Drive-ending miscues by the Cougars and clutch play by Patrick Henry’s talented senior quarterback Roy Gunn helped send Pulaski County to its first loss of the 2021 season Friday night, 24-23.
“We just shot ourselves in the foot on a couple drives that were really tough, and then we struggled to contain the quarterback and him throwing the ball,” stated Head Coach Mark Dixon in summarizing his Cougars’ loss.
Gunn, committed to continue his football career at the Virginia Military Institute, was as good as billed if not better.
“I knew he was good, but he even impressed me more in person,” Dixon said. “He just made some dynamic throws. Kept them alive several times. He kept plays alive and we didn’t get a lot of pressure. His receivers kept moving and, like a good quarterback, he kept his eyes up and waited until he could find one open and moved the chains.”
On at least three Patrick Henry scoring drives, Gunn delivered big plays on third and fourth down to keep the Patriots’ offense on the field.
On PH’s second possession, Gunn faced a third-and-15 at the Pulaski County 42 only to hit Carmelo Taylor for 18 yards and a first down. The next play, Gunn scrambled for 20. PH scored a play later when Arjuan Webb hit paydirt from four yards out.
Webb’s score was only the third touchdown given up by the Cougars’ defense all season.
The Patriots botched the extra point, and the lead was 6-0.
Pulaski County answered back starting with a long kickoff return by John Lyman to set up the offense at the Cougar 41.
Pulaski County used an 11-play drive, featuring six carries by Ethan Gallimore and four by Keyonte Kennedy to take the lead when Kennedy crossed the goal line on a 5-yard carry. Broc Simpson added the PAT kick and the Cougars led, 7-6.
On the Patriots’ next possession, Gunn came to the rescue again when on second-and-14 he hit Taylor on a 26-yard pass play.
On this drive, however, Gunn’s heroics were stymied by Pulaski County’s Layne Suthers and Will Bishop.
On second-and-nine at the Cougars’ 27, Gunn passed to the in endzone thinking touchdown only to see the pass batted away by Suthers.
On the very next play, Gunn dropped back looking for an open receiver only to have Bishop knock the ball out of his hand. Bishop ended the threat when he fell on the loose ball to give it back to Pulaski County.
The Cougars started downfield.
Bishop came up big again when, on third down, he caught an 11-yard pass from quarterback Drew Dalton.
Three plays later Dalton came up big again, hitting Lyman on a 26-yard reception and a first down.
Gallimore took the ball two yards to the Patriots’ 17 and then the wheels came off for the Cougars.
Dalton was sacked for a three-yard loss and then, on third down, the center snap flew over his head for another five-yard loss.
On fourth-and-16, Simpson came on a booted a 42-yard field goal to give Pulaski County a 10-6 lead.
Patrick Henry responded with a quick scoring drive to take the lead.
Gunn hit Taylor on a wide receiver screen pass for 32 yards, then hit Taylor again for five more. Gunn then ran a QB draw for three more to set up a third-and-2 from the Pulaski County 7 with only 55 seconds left in the first half.
Webb was stopped cold on the play to set up a big fourth down for the Patriots.
Again, Gunn came through, hitting Taeshawn Webb on a seven-yard TD strike.
Gunn threw to Webb again on the two-point conversion try, however, Webb bobbled the catch and the try failed and the score stood at 12-10 with 51 seconds left in the half.
Pulaski County would grab the lead again just before the half with a short two-play scoring drive, set up by another long kickoff return by Lyman to the PH 36.
On first down, Lyman came up big again with a 23-yard reception from Dalton down to the PH 13.
Dalton then, under heavy pressure, hit Trevor Burton on a 13-yard strike for the touchdown. Simpson was true on the PAT kick and the Cougars took a 17-12 lead into the locker room.
The Cougars got the ball first with Quemar Porter returning the second half kickoff to the 50.
Pulaski County rushed down the first on nine plays featuring runs by Dalton, Kennedy and Gallimore.
Kennedy’s nine-yard rush on first down deep in Patriot territory gave the Cougars a second-and-one with the ball on the PH three.
Then the wheels came off again with Pulaski County being flagged for illegal procedure. That moved the ball backwards to the PH seven.
Next play, Kennedy was stopped for a yard loss.
On third down, Dalton threw into the endzone only to be intercepted by Patriot Bodie Kahoun.
On the very next play, Gunn hit Taeshawn Webb again for 35 yards, despite Cougar defender Chase Dotson tipping the pass.
Five plays later the Patriots faced a fourth down at the Cougars’ 30. Gunn came up big again, completing a 15-yard pass under pressure by the Cougars’ defense to keep the drive alive.
Two plays later he hit Taeshawn Webb for a five-yard score. Gunn passed for the two-point conversion, but missed the mark and PH led, 18-17.
On their next possession, the Cougars mounted their final scoring drive of the game featuring two big pass plays from Dalton to Lyman.
The drive got off to a scary start when, on first down, Gallimore rushed for four yards, but had to be helped off the field with what turned out to be a cramp. He would later return.
Three plays later, just after the start of the fourth quarter, Dalton connected on a short pass to Lyman who turned the catch into a 35-yard gain to put the Cougars in business on the PH side of the field.
After Kennedy – sporting a smaller cast on his right hand this week – rushed for a yard, Dalton again hit Lyman – this time on a 28-yard pickup to the PH 19.
Kennedy gained three on first down and then Porter took the pitch on a toss sweep and rambled 15 yards to the PH one.
As he’s done several times this season, Dalton carried the ball behind his big offensive line and scored to make it, 23-18 Cougars.
Dixon decided to go for two on the conversion in an effort to take a seven-point lead. However, it wasn’t to be as this time Dalton was stopped short of the goal line.
The Patriots’ offense failed to respond and punted to Pulaski County who couldn’t get a drive going either. Simpson booted a punt that Gunn decided not to return, and the Patriots were to start at their own 10.
On first down, Bishop and Diego Turner sacked Gunn for an 8-yard loss to the two.
After Arjuan Webb rushed for eight yards back to the 10, Gunn came up big again passing to Devin Tellez for 41 yards to the Pulaski County 49.
Arjuan Webb rushed for 10 more to the Cougar 39 before Turner turned in another big defensive play for Pulaski County, sacking Gunn for an 11-yard loss.
With the ball at mid-field, Gunn struck again, hitting Tellez on a 32-yard pass play.
Two plays later, an illegal procedure penalty against PH put the ball at the 23 of Pulaski County.
On third-and-15, Gunn called an audible at the line and hit Jahzae Kimbrough in the back of the endzone with what turned out to be the winning score.
Again, PH failed to convert a two-point try and the Patriots led, 24-23. With 4:11 to go.
On their next possession, the Cougars stalled at their own 49.
Patrick Henry took over and couldn’t move either, with Sean Medley punting on fourth down. Medley hit a beauty that rolled out of bounds at the Cougars’ four with only 34 seconds left.
Two plays later, Dalton hit Suthers for a 21-yard gain. After spiking the ball on third down, Dalton was intercepted by Marquis Adams to end the game.
As dynamic as the Patriot offense is, Pulaski County still outgained them, 354-349.
The Cougars rushed for 180 yards on 41 carries, while the Patriots rushed 29 times for only 53 yards.
The Patriots amassed 296 yards through the air, however, to the Cougars’ 174.
Gallimore hit the century mark in rushing again, carrying 16 times for 107 yards. Kennedy rushed 12 times for 38 yards. Porter had 5 carries for 26 yards. Dalton was 8 for 9 yards.
Lyman had 4 catches for 116 yards. Gallimore had 2 for 25. Suthers caught one pass for 21 yards, Burton had 1 for 13 and Bishop added 1 for 9 yards.
Dalton finished with 9 completions on 20 pass attempts and 2 interceptions.
Gunn went 17 for 29 with no interceptions.
The loss puts Pulaski County’s record at 4-1 with one regular season contest left – this Friday at Salem. Game time is 7 p.m.
By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot