Cougar rout Cave, 49-12, move to 5-0

     It was in a word “complete.” Pulaski County got its offense cranked up, the defense was its usual relentless self, and the special teams struck again. All that resulted in a, 49-12 thrashing of Cave Spring as Pulaski County roared to 5-0 on the football season in Dobson Stadium. The Knights dropped to 1-4.
     The Cougar offense put another big number on the board other than its 49 points, 351 yards of total offense, the biggest output of the season. The most crucial aspect of that number was  295 yards rushing, far and away a season high. Gage Mannon led the way with three touchdowns and 156 yards rushing. “It felt great. The blocking was the best its been all season. I just thought our offense performed better. All the guys did their job,” said Mannon.
     And the defense. The Cougars limited Cave to just 77 total yards of offense, minus 23 rushing. It kept the pressure on all night, and the Knights had trouble executing anything. And the special teams. With the pressure on, the Cave punter had trouble with the snap and was swarmed over in his own end zone. John Lyman recovered the fumble for the first touchdown of his career. It was “complete,” all three phases, offense, defense, special teams.
      “Our defense continues to play well,” said PCHS head coach Stephen James. “Our offensive output was obviously much better. I think we did a better job in the area of assignment football. We blocked ’em better up front. Our backs found some space. But there is still much work to do. We improved, we must continue to improve. We might need to understand that it’s never as good as you think, but it’s also never as bad as you think either. Except for the three turnovers, it was a good performance. The kids played well, and they also played hard,” added James.
      It did not start well. After driving for nine plays an A.J. McCloud pass in the left flat was picked off by R.J. Chaustre and he ran 65 yards for a touchdown. Ethan Gallimore blocked the extra point kick. A possession later Cave fumbled a punt and Chase Dotson recovered at the Cave 46. The Cougars scored in nine plays with Mannon getting his first touchdown from a yard out. Broc Simpson kicked the first of his seven extra points for a 7-6 Cougar lead. There was only 1:17 left in the first quarter and the Knights had yet to snap the ball from scrimmage.
     But on their first possession it was three and out, then came the failed punt attempt and Lyman got his touchdown and it was, 14-6 Cougars. After another three and out and a good punt return by Logan Burchett Pulaski Co. was in business at the 49. The Cougars moved 51 yards to paydirt in nine plays, all running plays. Mannon ran through a gaping hole off the left side to score from 14 yards out, and it was, 21-6. Late in the half Cave put together its only drive of the game, and quarterback Lucas Duncan completed four passes, all underneath the Cougar secondary. Duncan and Ethan Coates hooked up to score from 11 yards out. A two-point conversion pass was broken up by Burchett, and the score at the half was, 21-12, but in the second half the Cougar secondary played up, gave no cushion to Knight receivers, and the Cougar defense totally throttled everything the Knights attempted.
    Pulaski County got rolling in a hurry in the second half. The defense forced a three and out, and the offense moved 58 yards in only six plays. Mannon run through a gaping hole right up the gut for the longest run of the season to date for the Cougars, 38 yards. Then he got seven, and then McCloud passed on a quick out to Dotson for five, and Mannon scored from the one again and the score was quickly, 28-12.
     It was three and out again for Cave, and Burchett scooped up  the punt and zipped to the Cave 30. Enter Chris Shay. He ran for eight, then two, then five, and then got 15 all the way to the end zone. Now it was, 35-12 with 5:21 still left in the third quarter.
      The same thing happened early in the fourth quarter as the Cougars ate up game time with a control offense. The ball was on the Cave 39, and the Knight defense was getting pushed back more and more, and the Cougar offensive front had obviously wore the Cave defense down. Mannon ran for six, then for four, then it was Shay’s turn again for nine, nine again, then five, and then four to the house and with 8:45 left to play it was Cougars, 41-12.
      The bench was emptied. But the Cougars continued to move. Drew Dalton in at quarterback hooked up twice with quick out passes to Lyman, and freshmen running back Trevor Burton ran five times for 24 yards. Dalton pushed to ball over from a yard out and Simpson’s final conversion kick made the final score, Cougars 49, Cave 12.
     Cave Spring was minus 23 yards rushing on 13 attempts. Duncan was 11 of 27 passing for an even 100 yards, and the Knights had but 77 net yards for the game. It was a totally different story for Pulaski County as the Cougars put up their biggest numbers of the season.
      Mannon got his 156 rushing yards on 24 carries. Shay finished with 70 yards on a dozen runs. Keyontae Kennedy got 37 yards on 11 attempts. There was also a season high 20 first downs as this time the Cougar offensive front controlled the line of scrimmage, field position, and the game clock. The Cougars ran the ball 56 times to get those 295 yards. McCloud was eight of 12 passing for 40 yards, but suffered two picks. Dalton was two for two for 16 yards, and the Cougars finished with 56 yards through the air. The one drawback was the three turnovers. Dotson caught four of the passes for 18 yards, Lyman two for 16, and Shay had two for 15.
     Pulaski County is back on the road next Friday as it plays another River Ridge opponent, Hidden Valley.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot