Before a much larger crowd that you would expect for a pre-season scrimmage, Radford took the measure of Pulaski County in a “Benefit Game” Friday night in Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium, 17-7.
There was much anticipation for the game, and you knew the two teams would play hard for as long as its top players were on the field. Radford relied on its proven and steady performers to make the big plays that decided the issue. There were four big plays in the scrimmage, the Bobcats made three of them. In between, there wasn’t really a lot to talk about.
Following a series that included missed tackles by the Cougar defense and a hurtful penalty, Radford’s PJ Prioleau made a nice cut after slipping through an inside gap and zipped 25 yards for a touchdown. Neither team could make any yards running outside the entire scrimmage. In the second quarter, Bobcat quarterback Zane Rupe, on a third and 11, found a wide open Xavier Cobbs running down the middle of the Cougar secondary for a 71-yard touchdown. Midway in the third quarter after recovering a Pulaski County fumble, the Bobcats could not gain a first down, but Conner Lytton drilled a 47-yard field goal for the final score in the game. Lytton also hit both of his extra point kicks.
Pulaski County was mostly a victim of itself. The Cougars did not move the ball with any consistency the entire game. There were too many unnecessary penalties, two lost fumbles, and a pass interception. In between not much happened. It looked a lot like a pre-season scrimmage usually looks.
While there were mistakes all around on both sides of the football for Pulaski County, an outstanding play by cornerback Logan Burchett got the Cougars on the board. The only big play of the night came from the Cougar defense. Rupe was trying to find Prioleau in the right flat, and it appeared he actually got his hands on the pigskin, but Burchett in full flight took the ball out of Prioleau’s grasp and zipped 22 yards to the end zone. Broc Simpson would kick the conversion for the Cougars’ seven points.
The final numbers of the game pretty much sum up the scrimmage. Radford had 164 yards of offense at the half. When the game ended, the Bobcats still had 164 yards of offense. And as badly as the Cougar offense struggled, Pulaski County also finished with 164 yards of offense. To say there wasn’t much offensive fireworks would be an understatement, however, the final outcome relates to the big plays in the game. The Bobcats made three, and the Cougars only one, but Pulaski County committed two more turnovers, and about 100 yards more in penalties.
It was evident that the Pulaski County staff is still searching for some answers in many places. The Cougars rotated players from almost the beginning of the scrimmage. Quarterbacks Drew Dalton and Chris Shay rotated almost every series. PCHS head coach Stephen James says there is much work to be done.
“The penalties have to stop and they will. That will be taken care of. We made too many mistakes, too many turnovers. I know it looked like we couldn’t get anything blocked up front and for sure there were problems, but it was far more fundamental than physical. We had trouble dealing with linebackers getting in the gaps against Bluefield and it happened again. There were many times where we had a good push up front, but the linebacker runs past us. We have to pick up the linebackers. We worked on it in practice, and for sure we’ll continue to work on it, but there were other problems too. We have an option type of offense. We need to do a better job of knowing when to give it to the first guy, or the second guy. We also must do a better job of protecting the back side. Our offensive line has to get better, but our backfield execution also must get better. We also missed some tackles on defense that helped Radford keep possessions alive. Our football team has to get better everywhere,” said James.
Shay was the leading rusher for Pulaski County and in the game with 63 yards on five carries. Prioleau had 60 on 10 for Radford. The Bobcats finished with nine first downs, the Cougars seven. PCHS rushed for 128 yards on 35 attempts, a not so good 3.7 per carry average, but the Bobcats gained only 66 on the ground in 33 tries, just a 2.0 average, but that once again brings things back the penalties, turnovers, and the big plays. Radford made the most of those.
The Bobcats open their season at home against George Wythe next Friday, and Pulaski County also opens its season at home in Dobson against Northside.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot