It’s been three years since Pulaski County and George Washington-Danville have met on the gridiron. They will renew their old rivalry Thursday night in the first round of the Class 4D regional football playoffs.
Originally set for Friday night, the game was moved up to 6 p.m. on Thursday due to heavy rain being forecast for the Danville area on Friday.
The Cougars enter the game as the region’s third seed after losses in their final two regular season games.
Pulaski County ended the abbreviated six-game COVID shortened season with a 4-2 record and rating of 22.17.
The 5-1 Eagles ended the regular season with a slightly higher 23.00 rating.
In the other regional contest, top seed Salem (27.33) will face fourth seed Amherst County (19.17). That game is still set for Friday night in Salem.
Pulaski County leads the series with GW by a 9-7-1 record.
The last time the two teams played – in 2018 – the Cougars rallied for a 17-14 win.
Due to weather and field conditions in Danville, the game that season was played at Averett University on their artificial turf.
That was a first-round playoff game as well and marked the first time in eight years that Pulaski County won a first-round game to advance to the next round.
It was a thriller of a contest.
Pulaski County was down 14-10 in the fourth quarter.
With 8:08 to play, Jakari Finley scored from the one to give the Cougars the lead. After Ryan Castle booted the PAT, Pulaski County led, 17-14.
One of the big plays that kept the winning drive alive was a 37-yard pass from quarterback Kade Akers to E.J. Horton.
The nail-biter ended when, with 2 seconds left on the clock, Horton – now on defense – knocked a pass away in the back of the endzone to seal the win for the Cougars.
Prior to the 2018 contest, the last time the two football powers had played was in 2000. The Cougars won that one going away, 42-12.
The two teams have had some real battles through the years, and Thursday night’s contest promises to be more of the same.
“They kind of remind me of PH,” said Pulaski County Head Coach Mark Dixon. “Every bit that type of athleticism, but probably better up front on the O-line and D-line.
“I’m really impressed with both sides of their line of scrimmage in terms of the interior play. That’s certainly a huge concern.
And obviously they have speed everywhere. They have speed to burn.
“It’s all you want. I know that,” Dixon said.
While some observers around Danville feel the 70-6 blowout loss the Eagles suffered at the hands of Lord Botetourt in their season opener was a COVID-related fluke.
Dixon doesn’t buy that, though.
“Don’t think it was a fluke. I honestly think Botetourt is the best team in the state at any level. You’re talking about 10-11-12-13 D-1 level kids with offers to major colleges. They’re absolutely as good as advertised,” Dixon said of Botetourt.
As for moving the game up to Thursday, Dixon said in the end it was a mutual decision.
“It means less prep time, but its less for them too. So, it’s all relative.
“We had to do it. Don’t think there were a lot of options. Given it’s playoff football, these kids need to be able to play on a field that’s able to be played on and isn’t an absolute mud bath.
“After we all weighed it out and everybody talked and went through it over and over this is to me just the best and safest opportunity for the kids involved in this football game.
“They made the overture to move it. We investigated it and we came to the same conclusion after we looked at everything. It kind of became a no brainer,” Dixon said.
Since that season-opening drubbing at the hands of Lord Botetourt, GW has won five straight and the games haven’t been close.
The Eagles of head coach Nick Anderson have beaten Patrick County (41-0), Halifax County (45-7), Magna Vista (55-13), Bassett (48-20) and Halifax County a second time (47-0) to win the Piedmont District title and head for the playoffs.
The blue and silver Eagles are led by running back/defensive back Willie Edmonds. The 6-0, 190-pound senior has rushed for 895 yards on the season on 99 carries. He also led the team in scoring with 78 points.
Also, in the backfield for GW is running back Jakobe Dixon (39 carries and 359 yards) and junior quarterback Jeb Byrnes (63 of 109 for 887 yards, 7 TDs and 3 interceptions. He seldom runs the ball and went 26 carries for 46 yards.
Shacobe Hairston is the backup QB and receiver. He led the team with 14 catches for 176 yards. Donovan Howard was the number two receiver with 13 catches for 227 yards.
The Eagles, however, throw to a lot of players with no less than 10 recording at least one reception on the season.
Daniel Deandrea is their placekicker. He went 26 of 36 on extra points and 0-2 on field goals.
On defense, Hairston and Howard were tops with 2 interceptions on the season.
Defensive lineman Jalen Strange has recorded 4.5 sacks on the season while Ahmad Poole has 4.
The winner Thursday night will take on the winner of the Salem – Amherst County contest. As top seed, Salem is at home as long as they keep winning.
A Facebook page dedicated to GW football says they live stream every game the Eagles play. So, here’s the link to the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/gwfootball
A link to the actual game live stream will be available at game time.
Some team leaders for Pulaski County:
Sacks: Diego Turner leads the team with 3.5 sacks, Trevor Burton has 2
Tackles for Loss: Ethan Gallimore has 31.5 followed by Burton with 27.5, Will Bishop with 24.5 and Corvin Carter with 21.
Interceptions: Quemar Porter and Layne Suthers have 2 each.
Kickoff Returns: John Lyman (9 returns for 254 yards – 28.2 avg.)
Punt Returns: Lyman (7 returns for 125 yards – 17.9 avg.)
Rushing: Gallimore (65 carries for 482 yards), Keyonte Kennedy (73 for 333), Porter (29-206)
Passing: Drew Dalton (55 completions on 100 attempts, 967 yards, 7 TDs, 3 interceptions)
Receiving: Jacob Johnson (17 catches for 213 yards), Chase Dotson (7 for 184), Lyman (9 for 176), Porter (6 for 135) and Gallimore (10 for 115)
Scoring: Kennedy, 42; Dalton, 36; Simpson, 31; Gallimore, 24, Porter and Dotson, 18
Other notable stats
Points: Cougars 211 (35.2 avg.), Opponents 65 (10.8)
Turnovers: Cougars 6, Opponents 14
Rushing: Cougars 1,130 yards, Opponents 470
Passing: Cougars 967 yards, Opponents 556
Total Offense: Cougars 2,097 yards, Opponents 1,026
Big Plays (20-plus yards): Cougars 43, Opponents 19
Thanks to Wendy Dixon for the Cougars’ regular season stats.
Other playoff games
In Class 4, the winner of Region 4D will face the winner of Region 4C. Competing in 4C are Handley (4th seed) at Tuscarora (1st Seed) and Broad Run (3) at Kettle Run (2).
In Region 3C play, Christiansburg (4) is at Lord Botetourt (1) and Carroll County (3) is at Abingdon (2).
In Region 2C play, Radford (4) travels to Appomattox (1) and Glenvar (3) is at Dan River (2).
And in Region 1C action, George Wythe (4) travels to No. 1 seed Galax while Parry McCluer (3) is at Narrows (2).
It’s a long way to Danville. If you’re going to Thursday, here is the school’s address to enter into your GPS: George Washington High School, 701 Broad Street, Danville, Va.
By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot