Cougars win opener, 20-17; travel Friday to Jefferson Forest

Cam Cooper lets fire one of his 15 pass attempts against Northside in his first start at quarterback. He went 10-15-1 in the game with 213 yards and 2 TDs. (Antonio Nottingham photo/Courtesy of PC TD Club)

We’re only two weeks into the high school football season in Virginia and already COVID is wreaking havoc on teams’ schedules.

Things are changing so much, the Virginia High School League this week released a new master schedule for all the state’s football teams.

After beating the Vikings of Northside, 20-17 last Friday night in its season opener, Pulaski County was set this Friday to make the trip to Bristol to take on another group of Vikings at Tennessee High.

Then, on Tuesday morning, Pulaski County Athletic Director Scott Vest got word that Tennessee High could not play due to COVID issues.

Right away the search began to find a different opponent.

Enter Jefferson Forest, whose game against Staunton River had also been called off because the Golden Eagles had COVID issues.

So rather than both teams having an unexpected week off, Pulaski County and Jefferson Forest agreed to play each other this Friday night in Forest – located just outside of Lynchburg.

Jefferson Forest, out of the Seminole District, in most seasons is no pushover. However, this year’s Cavaliers are young and coming off a 1-3 record last season.

First-year head coach J.T. Crews, a former E.C. Glass assistant, returns four offensive starters from last season and five on defense.

Crews’ Cavaliers got off on the wrong foot last week in a 12-9 loss to Gretna, who made a 63-yard third quarter TD pass hold up to take the win.

Notably, Cavalier sophomore QB Joe Bell passed 224 yards on 48 tries in the game.

The Cavaliers attack with a spread offense and obviously like to throw the ball. They go with a 4-3 on defense.

Some Cavaliers to watch include senior Ryan Rogers who can play quarterback, running back, wide receiver and safety. Jake Lee, a 5-11, 250 lb. senior, will play both ways on the line. Wide receiver – defensive back Daniel Price. Running back, safety and kicker Alex Marsteller, and linebacker – fullback Ben Calkins.

As for the Cougars, last week’s win against Northside was a good start to the 2021 season.

“It was a really competitive high school football game,” commented Cougar head coach Mark Dixon. “Both teams battled for four quarters.”

Dixon said both teams made mistakes, but, “In the end we were able to make one more play than they did.”

John Lyman runs out of a tackle against Northside. Lyman scored twice in the game, rushing for 25 yards and catching 7 passes for 105 yards. (Antonio Nottingham photo/Courtesy of PC TD Club)

One miscue happened early when junior punter Nathan Pratt’s punt was blocked, setting up a one-yard touchdown run a couple plays later by Northside’s Cameron Abshire. The extra-point made it Northside, 7-0 at the 7:21 mark of the first.

The Cougars responded on their next series when, on third down, junior quarterback Cam Cooper hit senior receiver J.J. Gulley who outran the Vikings defense for an 80-yard scoring strike. Pratt was good on the PAT and the score was tied at 7-7 with 2:49 left in the first.

Just before the half, Northside’s Jeremiah Peterson booted a 29-yard field goal and the Vikings led 10-7 at the half.

The Cougars would take back the lead late in the third quarter on a 42-yard strike from Cooper to senior receiver John Lyman for the score. Pratt’s point after was blocked and Pulaski County led, 13-10.

Both teams scored in the fourth quarter of the back-and-forth contest, with the Cougars scoring last for the win.

Abshire gave Northside the lead 12 seconds into the quarter with a 65-yard run to paydirt. Peterson added the PAT for a 17-13 Viking lead.

Midway through the quarter, however, Pulaski County responded for what turned out to be the winning score when Lyman broke loose on a 13-yard scoring scamper. Pratt added the PAT, and the Cougars had their final 20-17 margin.

For the game, Pulaski County rushed for 117 yards behind Keyontae Kennedy’s 95 yards on 14 carries and Lyman’s 25 on five rushes. Junior Trevor Burton added nine yards on four carries and Cooper had 10 carries for 10 yards.

Northside’s Abshire was the game’s leading rusher with 122 yards on 16 carries as the Vikings piled up 186 yards on the ground.

Cooper had a good debut at QB for the Cougars, going 10 for 15 passing and one interception for 213 yards and two TDs.

Lyman led all receivers with seven catches for 105 yards. Gully had two catches for 97 and sophomore running back Tyler Underwood had one catch for 11 yards.

The Cougars piled up 330 total yards to Northside’s 215.

Pulaski County won the war of first downs, collecting 15 to the Vikings’ eight.

Game time Friday night in Forest is 7 p.m.

Don’t forget … Jefferson Forest High School only sells tickets through GoFan.  Any Pulaski County fans planning to travel to the game on Friday must purchase tickets through GoFan.  TICKETS WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT THE GATE!

Here is the link to the JF GoFan account:

https://gofan.co/app/events/385086?schoolId=VA7532

 

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot

Head coach Mark Dixon talks to his team during a timeout last Friday night in Northside. The Cougars won their opener, 20-17. (Antonio Nottingham photo/Courtesy of PC TD Club)