Locker Room: Good team won, good team didn’t

     It was a fierce battle, a great football game. Blacksburg 21, Pulaski County 14. It was a bitter defeat. It was a big game. Much to gain, much to lose. The difference? In such games you can find a hundred reasons where you could say what if. There were a lot of those. It was so close. That’s why it’s bitter. That’s why a t-bone steak wouldn’t taste good. But it’s great that it mattered that much. You want to play in those games. When you do it means good things are happening.
      Pulaski County’s football team is so close. Just one less penalty, Just one less turnover. Just one more play, somebody make one more play. I have written it, most of you have said it. Pulaski County’s football program needs to win a big game. I won’t argue that, but there is one area I will argue. The Cougars are getting close, very close, and the fact you’re getting involved in big games is a very good sign. This is still a very young team.
     What was the difference? One “Hail Mary” pass wasn’t batted down, obvious blocks in the back on a punt return weren’t flagged, a penalty on a run that went to a first down at the Blacksburg 22 was called back by a penalty, a 20-yard pass completion to the Bruins’ 31 was called by another penalty, a big 20-yard pass completion on third down ended with a lost fumble. Just one less penalty, one less turnover, one more big play. It’s that close.
       But likely the major difference. Pulaski County started seven seniors, Blacksburg 16. The Bruins out-quicked the Cougar offense. That was obvious. They started nine seniors, the Cougars four, and also played three sophomores. Am i suggesting growing pains? To a degree, but Blacksburg was loaded with players who over the past two seasons have won a state title and played in the region final last year. The Cougars have not experienced those things. I however don’t mind predicting they will.
     A good team won that game, make no mistake. Blacksburg has talent, senior tested, talent. I do not suggest the Bruins were not a deserving winner either. But they were without a doubt a fortunate winner. And a good team also didn’t win that game, and when the playoffs start I promise you the Bruins would not like to be matched up with Pulaski County.
      Sometimes because of history, and frustration over some years past, I think the Cougar fan tends to expect too much at times. I plead guilty. But let us all continue to be frustrated rather than accept defeat. That’s never in any walk of life what you want to get used to. If you are a competitor, losing stinks. Period.
      But I give you this comparison. Ask anybody on the street if they expect Salem to likely be a factor in the playoffs even though they have lost three games. You will almost always get the answer, yes, Salem will be a tough out, hard to beat. History tells you that. History used to tell you the same thing about Pulaski County, but history is about to repeat itself.
      Example. Two of Salem’s three losses have come to Northside and Blacksburg. Yet, Cougar fans still have high expectations for Salem. But the only two losses for the Cougars were to the same two teams. Pulaski County came up one digit short at Northside, and a punt return short vs. Blacksburg. That’s all. Salem lost to both by bigger margins. I’m not saying numbers always tell the real story because they don’t, but when comparing the seasons, why should one not expect Pulaski County to have the same opportunity and ability to have success as Salem? They do! The Cougars are good. They need to be a bit sharper, execution could always be better, don’t make the critical turnover. Clean it up a bit. But the fact is Pulaski County has a good football team in 2018. Its expectations should be no less than Salem’s or anybody else’s for that matter.
      How good you say. The defense gave up five first downs, just one in the second half, and just 10 net yards of offense in the second half to the most potent offense in the region. I love to watch the Cougars play defense. It is a quicksilver unit, and very aggressive. The offense just needs to catch up a bit. The Bruins’ defense was also extremely impressive and it needed to be and enabled them to win on a night when its offense got shut down.
         Pulaski County has one of the best teams in this region of the state. It just needs to realize that. This team is so close, so very close. Tighten it up a bit and this team can beat anybody. There is much still to gain. A game with Class 5 Patrick Henry comes up after the week off. That’s a big night in Dobson Stadium, it’s Senior Night. Some really good young men will be playing their final home game. It’s also huge because of what it means to the VHSL power rating.
         Rest up a bit and get ready for a final big push. There is much glory to be won.
Pretty Simple Right Now:
      Just when you think it’s a ho hum week for college football it happens. Second ranked Georgia got hammered by LSU, 6th ranked West Virginia was terrible against Iowa State, 7th ranked Washington lost for a second time, 8th ranked Penn State lost for the second time at home, 15th ranked Wisconsin was dominated by Michigan, 16th ranked Miami was embarrassed by Virginia (and hats off to the Wahoos), 19th ranked Colorado got whacked by USC, and 21st Auburn lost for the third time and no the game with Alabama will not be the biggest regular season game in the country this year.
     What does that leave? Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Notre Dame. If the playoffs began this weekend, that’s what it would be. Will it stay that way? I think it just might, but I have no desire to wager even a nickel on it. There’s going to be a dance between Michigan and Ohio State down the road. Notre Dame at Southern Cal should never be considered an easy thing. Could LSU shock Bama? I don’t think so, but then Georgia thought it was pretty good. It will be interesting. For sure, those are the top four teams right now. Will it stay that way is the question. You have to say that Michigan, Texas, and certainly LSU if it beats Bama are in the conversation. But LSU already has one loss and it beat the ‘Dogs. There will likely be no further talk of the SEC having two teams in the playoffs.
     Clemson is certainly the only opportunity for the ACC. The Tigers host NC-State Saturday. If they win, there is no suspense left. If the Coastal Division stays the way it is it will be the winner of the Va. Tech-UVa game, and the Hokies are very lucky that can still be said. Carolina is great at figuring out how to win basketball games, not so much in football. Can Miami get back in the chase? I  don’t know. It is one of least impressive 5-2 teams in the country.  There really isn’t anybody else to talk about as far as the ACC is concerned in 2018.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot
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