Pulaski County will enter Friday evening’s second round playoff game in Lynchburg against E.C. Glass as a definite underdog. I wouldn’t let that fact bother me and I have a feeling that this Cougar team won’t pay much attention to it either. This will be the 55th playoff game in Cougar football history. I’ve seen them all. I think it’s a fair assumption to say that Pulaski Co. has been the underdog in likely half of those games, maybe more. This is nothing new.
So let your heart not be troubled. There were 32 teams that got the playoffs cranked up last week and quickly the number is down to 16 across the state. This Cougar team is one of them, and there’s a whole bunch of teams out there that have put their gear up until next year that would love to trade places. This is the second straight season Pulaski County’s football program has gotten to a 12th game. That’s a good thing, and it also is proof that progress is being made. The program under Stephen James and his coaching staff has, and is still getting stronger.
Glass has put up big numbers on the way to a second seed and 10-1 record. It’s only loss came in overtime to Heritage, 15-14. That speaks for itself. The Hilltoppers have averaged 432.7 yards of offense per game, scored 43.7 points per game. The Glass defense has allowed only an average of 12 points a game. The numbers are impressive. Glass also has that special player to hang its hat on, quarterback Dresean Kendrick. Kendrick has 1,704 yards rushing, and 1,083 passing. That’s almost 3,000 yards of total offense. He has accounted for 31 touchdowns, 25 of them by the run. He’s also not the only offensive weapon the Hilltoppers have, but you get the picture.
But Pulaski County isn’t exactly chopped liver either. There have been numerous big matchups over the years against Glass, and some have come in the playoffs, and the Hilltoppers were just as highly regarded then as now. The last two times the two programs met on the gridiron Pulaski Co. won 21-11 in 2005, and Glass won 13-6 in 2006. Ironically, both teams won at the other fellows home field. So fear not, the Cougars will line up. The team will make the trip. Come 7pm Friday night in City Stadium, Pulaski Co. will take the field, and not because it is required.
When you get to this level everything evolves around one game. Nothing that happened before matters, and you are not focused on the future, just here and now, right now. The challenge is considerable, but it’s the second round of Class 4, Region D and that’s as it should be. The goal is to win it all, but you have to pretty much play them all to do it, so you just get to it. Pulaski Co. will put it on the line Friday. It’s a great opportunity. Just go play. Give it your best, and see what happens. You just might shock some people. It’s happened before. It can happen again. It could happen Friday in Lynchburg.
Why? Pulaski County is not a “Johnny Come Lately” when it comes to playing playoff football games, being the underdog, or winning big games. These are not uncharted waters. The program has been here before and will be again. Sure, the program has not been as prolific as in the “heyday” as some like to call it, but once again momentum is starting to gather next to the big cornfield. There are no teams out there thinking, “I wish we got to play Pulaski County every Friday.” Nobody wants that.
The Cougar program is now 28-26 in playoff history. It’s first ever playoff game came in 1979, so those 55 total games happened in just 40 years, and that’s pretty danged good and it’s also pretty prolific, and there are not many schools in this state that can say they have played 55 playoff games in 40 years.
And Glass is 10-1, but the Cougars are 9-2 and have played a stronger schedule. Eight of the teams Pulaski Co. faced during the season qualified for the playoffs, and three of them are still alive. Glass played six and only two of them are alive. The series record between the two teams is 6-9 Glass, but that advantage came when the Hilltoppers won the first four games PCHS was in existence, 1974-’77. Pulaski Co. didn’t beat hardly anybody back then. Since it’s 6-5 Cougars.
And I know this. Glass played a tough defense when it faced Heritage, but it has not faced a better defense than the one it’s about to play Friday night. When you play defense like Pulaski Co. does, and great defense travels well, and toss in a superb kicking game, you have a chance to beat anybody, anywhere, anytime.
Tristan Bowden recovered a fumble in a second win over Blacksburg last week in the opening round. That’s 25 turnovers for the Cougar defense, 16 fumble recoveries and nine pass interceptions. Ethan Gallimore has somehow managed to find five of those loose pigskins and Corvin Carter leads the way with four picks.
The Cougar defense has allowed 14 points or less 10 times, only once has any team scored more than 14 and that was that mysterious game at Hidden Valley. The PCHS defense has allowed one touchdown or less in a game six times! Take away that 35 at HV and the average yield per game is 7.7 points, but including that game it’s still just 10.2 points allowed per game. And counting quarterback sacks and tackles for lost yardage, the Cougars have knocked opponents down behind the line of scrimmage over 100 times. That’s an stunning statistic.
I’m sure Kendrick is an outstanding player, but he better be on his horse because gold hats will be after him, and also toss in the fact that Pulaski Co. made some slight changes in its offensive scheme last week. It worked to the tune of 251 yards rushing, a season high in the opening round victory over Blacksburg. And don’t forget about the region’s finest kicking game with snapper Bryant Worrell, holder Logan Burchett, and kicker Broc Simpson who is now 11 of 13 on field goals. The Cougars have a good package.
So yes, Pulaski County will lineup Friday evening in Lynchburg and proudly put its colors on the field. That’s all you hope for when the playoffs get underway. Just let me survive, advance, and get back on the field. Just let me keep playing one more game. The opponent doesn’t matter. You just want the opportunity. The Cougars will not be intimidated in any way by E.C. Glass.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot