By MASON CLARK
Coming into Saturday night’s battle against Cave Spring, it was widely expected that the Knights would be the best team PCHS has faced thus far. Cave Spring is a quickly improving program, and they looked the part, using a tenacious and stingy defense and a tough, opportunistic offense to break a seven-year losing streak in the series, downing the Cougars by a rare score of 12-2.
It wasn’t the flashiest start for either team and looked like some old school Cave-Pulaski County games, with both offenses struggling to move the football and trading punts.
Pulaski County seemed to generate a little bit of offensive momentum with a long pass play to Marcus Reed that moved the ball from the 15 yard line to midfield, but it wouldn’t lead to any points. Both teams went into the locker room with no points on the board. The Cougars had 76 yards of offense, the Knights 61. It began to feel like the first team to score would win.
The Knights got the ball in the second half and got it moving a bit. A 20-yard run moved the football into Cougar territory, and then they faked a quick screen and threw it deep. The Knights receiver caught the ball, eluded the Cougar defensive back and found pay dirt. The PAT was blocked, but it was 6-0 Knights early in the third.
The Cougar offense was forced to punt, and a good one by Nathan Pratt pinned Cave Spring back deep. The defense was able to get a stop and force Cave to punt, and the snap sailed over the punter’s head before he alertly “fumbled” it out the back of the end zone to prevent Trevor Burton from recovering it for a touchdown. The score was 6-2, and it appeared the Cougs had some momentum of their own.
A 45-yard pass completion to Taner Mace would set the Cougars up deep in Knight territory. But a good play on the ball by the Knight cornerback would result in an interception that squandered the scoring opportunity in what turned out to be the only trip to the red zone of the night for the Cougars.
Cave Spring would then put together a lengthy drive that both chewed up clock and resulted in a back-breaking touchdown with about 6 minutes remaining in the contest. The PAT was again batted down, but the damage had been done.
Davis Neel and Reed caught a pass on the next Cougar possession, but quarterback Chris Gallimore would be sacked on a fourth down, turning the ball back over to the Knights.
The Knights did what no other team had done thus far: they kept the Cougars out of the end zone and virtually shut down the vaunted Cougar rushing attack. They made plays when they had to and played disciplined team defense to end a long losing streak in the series.
The plan for the Knights appeared to be simple; stop the run as much as possible and make Pulaski County throw the ball. I must admit I was very surprised with the defense of Cave Spring. After the previous several years, it’s quite different to see the Knights playing physically like they are right now, as they have now allowed just 12 points in five games.
Gallimore completed 7 of his 12 pass attempts for 113 yards and ran for 22 yards, if sack yardage weren’t included. Trevor Burton was held to 7 yards on 6 carries as the CS game plan revolves around stopping the ultra-productive tailback. It was a strange night to see him with only 6 rush attempts when he had 18 per game so far this year, as this was likely a result of Cave trying so relentlessly to stop him.
Taner Mace ran 2 times for 7 yards and caught 2 passes for 57 yards. Marcus Reed caught 2 passes for 41 yards and Davis Neel caught 2 for 12 yards. Burton added a three-yard reception as well.
With that, the Cougar offense was held very far below their season averages, ending with just 143 yards of total offense, less than half of the usually efficient and productive Cougar offense’s average, if not including the sacks taken at the end of the game.
Cave Spring quarterback Landen Altizer had a good game passing the ball, throwing two touchdown passes on 9 of 14 passing for 140 yards. Running back Camerohn Parker had 74 rush yards on 14 attempts, while Owen Sweeney caught four of those passes for 96 yards and the only 2 touchdowns of the game.
The loss puts the Cougs at 2-2 now, and 0-1 in River Ridge District play. With very stiff competition yet to be played for PC, the margin for error just got smaller. The upcoming game will be at home against Hidden Valley, a pesky rival who has gotten 2 of the past 3 games against us. This is not a game that the Cougars can afford to lose at this point, at least most likely. Kickoff will be Friday at Dobson Stadium.