Pulaski County wide receiver Jacob Johnson eyes a pass from quarterback Drew Dalton and then hauls it in for a 42-yard catch that led to a touchdown a play later. (Brian Bishop/PC Patriot)
The Mark Dixon era at Pulaski County got off to a roaring start Monday night as the Cougars routed Cave Spring, 42-0 in a chilly season opener in Roanoke.
Pulaski County’s defense dominated most of the game, holding the Knights to only 96 yards offense on the game – 73 on the ground and only 23 through the air.
The defense scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, nearly scored a second and recovered a fumble late in the game to set up the Cougars’ final score.
The two teams battled nearly even in the first half, with the only score coming with 5:23 to go when senior Pulaski County quarterback Drew Dalton hit Will Bishop on a bootleg for a 13-yard score. Senior Broc Simpson hit what would be the first of six extra points to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead at the half.
While the first half was a back-and-forth affair, the second half was all Pulaski County as the Cougars’ size up front on both sides of the ball began to take control of the game.
The Cougars received the second half kickoff and used six plays to score.
The drive was highlighted by a 19-yard Dalton to Ethan Gallimore pass to start the drive.
The big play of the drive, however, came when Dalton found a wide open Chase Dotson on the left side for a 49-yard touchdown with 8:58 to go in the third quarter. Simpson’s PAT was good for a 14-0 lead and the rout was on.
Cave couldn’t respond and went three-and-out. Pulaski County’s defense in the series was highlighted by a sack of Knights QB Chase Spellor by linebacker Chayton Rollins and lineman Diego Turner, and a relentless pass rush on second and third downs by the Cougars’ defensive line.
After the punt, Pulaski County used the rushing of tailback Keyonte Kennedy (two carries of four yards each) and Dalton to set the Cougars up on a second and six from Cave Spring’s 43.
On the next play, Dalton faked to Kennedy and hit a streaking Jacob Johnson for a 42-yard pass to put Pulaski County inside the Cave Spring one.
Dalton took it in from there with Simpson adding the extra point, and with 5:10 to go in the third, the Cougars were up 21-0.
The Cougars’ “D” kept the pressure on in the Knights’ next series, with Cooper Dunnigan getting a sack of Knights QB Skylor Griffiths for a loss of two yards. Griffiths tried to run on second down for no gain. On third down, Griffiths rolled to his right with Cougar defenders in hot pursuit and threw incomplete.
Later, Speller returned to the game for the Knights, but couldn’t get anything going. However, on fourth down they got a break when Pulaski County was called for roughing the punter, giving Cave Spring new life.
But on first down, Speller went back to pass only to be picked off by Dotson who returned the ball 22 yards before being brought down inside the Cave one yard line.
On first down, Quemar Porter was stopped for little gain. But on the next play, Dalton drove into the endzone for the score with a minute to go in the third. Simpson added the PAT and Pulaski County led, 28-0.
After the two teams traded possessions, Pulaski County’s defense shined again.
On second down from the Cave 32-yard line, Speller launched a pass that was picked off by Porter who took it in for the Pick-6. Simpson’s PAT was good for a 35-0 lead with 4:05 to go.
With the Cougars holding a 35-point advantage, the game went to a “running clock,” with the clock only stopping after a score or an injury.
Running clock or not, there was still time for the Cougars’ defense to shine one more time.
Pulaski County’s Tyler Underwood recovered a Cave Spring fumble on first down to hand the ball right back to the Cougars.
Running back Trevor Burton and backup quarterback Cam Cooper took over on offense, with Burton running off the left side for a five-yard TD carry. Simpson was good again on the PAT and Pulaski County was up by the final, 42-0 with 5:04 to play.
For the game, Pulaski County rolled up 233 yards of offense (83 runshing and 150 passing).
Kennedy led all rushers with 69 yards, while Burton had 16, Porter, 6 and Cooper, 1.
Dalton was six of nine passing with no interceptions for 150 yards.
Gallimore lead all receivers with 3 catches for 36 yards, followed by Bishop, 1-13, Dotson, 1-49 and Johnson, 1-42.
The Cougars had two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Pulaski County tallied 11 first downs and 109 yards on returns and were flagged 5 times for 45 yards.
Simpson punted once for 35 yards.
Cave Spring put together 8 first downs, 73 yards rushing and only 23 through the air.
Cave Spring’s two quarterbacks were a combined 5 of 17 with 2 intercepted.
Another killer stat for the Knights was their punting with five punts going for only an 18.1 average.
Pulaski County returns to action Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at home in Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium when they take on the Titans of Hidden Valley.
By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot