Cougars, Knights battle for 43rd time

Pulaski County will journey to Dwight Bogle Stadium Friday evening to take on the Knights of Cave Spring in the first River Ridge District football game of the season. These two programs have a long history. The Cougars lead the series, 28-14, but it’s a game that is marked by close encounters. Presently, Pulaski Co. has won three straight over Cave, but last year it was just, 14-13 and the margin was a missed extra point in the waning moments.

The Cougars come into the game with a 3-1 record, Cave is 2-2 fresh off a rout of Alleghany. “This kind of begins the meat of our schedule,” said PCHS head coach Stephen James Tuesday. “Obviously, we need to win, but we also need to improve. Cave will give us their best shot. They always do. We need to be ready.”

James stressed in preseason he wanted a balanced offensive attack, and that meant running the ball much better than last season. Presently Pulaski Co. is averaging 200 yards rushing per game, 156.3 passing, and basically 331 yards of total offense. “That’s pretty good, but I think it can get better,” says James. “It’s the balance we want, but I want to run for more yards, and pass for more yards. I’d like to see the numbers go up. If we stop making mistakes and too many penalties they will.”

Tailback Jakari Finley has back to back 100-yard rushing games, Gage Mannon has ran for six touchdowns, and the Cougars have rushed for 10 touchdowns in just the past two games. “I think our backs are getting better. Jakari and Gage are a good combination. Both are going to get carries. We have to watch Mannon because he logs a lot of miles on his legs playing safety the whole game. We’re got a couple other capable kids to run the ball too, and I think this is also because our offensive is getting better. But we must keep moving in a positive direction in all areas. We need to run for more, pass for more. score more, block better, and just get better, and that goes for the defense as well.”

A quick Cougar defense has also come up with nine turnovers, five pass interceptions, three fumble recoveries, and a blocked punt. “We are making more plays on defense this season,” says James. “We’re quick, more aggressive, but we’re also making mistakes, misreading our keys, missing tackles. Our goal is to keep getting better, and see where it takes us. But almost two turnovers a game is good.”

Cave Spring will utilize strong tailback Zack Bowling to run the ball, and veteran quarterback Jacob Knight is a good passer, plus the Knights use an old fashioned style of defensive play that makes preparation a bit different.  “This is a game we must prepare well for due to a number of reasons,” says James. “First they have a very capable back, and a guy that can put the ball on the money and people that can catch it. They also use a slanting style of defensive line play that is different from most teams, and that’s something we need to figure out.”

Pulaski County’s starting lineup will remain the same. Offensively, Jaxson Callahan, a 6-1, 265 senior is the center, Logan Fox, 6-1, 290 junior, and Carter Murray, 5-10, 270 sr. are the guards, Cooper Dunnigan, 6-3, 260, and Clayton Phillips, 6-3, 272 are sophomore tackles, 6-5, 225 jr. Dillon Porter is the tight end, the quarterback is 6-2, 200 sr. Kade Akers, the wideout 6-2, 170 sr. E.J. Horton, the slot 5-11, 150 jr. Logan Burchett, the H-Back is 5-9, 195 jr. Austin Gallimore, and the tailback 5-9, 175 soph. Jakari Finley. The kicker is sr. Ryan Castle. Mannon and 6-3, 210 sr. Noah O’Dell in the slot will see plenty of action on offense, and 6-1, 250 sr. Cody Talbert is ready to see action in the offensive line.

Defensively, seniors Camden Mariotti, 5-11, 200, and Ben Arnett, 5-11, 195, will be the outside tackles, the nose will be 5-10, 270 soph. Zeke Surber, the outside backers/ends will be O’Dell and Finley, the inside linebackers will be Gallimore and 5-10, 170 jr. Luke Russell, the cornerbacks will be Horton, A.J. McCloud, Mannon, and 5-11, 175 jr. Chris Shay. Broc Simpson is the punter.

Cougar Statistics:

Here are interesting numbers for the Pulaski County football team. Finley leads the team with 405 yards rushing, better than a 100-yard average per game. Mannon has run for six touchdowns. Kade Akers has connected on 22 of 35 passes for 439 yards and six touchdowns, just one interception. Horton has caught 18 passes for 377 yards, 21 per catch and 94.2 yards per game. Burchett has five catches for 83 yards.  Austin Gallimore, Jason Deu, and Chris Shay have intercepted passes.  O’Dell and Christian Finn have recovered fumbles.

Cougar Paws:

Gates will open to Dwight Bogle Stadium at 5:30…………The game will be broadcast live from Cave Spring on 107 WPSK. The broadcast will begin at 6:15 with the Insurance Center of Dublin Pregame Show…………In other interesting games in the region Friday, Blacksburg plays at Salem, Northside hosts Lord Botetourt, Hidden Valley travels down to Abingdon, E.C. Glass and Heritage play in Lynchburg, Amherst travels to Brookville,and Jefferson-Forest plays in Bedford against Liberty.

By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot