Cougars come up short in both game and playoff race
By MASON CLARK
Going into Friday, the ramifications were clear. With a win, Pulaski County would most likely make it into the postseason. But with a loss, it would take a series of things to go just right for the Cougars to reach the playoffs. Despite a strong second half rally, it wasn’t to be as the Christiansburg Blue Demons were able to hang on for a 34-31 win over Pulaski County, ending our season at 4-6 for the second consecutive year and finishing one place outside of playoff contention for the second straight year. For the seniors on the team, it ended their careers as Cougars and for most of them, their football careers as a whole. The few days the last game is always hard.
Christiansburg wasted no time setting the tone for the evening. Pulaski County got the ball first, and moved the ball some, but ultimately had to punt the ball away. The Cougar defense had the Demons in a third-and-long situation, but it wouldn’t matter as Curtis Altizer broke free right up the middle of the Cougar defense and rumbled 84 yards for a Demon touchdown. The PAT left the score 7-0.
The Cougars moved the ball a little bit again, but again had to punt. Christiansburg’s quarterback Tanner Evans kept the ball, ran up the middle and seemed to disappear in the middle of the play, but then broke free and ran all the way to the end zone for a second Demon touchdown. The score moved to 14-0 in favor of Christiansburg.
Not all was bad in the first half however. The Cougars, mostly with Chris Gallimore and Trevor Burton taking turns running the ball, moved the ball on a long drive. Just before the half, senior Nathan Pratt nailed a field goal to get PCHS on the board before the half ended. That made it 14-3. Despite a nice kick return by Christiansburg’s Jayron Thompson, the Demons just missed a long field goal and the Cougars went into the half up 14-3.
Christiansburg did get the ball to start the second half though, and they marched down the field quickly. The drive culminated with a pass from Tanner Evans to Jayron Thompson in the front of the end zone. The PAT was no good, and this made it 20-3 in favor of Christiansburg. Things didn’t look good for the Cougars, but they kept fighting.
After a long and hard drive, Burton finally got loose and ran down the sideline for a 37-yard touchdown, which tied the record of rushing touchdowns in a single season for the senior. Pratt’s PAT made it 20-10, and while the Cougs still had a way to go, it was a step in the right direction, and got the Cougar fans who made the trip energized.
The Demons got the ball, and fumbled it a few plays later. Sophomore Taner Mace was there to recover it. Faced with a fourth and long, Gallimore calmly hit Tyler Underwood on a pass down the seam to move the chains. A couple plays later, Christopher Gallimore took it in for a score, and just like that the Cougars were right back in it at 20-17 late in the third.
But in the fourth quarter, the Demons offense just couldn’t be stopped. They drove the ball down the field, and threw the ball on a play-action pass. In what can only be called a questionable call, the Demons were given a touchdown and that moved the score to 27-17.
The game quickly became a track meet between two run-first offenses. The Cougs moved the football down the field efficiently and methodically. Burton walked into the end zone a few plays later, in what set a new mark for single-season rushing touchdowns, and what would be the last of his historic season, to draw it to 27-24 and keep the Cougars in the thick of things.
But the Demon run game had worked all night and it’d work again. Curtis Altizer again broke free up the middle, and raced to the end zone to give the Demons a 34-24 lead.
But there was no quit to be found in the Cougars, no matter how unlikely it looked. Burton, seeing time possibly dwindling down on his high school football career, got loose and ran hard down the visitor sideline and into the Blue Demon red zone. Just a couple of plays later, Gallimore kept the football and got to the end zone for his second score of the night, and with that, it was 34-31.
Christiansburg, with just a couple minutes remaining, very cleverly used timeouts and the play clock to run every second off the clock possible, before punting the ball away. Mace made a fair catch with just seconds remaining. Gallimore completed a pass to Mace for 21 yards. The clock showed all zeros, but it appeared Mace hit the ground with a second or two left. The referee spotted the ball, but there was no time on the clock. It was honestly just a botched and confusing situation all around, and the game ended shortly thereafter. The season had come to an end.
The Cougars finished 4-6, ninth in the region, and just missed the playoffs for a second consecutive year. EC Glass finished first in the region standings. Louisa Countt is second, Salem third, Orange County fourth, Amherst County fifth, Western Albemarle sixth, Jefferson Forest at seven, and Halifax County edged the Cougars for the eight seed. The Cougars came in at ninth, GW Danville at tenth, Mecklenburg County (a brand new school) at eleven, and last place was Blacksburg.
Burton capped an amazing season with 35 carries for 255 yards and 2 touchdowns. Gallimore ran 19 times for 101 yards and 2 more touchdowns. Mace ran 3 times for 10 yards. Gallimore hit on three passes for 43 yards. Mace had 1 for 21, Underwood caught 1 for 19, and Marcus Reed caught 1 for 3 yards. That gave us 410 yards of offense on 70 plays from scrimmage. The Blue Demons ran it 29 times for 340 yards and was 5 of 8 for 83 yards, giving them 37 plays for 423 yards of offense.
The season has come to an end. This isn’t what we wanted of course, but the coaches, players and everyone in the program worked very hard throughout the year. Give them cheers instead of jeers. They’re no happier than you are with things ending. Thanks to all for a fun year!