Locker Room: Radford vs. Pulaski County: Final tune-up for season Friday at Dobson
Some local football fans might think that safety on the bridge that connects Pulaski County and Radford might be at stake Friday evening in Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium, it is the final pre-season action for Pulaski County and Radford’s football teams, but it’s very likely that both coaches, Stephen James of PCHS and Matthew Saunders of RHS, will have some other things on their mind, like concentrating and finding out remaining questions as their teams get ready to open the season next week. The Cougars will host Northside and the Bobcats play George Wythe.
Everybody understands the two schools are located maybe eight miles apart, and spirts will run high. There is no question that both coaches will expect their charges to play hard and the best they can while they are on the field, but fans can still expect players to rotate on both sides of the field. James would like to play possibly as many as 33 players. One player he will not have is starting quarterback A.J. McCloud who suffered a shoulder injury in scrimmage action against Bluefield last Saturday and expectations are the McCloud will be out at least a month, possibly longer.
“That was the one disappointing thing about our scrimmage last Saturday against Bluefield,” said James. “You have to do what you must do to get ready for the season and you can’t do if you don’t throw them into the fire, but then you get an injury every now and then. That’s just the way it goes. The rest of the team needs to pick up the slack, and we’ll move on.”
Junior Drew Dalton is expected to start in place of McCloud, but a number players have worked in the off-season and during pre-season practice at quarterback. Chris Shay has seen the next most time behind center.
But James was pleased with his football team last Saturday in 95 degree heat. “We played a quality opponent, and I feel good about our performance. The team played physical. We found out we’ve got some things to work on both sides of the ball. Our offensive line needs to come off double team blocks and pick up linebackers better, and we’ve worked on that. We also had some missed assignments up front. But that’s the way it usually is the first scrimmage. That’s why you have it.”
As far as this Friday’s “Benefit Game” vs. Radford, James’ expectations are rather basic. “We need to correct the mistakes we made last week, and continue to play fast and physical on defense. We just need a good look, hopefully polish up a bit to get ready to open our season against Northside. We still have some kids that deserve a look, and we’ll give them a chance.”
A couple areas in particular that will almost certainly see a heavy rotation of players will be at running back on offense and linebacker on defense. And of course, it will be interesting to see how the quarterback position is managed as well since depth must now be created for the season.
Pulaski County finished 8-4 in Class 4 Region D last season, defeating GW-Danville in the opening round of the region playoffs. Radford had a sterling 12-2 record in 2018, falling to Graham in the state playoffs.
Saunders is trying to keep cautious concerning the upcoming campaign, but the folks in Radford are excited. “I’m worried about all the hype, it’s deserved, but we don’t need to get the big head. We are a bigger, faster, and more athletic team.”
The Bobcats put some beef at the line of scrimmage led by 6-5, 290 Ben Cox who is ticketed for Vanderbilt. There is also Giles transfer, 6-4, 280 Kip Green, and Andrew Olverson, 6-0, 335 up front. The engineer for the Radford offense is savvy 6-2, 200 quarterback Zane Rupe. He will like to use speedster P.J. Prioleau in the open field. Just like PCHS, Radford will be missing a vital cog in Justice Marshall who suffered a knee injury in a scrimmage at Grayson County last weekend. The Bobcats returned seven first team all-region and three first team all-state players to this years squad.
But Pulaski County will take a backseat to no one when it comes to size and horsepower from the front of its offense. The starting offensive line for the Cougars Friday will likely be Cooper Dunnigan, 6-4, 280, Logan Fox, 6-2, 295, Markus Wright, 6-1, 285 or Jacob Turman, 6-0, 275, 6-0, 280 Levi Young, and Clayton Phillips at 6-2, 287. Expect a bevy of running backs to carry the mail for the Cougars; 6-0, 195 Gage Mannon, 5-11, 185 Luke Russell, 6-2, 220 Chayton Rollins, 5-11, 185 Jacari Finley, and 5-10, 180 Keyontae Kennedy.
The stalwarts on the defensive side for the Cougars figure to be 6-2, 290 Zeke Surber, 5-10, 250 Tyler Brookman, and 5-10, 195 Tristan Bowden up front on the down three. The linebackers will be 5-9, 205 Austin Gallimore, Russell, Finley, and 5-9, 185 Ethan Gallimore. Fans can also expect to see 6-0, 180 Caleb Perfater, 5-8, 185 Will Bishop, and Rollins also on the field. Mannon and Shay are two veteran safeties.
If you cannot make it out to Dobson Stadium, the contest will be broadcast live on 107 WPSK Friday. Airtime will be 6:15 with the Insurance Center of Dublin Pre-Game Show………….Since this is not an official VHSL football game, kickoffs are not allowed, so the game will begin with the first snap at 7 pm as one of the teams will take possession at the 35 yard line…………. Gates to Dobson Stadium will open at 5:30. Tickets are $7. Proceeds from the game will go toward helping both school’s athletic funds.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot