Cougars play home opener Friday vs. James Wood

Cougar senior John Lyman breaks free against Jefferson Forest last Friday night in Pulaski County’s 49-16 win. Lyman had another outstanding game, scoring three touchdowns on a 62-yard run, 16-yard reception and an interception return of 53 yards. (Antonio Nottingham/The Patriot)

COVID strikes again!

Cougar football fans were anxiously awaiting resumption Friday night of the old rivalry between Pulaski County and Bluefield in what was supposed to be the 2021 home opener in Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium.

But the virus for the second straight week turned Cougarland upside down, with Bluefield announcing that COVID issues within its program would keep the Beavers on the West Virginia side of East River Mountain Tunnel.

The news sent PCHS Athletic Director Scott Vest scurrying again to find a new opponent on short notice – while facing the prospect of the Cougars going two straight weeks without a game since the team is scheduled for an open date on Sept. 17.

Meanwhile, James Wood High School in Winchester got word it, too, was suddenly without a game this Friday when Skyline High School announced it couldn’t play due to COVID issues within its football program.

Long story short, Vest worked things out with James Wood officials and the Cougars will face the Colonels on Friday night at 7 p.m. in Pulaski County’s first home game of the season.

James Wood sounds much like Pulaski County – it has around 1,400 students and is classified as a Class 4 team playing in Region 4C as a member of the Northwestern District.

The Colonels had an open date last week after starting the season off Aug. 27 with a 34-20 win over Sherando.

James Wood welcomed over half their starters back this season from a team that went 2-0 in the spring and has 41 players out for football this fall.

Some of the players to watch among head coach Ryan Morgan’s Colonels include senior slot receiver Jaden Ashby. According to press accounts, Ashby is described as being possibly the Winchester area’s most dangerous offensive player. He has been a prolific receiver in the Colonels’ offense in the past but can also run and throw when operating out of a “wildcat” formation sometimes employed by James Wood.

Junior Andrew Link is a speedster playing wide receiver who excelled in track last season running the hurdles, gaining All-state honors.

Junior Jared Neal is the quarterback.

The Colonels have a veteran offensive line measuring 6-2, 220; 5-10, 255; 5-10, 234; 6-1, 211, and 6-5, 250.

Wood has what it believes are six players who can rotate in and out on the D-Line – four of them being seniors.

Tight end Blake Hounshell leads the way among Wood’s linebackers.

A receiver on offense, Ryan King was the team’s leading tackler last season on defense playing safety and is expected to be this season’s leader in the secondary.

While the Colonels’ press clippings can be impressive, Pulaski County for its part can point to some impressive play so far on the field registering a strong 2-0 start to the season.

The Cougars routed Jefferson Forest last Friday, 49-16 in Forest. The game against the Cavs was put together late after the Cougars’ original opponent – Tennessee High of Bristol – couldn’t play due to COVID.

Pulaski County rolled with 454 yards of offense (326 rushing and 128 passing) to steamroll the Cavaliers.

While the offense was clicking, the Cougars’ “D” didn’t do too badly itself, holding Jefferson Forest to only 20 yards on the ground.

The inability to run on the Cougars forced the Cavs to go to the air. They had some success, piling up 277 yards through the air. However, JF’s quarterback Josiah Bell was intercepted three times.  The three picks were among the six turnovers made on the night by the Cavs.

Leading the way for the Cougars was Trevor Burton with the junior rushing 13 times for 165 yards. Burton got over half his yards on two TD runs in the fourth quarter – one from 68 yards out and the other from 18.

Pulaski County’s John Lyman got the Cougars off to a big start early in the first quarter with a 53-yard interception return for a score.

Two minutes later he followed that with a 62-yard TD run.

Lyman was heard from again mid-way through the third quarter when he scored on a 16-yard pass reception.

Diego Turner (53) and two other Cougar defenders crush Jefferson Forest QB Josiah Bell on this play. Bell had a rough night against the Cougar “D” as he was intercepted three times. (Antonio Nottingham/The Patriot)

Lyman finished the game with 63 yards rushing on four carries and catching three passes for 24.

Not to be left out, senior Keyontae Kennedy lit up the scoreboard in the second quarter, scoring twice – once on a 7-yard catch, the other on a 23-yard scamper.

Kennedy would finish with 8 carries for 62 yards and one reception for 7 yards.

Tyler Underwood added two receptions for 64 yards and J.J. Gulley caught two passes for 34 yards.

Finishing out the rushing numbers, Braylon Foster carried three times for 16 yards, Austin McNeil had two for seven yards and junior quarterback Cam Cooper carried seven times for 13 yards.

Cooper went 9 of 15 passing with one interception and two TDs.

Nathan Pratt was good on all seven PATs in the game but missed the mark on a 31-yard field goal try.

Three Cougars – Kennedy, Underwood and Brett Jones – had fumble recoveries on defense, while Lyman had two interceptions and Diego Turner added one of his own.

Game time Friday night on Joel Hicks Field is 7 p.m.

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot