Pulaski County will renew the longest running football series in school history Friday evening when it journeys to Roanoke to face Patrick Henry at Merrill Gainer Stadium.
It’s a huge game for both teams. The Cougars are looking to solidify its hold on at least an opening round home game in the Class 4, Region D playoffs, and the Patriots are looking to do the same in Class 5. Pulaski Co. enters the game with a 7-1 record and coming off an open date. PH is 6-2 on the season, and coming off a 54-48 win over Christiansburg.
This will be the 46th meeting between the two programs. The Cougars hold the series lead 27-18. Only once have the two teams played twice in a season. PCHS won 56-14 in the regular season and again 30-13 in the state playoffs in 2000.
The Cougars enter the game third in the VHSL region ratings (see today’s Locker Room), and with a win would at least remain there, and clinch the home field. But there are other matchups around the region that give Pulaski Co. the opportunity to move up as the regular season nears its end.
Last time out the Cougars got a big victory at Blacksburg, 12-3. Head coach Stephen James hopes this is the same type of game, but there are concerns. PH has outstanding firepower.
Quarterback Roy Gunn has connected on 97 of 164 passes for almost 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns. His leading receiver is Trace Pedigo with 40 catches for 776 yards and seven touchdowns. Pedigo is averaging almost 20 yards gained per reception. Tailback Jalen Cook is also having a big season and has gone over the 1,000-yard mark with 16 touchdowns for 92 points.
“We’re going to need another great effort from our defense,” says James. “PH has talented players who can make plays. We need to be where we’re supposed to be. We need to make tackles, wrap ’em up. They may make some plays. We just need to make sure it doesn’t bother us and we allow them to make another big play.”
Matchups are always important. PH scored 54 on Christiansburg, Pulaski Co. just 14, but PH allowed 48 and the Cougars just six. “That has a lot to do with it. We would certainly like to win the line of scrimmage like Christiansburg did and drive the football, but it’s strength against strength, and also quickness vs. speed, how smart do we play. Read your keys. For our defense, the keys in this game will be are we in the right place and if we are make the tackle. We won’t change much. We are who we are. We will try to attack the PH offense. That’s how we play, but we also need to be under control and always pursue the football, find it, and go tackle who’s got it,” said James.
But James realizes his defense cannot stay on the field all night. “We believe our offensive front has improved. We saw a lot of things we liked in the win at Blacksburg. We just need to take care of the football, and drive the ball. Get some first downs, possess the ball, control the game, give our defense some rest, and physically take it to them up front. We think we’re ready to go. Our kids have gotten a lot of rest the past few days. We’re as close to 100 percent healthy as you can hope to be at this juncture of a season. We just need to go play a good football game,” said James.
PH is big at the linebacker positions, all four going over 200 pounds. Inside backer Jamarreon Jones (5-10, 204) lead the Patriots with a whopping 78 tackles on the season. His inside running mate Nick Johnson (5-10, 204) is second on the team with 59 tackles. PH is led up front on the offensive line by Bernard Wilson, 6-0, 290, Zavier Distefano, 5-11, 245, Reves Russell, 5-11, 245, and Rodrick Maurice, 6-0, 255.
Starting for the Pulaski Co. offense will be Cooper Dunnigan, 6-3, 280 and Clay Phillips, 6-2, 287 at the tackles, the guards will be Tyler Brookman, 5-11, 250 and Markus Wright, 6-1, 285. The center is Levi Young at 6-0, 280. The quarterback is A.J. McCloud, 6-3, 185. The running backs are Keyontae Kennedy, 5-10, 180, Chris Shay, 5-11, 185, and Gage Mannon, 6-0, 195. The wideouts will be Logan Burchett, 5-8, 180, Chase Dotson, 5-11, 190, Layne Suthers, 6-2, 185, and John Lyman, 5-8, 145. The kicker and punter is Broc Simpson. The long snapper Bryant Worrell and the holder is Burchett.
Defensively, Zeke Surber, 6-2, 290 will be on the nose, the outside tackles are Will Bishop, 5-8, 185 and Tristan Bowden, 5-10, 195. The edge players will be Ethan Gallimore, 5-9, 185 and Chayton Rollins, 6-3, 220. The inside linebackers will be Austin Gallimore, 5-9, 205, and Luke Russell, 5-11, 185. The secondary will have Corvin Carter, 5-11, 180, Suthers, Mannon, and Shay.
Tickets gates will open at PH at 5:30…….The history of the series with PH is interesting and it goes all the way back to the very beginning of PCHS in 1974. The two teams were members of the old Western District. The Patriots won the first seven games in a row, scoring 127 points in the first three games. Then for the next five years from 1980-84 the Pats scored only 21 points, were shutout three times, and the Cougars won five straight……..If you cannot make the jaunt down to Roanoke, the game will be broadcast live on “107 Country PSK.” Airtime will be 6:15 with the pregame show………In other games of interest to Pulaski County Friday evening, Magna Vista will play at GW-Danville, Halifax will be at Patrick County, Salem will host Hidden Valley, E.C. Glass and Heritage will play at City Stadium in Lynchburg, Brookville plays at Jefferson-Forest, Wm. Byrd hosts Staunton River, Abingdon hosts Union, and Christiansburg plays at Cave Spring.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot