By MASON CLARK
There have been many close, memorable games between the Bluefield Beavers and Pulaski County Cougars. Thursday night’s edition of the rivalry, the first meeting between the two since 2000, lived up to that and more, as the Cougars won a thriller, 35-33.
Things started a bit slow. A 35-yard run by Chris Gallimore got a first down, but we had to punt. Then after getting a three and out on defense, the offense got going with Trevor Burton continuing his outstanding senior campaign. Brett Jones and Gallimore helped out on the drive, and Burton capped it with his first of a record-tying five on this night, giving Pulaski County a 7-0 lead.
Bluefield responded quickly however. Using a mix of pass and run, the Beavers got into the end zone when explosive running back Amir Hairston got in from 9 yards out to tie things up at 7 apiece. Our next drive saw a pitch get batted down and resulted in a lost fumble, before the Beavers continued their air attack. RJ Hairston caught a pass and muscled his way into the end zone from 42 yards out, and this gave them a 14-7 lead. After another three and out for the Cougars, the Beavers took advantage of a short field. Amir Hairston again found the end zone, and this gave them a 20-7 lead. They missed the PAT, however, a seemingly small play that would loom larger and larger as the game went on.
Taner Mace got a good kick return to give us good field position, and this set up another Cougar score. Trevor Burton burst through the middle of Bluefields defense, and the score moved to 20-14, Cougars still trailing. But another stop, another long drive led by Burton, Gallimore and Jones, and another Trevor Burton touchdown gave the Cougars a 21-20 lead at the half.
The second half got off to a good start. The Cougars stopped the Beavers, led by a sack by Evan Alger. Gallimore and Burton then continued to run all over Bluefield, and eventually, Burton muscled his way into the end zone for his fourth score of the evening. Just like that, the Cougars had an eight point lead.
But Bluefield wouldn’t go down easily. The Beavers took to the air, attacking the secondary after the loss of Zach Parker, who was ejected for, to be completely honest, trying to break up a fight. He was tossed for a reason I have yet to understand. Anyways, a 25-yard touchdown pass made it 28-26. But, the Beavers had to go for two to try and tie the game, and didn’t get it. That missed extra point was getting more and more magnified.
But on this night, Trevor Burton could not be stopped. He made a good move, burst to the outside and dove to the end zone for his fifth touchdown. He was running through some good holes too as the Cougar line paved the way for over 300 rushing yards.
But there was still most of the fourth quarter left. Bluefield continued throwing the ball around, and found the end zone again on a touchdown pass to make it 35-33. After we were stopped, the Beavers had the ball again with a chance to take the lead. A Beaver receiver was open deep, and dropped what would’ve likely been a touchdown pass, but he dropped it. The threat ended.
Pulaski County took over. We ran 3 plays for 8 yards. Fourth and two, ball at midfield. About 90 seconds left. The Cougar coaching staff rolled the dice, and faked the punt. Tyler Underwood took the ball and plowed for a first down. The Cougars ran the clock out for their second win of the year.
The Cougars tan the ball 48 times for 308 yards and 5 scores. Burton rushed 24 times for 166 yards and his 5 touchdowns. Chris Gallimore also did well with 99 rush yards on 13 attempts. Brett Jones racked up 34 on six runs, Tyler Underwood 3 for 9, and Taner Mace twice for one yard. Passing wasn’t a priority, and it didn’t have to be, but we completed 1 of 3 passes for -1 yards. That gives us 51 plays for 307 yards of offense, just over 6 yards per play.
The Beavers explosive offense completed 17 of 31 passes for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns, and ran the ball 22 times for 66 yards and 2 touchdowns. This gives them 53 plays for 343 yards, also about 6.5 yards per play. But we were able to get stops when we had to have them, and responded when down 2 scores.
Burton tied the school record with 5 rushing touchdowns in a game. Only Craig Hodge in 1996, Kwasi Scott in 1998 against Cave Spring, Frank Cobbs in 2000 against Salem and Kevin Crouse in 2005 against Franklin County can say they also did this. He also has 10 touchdowns in three games so far, putting him on pace to eclipse Frank Cobbs’ record of 27 scores in a season during his legendary 2000 campaign. The Cougar offensive line deserves a ton of credit for this, as Evan Alger, Aiden Moore, Nolan Dalton, Diego Turner and Hunter Hill pave the way for every yard the Cougars get. Burton and Alger also each had a sack.
With that, the Cougars will enjoy a bye week, before a game with a much-improved Cave Spring team. District play begins then, so we must continue to improve and get better. But things are looking good for the Cougars so far!