In a game marked by big plays and a dominant Pulaski County defense, the Cougars won their second game of the season Saturday over Hidden Valley, 48-7.
It was the Cougars’ home opener for 2021 on a soggy Joel Hicks Field.
Head Coach Mark Dixon’s charges allowed the Titans only 155 yards offense in the game.
It was the first TD allowed by the Cougar defense this season and tied the game at 7-7.
Pulaski County had broken out on top near the end of the first quarter when John Lyman set the Cougars up in good shape with a 39-yard punt return down to the Titans’ 15.
It was the second long kick return of the day for Lyman, who opened the game by taking the kickoff back all the way for a Cougar touchdown. However, a penalty on Pulaski County negated the play.
On the second play from scrimmage after Layman’s punt return, Keyonte Kennedy took a Drew Dalton handoff and raced to the endzone for a 16-yard TD.
Broc Simpson booted the PAT and Pulaski County led, 7-0.
After the Titans tied it up on Carroll’s long reception, the Cougars started out on their own 29.
On a third and long, Dalton got a pass off despite heavy pressure from behind and hit Ethan Gallimore with a 44-yard pass to keep the drive alive.
After the Cougars couldn’t generate any yardage on the first three downs, Dixon decided to go for it on fourth.
Dalton went play action and, even though he had room to run for the first down, he hit a wide-open Chase Dotson for a 33-yard reception for six.
Simpson added the extra point, and the Cougars were up, 14-7.
Pulaski County made two big plays on defense in the next series, with Dotson sacking Dragovich on third down, forcing a fourth down punt.
Dragovich is also Hidden Valley’s punter, so each punt looked almost like a normal offensive play for the Titans until Dragovich booted a pooch kick to punt the ball away.
This time the Cougar rush came hard and senior linebacker Ethan Gallimore blocked the kick with Diego Turner recovering for PCHS at the Hidden Valley five.
After a Cougar penalty, Kennedy gained 9 yards on three carries before Dalton – on fourth down – scored on a 1-yard sneak.
Simpson booted the PAT, and the Cougars were up 21-7.
Hidden Valley’s next series was stopped by another Cougar defensive gem.
Senior linebacker Will Bishop hit Dragovich and caused a fumble with junior lineman Caleb Yelton recovering the ball.
The first half ended with the score still at 21-7.
In the second half, Hidden Valley went to work on a 10-play drive to the Cougars’ 38, only to be stopped by senior cornerback Layne Suthers’ first big play of the third quarter. Suthers intercepted Dragovich to end the threat.
The senior would be heard from again moments later.
Pulaski County took over on their own 23 and on second down, Dalton passed and found Suthers who juggled the ball while trying to keep his footing on the sloppy turf and raced 77 yards for the touchdown.
Simpson again was good on the PAT and the Cougars’ rout was on at 28-7.
The floodgates opened for the Cougars on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Dragovich launched another pooch punt from his own 14 and senior lineman Clay Phillips got the Cougars’ second block of the game and the big lineman took the recovery into the endzone for the score.
Simpson’s PAT was good, and the Cougars led, 35-7.
On the next series, Suthers made his third big play of the day with a “pick 6,” returning the interception 60 yards for the touchdown.
Simpson’s point after this time, however, was off to the left, but the Cougars were still sitting pretty, ahead 41-7 with 9:52 to go.
Pulaski County closed out the scoring with 6:19 to play when Kennedy took off on the left side and rambled 23 yards for the final score. Simpson’s kick was good, and the Cougars had their 48-7 victory.
Pulaski County outgained Hidden Valley, 293 to 161. The Cougars had 95 yards on the ground with Kennedy leading the team in rushing with 73 yards on 19 carries. Burton added 23 on seven carries.
Dalton went 8 of 15 passing with one interception for 198 yards.
Chase Dotson had two receptions for 45 yards, Jacob Johnson had three catches for 34 yards, Gallimore added two for 43 yards and Suthers chipped in the one reception, for a huge 77 yards.
Both teams committed plenty of penalties in the game, with Pulaski County being flagged 10 times for 80 yards, while the Titans had eight penalties for 65.
The Cougars had 158 return yards to Hidden Valley’s 44.
The 2-0 Cougars now go back on the road to face Christiansburg next Friday at 7 p.m. The Blue Demons lost to Salem Saturday, 35-13.
The loss was the second of the young season for Hidden Valley, who fell earlier this week to Patrick Henry, 14-6.
Prior to the game a ceremony marked the naming of the press box at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium after longtime “Voice of the Cougars,” Dan Callahan.
Callahan passed away May 20, 2020.
Prior to his passing he had covered every Cougar football season since Pulaski County High School opened in 1974.
He was the “Voice of the Cougars” in print and on the radio, calling the games on WPSK radio and writing for the Radford News Journal, The Southwest Times and the last several years for The Patriot.
By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot