in 2009. We made the short trip across the bridge in the first meeting under the name “Battle of the Bridge.” We won 19-7 over a Radford team that would go on to reach the state championship game, losing to Essex, led by former Cougar coach Todd Jones.
Nine months later they saw Coach Jones again, this time as the head coach of the Cougars. They narrowly beat us two straight years: 32-29 in 2010, and 13-12 in 2011, two tough seasons for the Cougars.
Then Pulaski County got revenge with a 41-9 win over Radford in 2012. In 2013, we beat them 31-13, and 2014, we won 28-15. With that, we lead the series 5-4 with a tie between the two.
Radford is expected to be a good team this season in 2A. The Bobcats are led by senior Marcell Baylor. The 6’3” 195-pound senior is committed to Virginia Tech on a full-ride scholarship offer, while he also holds offers from many other schools like Boston College, Liberty, and UConn. He will line up at wide receiver and cornerback. Landon Clark is a junior after starting much of his sophomore season behind center and performed well in their scrimmage.
In a spread scheme, the Bobcats will throw the ball plenty, and will look to get their athletes into space to let them make plays. Other good players to expect to touch the football will be Parker Prioleau (son of former Hokie great Pierson Prioleau). The Bobcats are pretty tough up front as well. They are coming off an 8-4 campaign in Mike Crist’s first season on the hill and will be looking to compete for a Three Rivers District championship this season.
For the Cougars, the lineup will likely be the same as last week but expect a more game-like approach as the regular season nears.
Chris Gallimore will be under center, Trevor Burton will be right behind him at the superback position, and the a-backs will be Zach Parker and Brett Jones. Expect sophomore Taner Mace and junior Trey Landreth to get in at a-back as well.
Up front on the offensive line from left to right will be Evan Alger (left tackle), Aiden Moore (left guard), Nolan Dalton (center), Diego Turner (right guard), and Hunter Hill (right tackle). Out wide will be Davis Neel and Marcus Reed.
Defensively, the Cougars will have Turner, Alan Fernandez and Jack Allen on the defensive line. The linebackers will be Burton and Nicholas Woolwine on the outside, then Tyler Underwood and Alger will be the inside linebackers. Parker and Landreth will be the cornerbacks, with Mace and Jones being the last line of defense at safety. This group performed well against a significantly bigger Franklin County team last week virtually shutting down the Eagles’ run game.
Game time is set for 6 p.m. on Friday and will be our final preseason action before things get underway next week at home against Northside.
Come out and support your Cougars!