By MASON CLARK
This week will be very unique for Cougar football. We will be facing an opponent that we have never played before on the gridiron. In the 48 years of Cougar football, we have faced a total of 69 different opponents, from four different states, and the District of Columbia. We will face our 70th different opponent on Friday night, when the Tennessee High Vikings from Bristol, Tennessee will be welcomed to Dobson Stadium.
There are some long streaks that will be broken on Friday night. It will be our first out-of-state opponent since 2000, when we played Bluefield (WV). It will also be our first time playing an opponent from Tennessee since 1996, when we beat Science Hill 38-13.
We are 35-10 all-time against out-of-state opponents. That includes 2-1 against teams from the Volunteer State: a 27-0 win over Sullivan North in 1980, a 27-24 loss to Science Hill in 1995, and a 38-13 win over Science Hill in 1996. But that will matter little on Friday, when we face off with a team we’ve never seen before.
Tennessee High School’s sports teams are called the Vikings. The school has been playing football since 1911. They have two Tennessee state championships: 1971 and 1972. They went undefeated both years, 12-0 and 13-0, and after the 1972 season, USA Today crowned them as the number one high school football team in the nation. Interestingly, the Radford Bobcats won back-to-back state titles and went undefeated both years in 1971 and 1972 as well.
The Vikings are coming off a disappointing 3-7 campaign last season. We were slated to play them last year, but they had COVID issues the week of the game and it got cancelled. But it appears we will finally play them for the first time.
From what I’ve been able to find, Tennessee High runs some different formations and looks on offense. At least they did in their first game. They did lose 31-0 in week one, but to Dobyns-Bennett, a Tennessee powerhouse. The Vikings ran some splitback veer, similar to some of the Cougar offense, but out of different formations, and some spread formations more like what last year’s Cougars did. They will be hungry and eager to shake off their first game, so expect a determined team to line up across from the Cougars on Friday.
Surprisingly, Tennessee High is eerily similar to PCHS football over the past few years. In 2017, they went 6-5, Pulaski County went 6-4. In 2018, THS finished 8-4, exactly the same as PCHS. In 2019 the Vikings finished 9-2, while the Cougars finished 9-3. Then in the 2020-21 season, Tennessee High finished 4-4, and the Cougars finished 4-3. And last year, both teams had disappointing seasons, THS going 3-7, PCHS going 4-6. The Vikings are 30-22 over the past five seasons. The Cougars are 31-20. That is quite strange for two teams to be so close record wise over a five-year period. Also, like Pulaski County, the Tennessee High Vikings have a proud tradition, and the program has lots of pride within it, with great history, but also looking to get back to the top, just as we are.
After a great night last week, continuing to get better and staying focused will be important. The team we will face on Friday will be better, and probably much better, than Northside was. Chris Gallimore had a fine game on Friday with 115 total yards (2/4 passing 35 yards, 80 rush yards 2 TD), and will look to continue the good start he’s off to. Trevor Burton will also look to keep up the momentum he started last week, racking up 113 all-purpose yards and 2 touchdowns last week. Brett Jones didn’t get many touches, but made the most of them averaging 18.5 yards per touch with an explosive touchdown run and a 23-yard catch. Taner Mace (17 rush yards, 12-yard reception) and Zack Parker (22 rush yards, 11.0 average) will also continue to contribute on the ground. Even though neither technically caught a pass on Friday night, Davis Neel and Marcus Reed are both good options when the Cougars go to the air.
But the Cougar offensive line deserves so much credit for the physical dominance displayed last week. Paving the way to 330 rush yards and 365 yards of total offense was Hunter Hill, Aiden Moore, Nolan Dalton, Diego Turner and Evan Alger. The better this group gets, the better things will be for PCHS.
The defense was overwhelming on Friday, swarming to the ball and shutting down anything Northside tried to do. Northside ran more plays than they picked up yards (33 plays, 23 yards), and gained a mere three first downs and didn’t get any first downs in the first half. Evan Alger set the edge, making 4.5 tackles and 2 sacks and a tackle for loss. Sophomore Taner Mace was in on 4.5 tackles and a tackle for loss. Nicholas Woolwine, Diego Turner, Alan Hernandez, Tyler underwood and Marcus Reed each made 4 tackles on Friday night, while Brett Jones (3.5 tackles), Trevor Burton (2.5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 2 QB hurries) and Jack Allen (2 tackles, tackle for loss) all contributed a lot to the outstanding effort too. Expect each of them to continue. Zach Parker and Trey Landreth helped hold the Viking receivers to just 39 receiving yards and only 6.5 yards per completion.
Nathan Pratt hit 5 PATs, Evan Alger blocked a punt that gave us a safety, and freshman track star Cole Boone scored a touchdown in his first career game to add onto the great night. But Friday night will be a tougher test. Come out to see it all on Friday night at 7:00!