Locker Room: Game of the Year – Salem vs. Pulaski County

  Maybe it was destined to be this way from the beginning, but Friday night in Kenneth J. Dobson it will be like old times. Pulaski County is going to play Salem next to the big cornfield in the biggest game of the season.
    Much is at stake. The top seed and home field advantage throughout the Class 4, Region D playoffs is in the balance. The “mythical” River Ridge District championship. But likely the biggest thing at stake is simple pride. We’ll get back to that a bit later.
    Insurance Center of Dublin 10 4 copy Because of so many seasons in which the two teams have faced each other twice during the regular season and playoffs, it is not the longest running series in number of years, but it is tied with Patrick Henry for the most games ever played during PCHS history. It will be the 47th time the two programs have clashed on the gridiron. Salem leads the series 27-19, and the reason for that is Salem has won the last 10 straight over an eight-year period. In 2011 and ’12 the Spartans won twice. The Cougars have also beaten Salem twice in one season, 2008, first 34-28 in the regular season and then 38-0 in the playoffs. The 2008 team, the last to go 10-0 in a regular season for PCHS is also the last time the program was a number one seed.
    Many of the battles have been close, some have not over the years. Until Salem’s 18-3 run since 2003, Pulaski County led the series 16-9. The Cougars won 46-7 in 1979, 40-0 in ’82, 45-6 in ’93, and 38-0 in ’08. The Spartans won 47-0 in ’98, 42-6 in ’13, and 56-14 in ’16. Pulaski Co. still likes to consider the Salem game as its biggest rivalry. Salem fans seems to talk more about Northside and a couple others. Considering the past 10 years, that has to be a bit understandable. It is up to the Cougars to change that mindset Friday in Dobson.
      But all that is history, or a lot of it, but what does the game mean today, and that’s all that’s really important. Class 4, Region D is pretty much locked in after last week. Salem won as expected, routing Hidden Valley, the Cougars took the measure of PH convincingly, but E.C. Glass, Halifax and GW-Danville were all three upset. It was one of those hard to figure Friday nights in high school football.
     So Salem is the top seed at 8-1 with a 30.00 rating, but that’s not that important at this moment. Pulaski County is second at 29.22, and Glass third at 28.22, and both also 8-1. Glass plays Brookville Friday. If the Hilltoppers win, it will not matter. The winner of the Pulaski County/Salem game will be top seed, and the loser a likely three seed. If Glass wins, they will be the two seed, unless they get edged by rider points to a losing Salem or Pulaski Co. team. It will be close.
     Halifax managed to hang onto the fourth seed and final home game advantage going into the last week of the regular season, but things are tight. The 6-3 Comets are rated 25.556. Danville, 6-3, is fifth rated at 25.333. Blacksburg got a bit closer even on an open date last Friday, and the 6-3 Bruins are 6th seeded at 24.556. Jefferson-Forest is 7th seeded at 5-4, and 22.778 and that will not change, and Amherst is 8th seeded at 1-8 and 17.78 and that will not change either.
     So it’s simple. The winner of the Pulaski County/Salem clash will host Amherst in the opening round of the playoffs the following week. The two seed will host Jefferson-Forest. After that it gets a bit complicated. The 4th, 5th, and six seeds will not be known until the final results are in Friday night. So depending on how the Friday goes, it’s possible the Cougars will open at home against Amherst, or possibly Halifax, Danville, or Blacksburg in a rematch, and playing Forest is also possible.
    If you’re wondering who is likely to win; Glass is heavily favored over Brookville, Blacksburg is heavily favored over Christiansburg, Danville is heavily favored over Martinsville, and Halifax heavily favored over Tunstall. All eyes will be on Dobson Stadium Friday. Pulaski County vs. Salem. That is the “Game of the Year.” At least in the regular season.
     And after digesting all the above information, what’s left is that pride thing. There is no doubt in my mind this Cougar football team wants to break the Spartan winning streak. This Cougar team wants to prove that Pulaski Co. vs. Salem is still the rivalry it once was. This Cougar football team looks forward to the fight. Just three short years ago Pulaski County was 9-0 and played at Salem, and both these two teams are 8-1, but this is the bigger game. It’s bigger because of what it means, what’s at stake, but more so than anything, it is about Cougar pride. Pride in the Pulaski County football program, Pride in who you are and what you are about.
     When the bell rings on Friday night in Dobson this Pulaski County football team will have its gloves laced up, its chin straps buckled, and its game face on. I predict a terrific battle. I wish the Cougars well.

By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot