By MASON CLARK
On a sloppy field, Pulaski County welcomed Radford High to Dobson Stadium for this season’s benefit game, the last action before the regular season begins. The Bobcats used a number of different players to stretch the field horizontally and that led to a solid win for the Bobcats, 28-17.
With that, the Cougars will now prepare for the Northside Vikings, while Radford gets ready for a trip to Wytheville to take on the George Wythe Maroons.
Things looked good for the Cougars early.
Starting from their 25-yard line (there were no kickoffs, just starting possession at your own 25 yard line), the Cougars put together a textbook flexbone drive, getting about 3-6 yards per play, a number of third down conversions and even a fourth down conversion, as Trevor Burton ran hard inside for much of the drive.
The drive culminated with senior Zach Parker getting the ball on a misdirection play and taking off down the right sideline, drawing first blood for the Cougars.
Nathan Pratt’s PAT made it 7-0, Cougars.
The Bobcats weren’t to be outdone early. Looking to respond, they went right to their best player, throwing a deep ball to Virginia Tech commit Marcell Baylor. The senior made a nice contested catch for a pickup of 42 yards on their first play from scrimmage. After a short run, they went back to him, and Baylor broke a tackle and went down the sideline to the end zone for the Bobcats’ first points of the evening.
Hutson Walsh made the PAT for them, and it was 7 all.
The Cougars were unable to move the chains on the next possession and were forced to punt. The Bobcats would get the punt (the punts weren’t live in this game, it was down wherever the returner caught it), at their own 42-yard line. They went to a bit of a “muddle-huddle” as many refer to it, and swung it out to junior Max Kanipe, who followed good blocks and tight-roped to the end zone for a 58-yard score to give Radford a lead they would never lose. The PAT made it 14-7.
The Cougars, now trailing, went back on offense. On a third-and-long situation, Chris Gallimore dropped back for a rare pass attempt, and was hit while throwing. The ball fell into the hands of David Woodward of the Bobcats, which set Radford up with prime field position for another score.
Just at the beginning of the second quarter, junior quarterback Landen Clark pulled the ball under for a scramble, which resulted in an easy touchdown. The PAT made it 21-7.
The Cougars needed a drive to stay in it, and they got it.
Burton continued to run hard inside, as well as Gallimore, Taner Mace, Brett Jones and Parker. A few third down conversions and a good adjustment on an underthrown ball by senior Davis Neel kept the drive alive.
The Bobcats stiffened up in the red zone, however, and the Cougars opted for the field goal attempt. Pratt came in and knocked through a 34-yard field goal to make it 21-10.
The Bobcats responded again, however. This time, Clark again scrambled, cutting across the grain, getting a block and running down the Bobcat sideline for a 76-yard touchdown just seconds removed from the Cougar score. The PAT made it 28-10. Radford would take this lead into the half.
The Bobcats and Cougars began substituting players in the second half, with the Bobcats getting the football first. After a nice stop, the Cougars went to work on their first possession of the second half.
Freshman quarterback Bryant Nottingham saw a lot of time in the second half. Junior Tyler Underwood capped the drive off with a 16-yard burst to the end zone. This cut the lead to 28-17 into the third.
Both defenses played pretty well from this point on. Neither team was able to score the rest of the way. Freshmen Cole Boone, Nottingham and Kaden Hatch all had some good runs, but the Cougars could never quite find the end zone.
It is a sure thing to say it’s better to make these mistakes in a scrimmage than a real game, and that a lot can be learned from Friday’s contest. That’s really the point of scrimmages to begin with.
At the same time, however, the Cougars have a lot of areas in which they need to improve, and not a lot of time to make those improvements. They have an always tough Northside team coming to Dublin next Friday night, before a very challenging remaining schedule.