Pulaski County will try to push its record to 2-0 Friday in Dobson Stadium when the Cougars face visiting Bassett. In opening week action, the Cougars blanked Northside, 14-0, and the Bengals fell to Rustburg, 20-0. The two teams have played twice on the gridiron in PCHS school history. The Cougars won both. In 2015 the Cougars won at home, 47-14, and in 2016 at Bassett, 69-27, the most points ever scored by a PCHS coached Stephen James team.
The Bengals, under the direction of Brandon Johnson, the head coach for the past two seasons, are expected to be an improved squad in 2019 with six returning offensive starters and seven returning defensive starters.
Running back Dylan Hairfield is their top threat, and fullback/linebacker Kevon Smith (6-2, 215) is likely the best player. Bassett won three of its final five games in 2018 with the big win being, 13-7 over strong Magna Vista. 6-3, 270 Gabe Divers is their top lineman, and Drew Fisher is an experienced quarterback. The Bengals expect to improve on last season and are prime candidates to make the playoffs.
The Pulaski County defense will be trying to make things tough on the Bassett attack. Last Friday against Northside the Cougars did not allow the Vikings inside their 40 and gave up just five first downs.
“We were very pleased with our defensive effort,” said James, and “also our kicking game was outstanding. Broc Simpson did an excellent job of punting and kicking and our coverage was very good for a first game. We have some situations offensively that need to get better obviously, and we think they will. Our defense made two big turnovers (Ethan Gallimore blocked punt, Corvin Carter pass interception) and our offense took advantage of both and scored touchdowns each time.”
The quarterback situation remains uncertain for Pulaski County. Expected starter in preseason A.J. McCloud has a muscle tear in his right shoulder, and so does backup Chris Shay. Both will need corrective surgery at the end of the season, but both want to play, and there is no further risk of injury. Some discomfort, and the ability to have good shoulder rotation when passing the football are the issues of concern, but both have practiced all week and appear to be functioning well.
“We will play this as we go. Friday’s decision on who starts at quarterback may end up being a game time decision. Both A.J. and Chris at times have stiffness and it affects their shoulder rotation. Drew Dalton is also still available. We’ll see, and it is a key to our offensive performance, but we have a great deal of confidence that our offense is going to come around. We improved last week, and we expect to improve again this week,” said James.
As far as defending Bassett is concerned James says the matchup is interesting. “They have some very good athletes, and some speed players. We will have to defend that, but our defense is quick and aggressive. We’ll see how that goes, but like our guys.”
Offensively, the Cougars will start 6-0, 180 sophomore Caleb Perfater at tight end, the tackles will be 6-3, 280 junior Cooper Dunnigan and 6-2, 287 jr. Clay Phillips, the guards 6-0, 275 jr. Jacob Turman, and 6-1, 285 soph. Marcus Wright. The center is 6-0, 280 jr. Levi Young. The quarterback will be either McCloud (6-3, 185 jr.) or Shay (5-11, 190 sr.), the running backs 6-0, 195 sr. Gage Mannon, 5-11, 185 jr. Jakari Finley, and 5-10, soph. Keyontae Kennedy. The wideouts will be 5-8, 180 sr. Logan Burchett, 5-10, 180 sr. Landon McDaniel, 6-2,185 jr. Layne Suthers, or 5-8, 165 soph. John Lyman. The kicker and punter is jr. Broc Simpson.
Defensively, Pulaski County will have 5-10, 250 sr. Tyler Brookman, 5-10, 195 sr. Tristan Bowden, and likely 5-8, 185 jr. Will Bishop at the down three spots up front. Zeke Surber may be held out with a sore ankle. The outside linebackers will be 5-9, 185 jr. Ethan Gallimore, and Finley, or 6-2, 220 jr. Chayton Rollins. The inside backers will be 5-9, 205 sr. Austin Gallimore, and 5-11, 185 sr. Luke Russell. The cornerbacks will be Suthers, and 5-11, 180 jr. Corvin Carter. The safeties will be Mannon and Shay.
The gate to Dobson Stadium will open to fans at 5:30. … For those not able to make the game it will be broadcast live on 107.1 Country PSK, airtime 6:15 with the pregame show. … In other games of interest Amherst plays at GW-Danville, Jefferson Forest is at Staunton River, William Byrd plays at Hidden Valley, Abingdon travels to Gate City, Northside plays host to Cave Spring, Giles will entertain Christiansburg, Blacksburg travels to Lord Botetourt, Franklin County plays at Salem, and Brookville travels to Patrick Henry.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot