Pulaski County upped its record to 2-1 on the football season Friday night in its first home game in Dobson Stadium with a convincing, 42-14 ramble over Abingdon who saw its record drop to 2-1.
It wasn’t as easy as the score might indicate as early the Falcons put up a good fight, and midway in the third quarter the issue was far from decided,, but after its defense struggled at times in the first half, and another kicking game mistake cut the lead to, 21-14, the Cougars took control and dominated the remainder of the game, scoring the final three touchdowns and holding the Falcons to just 22 total yards of offense the second half, and minus yards after its score in the third quarter.
The game could also have signaled the return of the running game to the Pulaski County program. The team had some success on the ground during the first two games, but Friday vs, Abingdon the Cougars ran the football for 272 yards on 43 carries and six touchdowns.
“It was a good win,” said head coach Stephen James. “Abingdon was a good opponent. They are going to have a good season. I think that’s a playoff team in Class 3. We ran the ball effectively. We ran for some tough yards. We could have thrown the ball a little better, just not real sharp, but the run helps the pass and the pass helps the run, and overall we’re doing a pretty good job right now, but we all know we’re not where we need to be yet or want to be.”
James was concerned in the first half, particularly after Abingdon drove the ball impressively. “We had to get some things fixed. First of all, Abingdon is pretty good, and they have people who can make plays, but we were missing assignments, missed keys, and missed tackles too. But we got better. They split us with that one touchdown run the third quarter, but nothing after that. We tried to be aggressive on defense, and we ran to the ball well. We were a more physical team the second half,” added James.
Pulaski County drove 75 yards with the game’s first possession, but fumbled a touchdown away at the Abingdon three. But on the second Falcon possession Chris Shay blocked a punt and Xavier Cobbs scooped it up for the Cougars and got to the Abingdon six. On the next snap Gage Mannon ran it off the left side for six.
But Abingdon came right back following the kickoff and drove 80 yards in 12 plays to tie the game, running through gaping holes inside the Cougar defense numerous times. The score came when Martin Lucas zipped up the gut untouched from 19 yards out.
Now it was time for the Cougars to answer, and they did with a 69-yard drive in 12 plays. Quarterback Kade Akers sneaked it over from a yard out. The lead was, 21-7 at the half after a scoring march late in the second quarter. It took only five plays to move 70 yards. Tailback Jakari Finley ran 17 to the 47. Akers got 10. He then passed to Logan Burchett for 32 yards, and Mannon rambled up the middle to score from the 11.
Both teams went three and out to start the second half and the Cougars did it a second time, and then Broc Simpson had his punt blocked, and on the first play Lucas raced through the center of the Cougar defense 23 yards to the end zone and suddenly it’s, 21-14.
But it was at this point the Cougars took over the game in every aspect, and the Falcons were minus yards the rest of the game. Following the kickoff Pulaski County drove 82 yards to paydirt, Finley ran for 21, Akers for 10, Akers then hit Mannon on a swing pass and he turned it into a 38-yard gain, and on the next play Akers romped 20 yards to the end zone.
Abingdon went three and out, and then Finley roared for 35, and E.J. Horton went in motion, took a ptich, made a cut, and sliced through the Falcon defense to score from 21 yards out, and a 35-14 lead after three quarters. The only other touchdown came after another long drive that began midway in the fourth quarter. Akers and Horton connected for 28 yards on a pass and run play to get things started. Then it was a steady, ground pounding, clock eating march until Mannon got his third touchdown on a one yard plunge. Ryan Castle kicked his sixth point after conversion of the game, and this one was in the books for the Cougars, 42-14.
Abingdon finished with 169 total yards for the game. Lucas ran hard for 137 on 19 carries. One of the reasons the Falcons finished with minus yards in the second half was quarterback Gabe Boothe was sacked seven times in the game for minus 41 yards. Four other players also finish with minus yards rushing.Boothe was 12 of 17 passing, but it was only worth 41 yards. Linebacker Austin Gallimore, outside backer Noah O’Dell, Finley off the edge, and Ben Arnett, Cam Mariotti, and Luke Russell inside just took Abingson’s offense away in the second half, and the secondary gave up no big plays.
Pulaski County finished with 396 total yards, 272 rushing and 124 passing. Finley had the biggest game of the season for a Cougar running back with 160 yards on 21 carries, running behind the offensive front of Jaxson Callahan, Logan Cox, Carter Murray, Clay Phillips, and Cooper Dunnigan. Akers ran for 52 yards on 12 attempts, Mannon got 38 on seven runs, Horton finished with 21 on two attempts, and O’Dell gained a yard. Akers was four of nine passing. Horton caught two for 54 yards, Burchett got his catch for 32, and Mannon had his for 38.
Next Friday, Pulaski County will again be at home in Dobson Stadium as it entertains Carroll County.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot