Roanoke– Pulaski County dominated the football game on both sides of the line of scrimmage and defeated long time rival Patrick Henry on the road Friday, 27-10. The Cougars moved to 8-1 on the season, and PH dropped to 6-3. The win also guaranteed Pulaski Co. a first round home game when the Class 4, Region D playoffs begin in two weeks.
The Cougar defense continued to be one of the most impressive units in the region. For the second straight game the defense held an explosive offense to under 100 total yards Two weeks ago Blacksburg managed just 61 and PH finished with 87, and the biggest chunk of that came on a trick play in the third quarter. This happened on a night when the Cougar offense had its biggest game of the season.
“Our offensive line did a good job and our backs ran hard,” said pleased head coach Stephen James. “Our defense was good again. Those kids are playing great.”
The game plan was very simple and likely what it will be in the future as well. “We went at it pretty much the way we did at Blacksburg. We wanted to grind it out. We were able to do that. We won the line of scrimmage. It was a very good effort, and a meaningful win. We would like to have that loss back, but we are where we wanted to be. We just need to take advantage of our opportunity,” said James.
Doing that will require being successful next Friday in Dobson Stadium when the Salem Spartans come to the big cornfield. Both teams are 8-1. Salem is the top rated team in the region. “Over the past few years Salem has been the most consistent program in the region, and one of the most in the state. You always have to beat them if you’re going to go where you want to go. Salem is Salem. Nothing ever really changes. We look forward to the challenge,” said James.
Pulaski Co. got on the board late in the first quarter when Logan Burchett returned a punt 23 yards to the PH 47. On the 10th play of the possession Broc Simpson kicked a 28-yard field goal to put the Cougars up, 3-0.
On its next possession PCHS began at its own 38. Chris Shay found a hole off the left side, broke two tackles, and rambled 44 yards to the PH 13, but once again the Cougars had to settle for a Simpson field goal, this time from 26 yards out for a 6-0 lead. Shay’s run is the longest of the season for PCHS.
On the ensuing kickoff Simpson kicked the pigskin into the end zone, but the Cougars were called for off sides. Elijah Davis then returned the kickoff 70 yards to a first down at the Cougar 12. But the Pulaski Co. defense was relentless and would not budge. George Langhammer kicked a 30-yard field goal to cut the Cougar lead to, 6-3.
Then the Cougars began a drive and made it count. Grayson Deu scooped a short kickoff and pushed his way to the 42. Quarterback A.J. McCloud ran a sweep for 19 yards. Keyontae Kennedy got nine, McCloud got nine more, Kennedy ran for 14, and then through a big hole off the left side from the eight for the first touchdown of the game. Simpson’s extra point kick put the Cougars up, 13-3 at the half.
Shay fumbled on the first possession following the third quarter kickoff at the Cougar 41. Then came the only real offensive play from scrimmage of any magnitude in the game for the Pats. Quarterback Roy Gunn turned and passed backwards toward the PH side of the field (a lateral) to Jalen Cook, and with the Cougar defense in hot pursuit, Cook threw back across the field to Gunn who ran the 41 yards to the end zone virtually uncontested to cut the lead to, 13-10.
Two possessions later the Cougars began a possession at the 43, but a holding call pushed the ball back to the 33. But the only pass completion of the game was big. McCloud rolled to his left, moved toward the line of scrimmage, but then found Chase Dotson running clean underneath the coverage on a crossing pattern. Dotson twisted and dodged his way 36 yards to the PH 18. A play later McCloud rolled to his right, and it seemed the PH defenders on the flank could not determine if he was going to run or pass as he neared the sideline. Suddenly McCloud just turn it up and scored inside the pylon from 14 yards out. Simpson’s kick made it, 20-10 Pulaski Co. with 2:32 left in the third quarter.
PH could not move the football. The Cougars did again and the opportunity was setup by a Shay pass interception at the PH 44. McCloud got four plus a 15-yard face mask penalty added 15 more and moved the ball to the PH 25. Shay got five to the 20, then 13 to the seven, and on fourth and goal McCloud rolled right to squeeze over the goal line inside the right pylon. Simpson’s conversion kick made it, 27-10 with 5:45 left to play and this big win was in the book for the Cougars.
The Pulaski Co. offense had a very satisfying game. The push up front was obvious. The Cougars rushed for 318 yards on 56 runs, a season high. Kennedy had a career high 136 yards on 23 rushes, Shay had 98 yards on 18 attempts, McCloud 70 on 11, and John Lyman four for 14. McCloud was one of four passing and that was the 36-yarder to Dotson. The Cougars finished with 354 total yards, a season high, and 15 first downs.
PH managed just four first downs and two of those came on penalties. The Pats rushed for less than a yard a carry, 16 yards on 21 attempts. Gunn was 5 of 17 passing for 71 yards with Shay’s pick, plus Ethan Gallimore also had a fumble recovery for Pulaski Co.
BY DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot