Cougars suffer first loss, 35-14 at Hidden Valley

       Roanoke– Pulaski County took its first loss of the season on the chin Friday night in Roanoke, falling to Hidden Valley, 35-14. The defeat dropped the Cougars to 5-1 on the season, and moved the Titans to 4-2.
      Things started going wrong for Pulaski Co. during the week and didn’t get any better during the game. Linebacker Luke Russell was held out of action with an ankle injury. He’s the team second leading tackler and has 16 stops for lost yardage. His backup would have been Jacob Perfater, but he was held out with concussion protocol. Another linebacker, leading tackler, Austin Gallimore went down early in the second half. Leading rusher and starting safety Gage Mannon went down in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Cornerback Corvin Carter was also lost in the first quarter with a rib injury. Perfater should be back next week for the Homecoming game in Dobson Stadium against Christiansburg. The others are doubtful at this point.
     Hidden Valley got a circus score on its first possession of the game, took a 14-0 lead when A.J. McCloud suffered the first of his five pass interceptions, led 21-7 at the half, and 35-7 at the end of three quarters.
       “We could come up with a lot of excuses. At times we were scrambling with personnel, and our injuries were crucial, but I would prefer to say we just got beat,” said PCHS head coach Stephen James. “Hidden Valley is a pretty good team, and played well. We are all of a sudden very banged up and I don’t know for how long at this point, but you have to line up and play. We didn’t play very well. We had good field position throughout and couldn’t do anything with it. The pass interceptions, you can’t have five in a game. But there are a variety of reasons, and not all of them are what they may appear to be. But the bottom line is we got beat.”
      Pulaski County looked like a tired team at times. “We are,” said James. “We are beat up, but then a lot of teams are so again that’s not an excuse. But we have been playing for eight straight weeks counting pre-season and before it’s over we will play 10 straight weeks. We need an earlier open date, but the way the district schedule is setup, this is the way it is. But I’ve got to do a better job as a coach. Offensively, we didn’t do anything well. Defensively, we struggled some because of having to move so many players around. We’ve got to fight through these next two weeks (Christiansburg and at Blacksburg), get to our open date, and hope we can get everybody healed up for the stretch run.”
      It was ironic. Where the Cougars had the best team depth, suddenly they had none. “We thought we had some depth at running back and linebacker and all this stuff hit us in the same places. Suddenly we don’t have enough of either tonight. But the kids didn’t quit. They played it out. We have to move on. We need to look at some things, see if maybe we can make some changes that might help. But we just have to play better, we have to get better as a team,” said James.
      Hidden Valley scored first when tailback Matt Strong threw a halfback pass under pressure from the 26. The ball was up for grabs, but somehow landed in the arms of Cross Thompson who would be a thorn in the side of the Cougars, at the one yard line. Matt Strong scored from there. It was 7-0 early.
      On the next series of downs following the kickoff McCloud tried an out pass that was intercepted by Jeff Pardon, and he ran to the Cougar 11. Strong scored from a yard out and it was 14-0 with 6:28 still remaining in the first quarter.
      At that point it looked like Pulaski Co. was going to get back in the game. John Lyman returned the kickoff to the 42. Behind the running of Mannon the Cougars moved to the Titan 13 and McCloud hit Logan Burchett with a touchdown pass, Broc Simpson kicked the conversion, the margin was cut to just seven, 14-7 and it was still the first quarter.
     But after an impressive drive, the offense could not move in the second quarter even after being in Hidden Valley territory three straight possessions. The Titans were stopped short on a fourth down attempt and the Cougars took over at the HV 38, but went three and out. On its next possession the Cougars moved deep again behind a 13-yard hookup between McCloud and Burchett, and an 18-yard run by Keyontae Kennedy, but a holding penalty moved the ball back to the HV 33 and McCloud suffered a second pick. The Titans then moved 59 yards in eight plays and Grayson Carroll hit Cross Thompson from 17 outs out for six. Lyman then returned the kickoff 40 yards, but it ended up being another three and out and the Titans led, 21-7 at the half.
     Following the third quarter kickoff the Cougar defense held and PCHS took over at the Titan 46, but again it was three and out, and then Hidden Valley marched 65 yards in 12 plays for a, 28-7 lead. Then came a third pick and Carroll hit Jeff McDaniel on a 30-yard slant pass down the middle for six, and the margin was, 35-6. The Cougars did put together a nice drive early in the fourth quarter. McCloud and Burchett hooked up again for 25 yards to the Hidden Valley seven. Kennedy would score from a yard out to complete a 57-yard drive with 6:20 still to play to make the scored, 35-14.
      Hidden Valley finished with 302 yards of total offense. The Titans rushed for 158 on 43 carries. Strong led the way with 132 on 28 runs. Carroll was nine of 16 passing for 118 and two touchdowns. Strong had his one pass for 26. Thompson caught three passes for 56 yards, and Bell two for 26. Pardon picked off McCloud three times, Jeff McDaniel and Mark Claytor had the other two picks.
     Pulaski Co. finished with 201 yards of total offense. The Cougars rushed for 108 yards on 35 tries. Kennedy finished with 60 yards on 24 carries, Mannon had 28 on eight, and Chris Shay had two runs for 16. McCloud was eight of 21 passing with the five interceptions for 93 yards and a touchdown. Burchett caught four for 64 yards, Layne Suthers one for 13, and Shay had two for 10. This was the first game the Cougar defense did not come up with a turnover.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot