Radford– After a sluggish and unimpressive first half, Pulaski County’s football team took control quickly in the second half in a “Benefit Game” in Radford Friday, and won, 27-12 in the final scrimmage preparation before Friday’s season opener at Northside in Roanoke.
There were numerous disappointments, errant passes, dropped passes, bad center snaps, poor special teams execution, but when the Cougars took the field for the second half, the attitude was different, and the team played with the energy that was missing in the first half. Pulaski County had three second half possessions and drove, 70, 68, and 54-yards for three consecutive touchdowns.
Head coach Stephen James was obviously pleased with the eventual outcome, but not overjoyed with how it happened. “We had a poor pregame. Things were just off, and it stayed that way when the game started. Were we over-confident, maybe, but I also think some of the kids may have been tight. It’s hard to say, but in the first half we just didn’t play well. We still should have led the game, but didn’t execute some things very well. Not coming out ready to play is disappointing and obviously that will not be good enough next week at Northside, but in the second half we came out with the right mindset, and played like I think we can,” said the Cougar boss.
On Pulaski County’s first possession of the game it drove deep into Radford territory, but threw a pass interception. Nothing much happened in the game from that point until on first down from its 13, a bad snap rolled into the end zone, and the safety put Radford on top, 2-0.
The Cougars took the lead early in the second quarter on a 36-yard pass from Chris Shay to a leaping Noah O’Dell. Ryan Castle’s conversion made it, 7-2 Cougars, but it took just four plays for Radford to get back in the lead as Pulaski County suffered from poor tackling. P.J. Prioleau twisted down the sideline 41 yards for the score.
Pulaski County came right back and in seven plays drove 54 yards to the Radford 16 and threw another pick. The Cougar defense held and the offense moved into scoring position again, but a 15-yard penalty and a third bad snap in the first half killed the touchdown opportunity. Castle’s 26-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright as the timing was off on the play. Radford was able to move into field goal range in the final seconds of the half after another penalty on the Cougars, and Conner Lytton got three from 32 yards out and Radford led at the half, 12-7.
Then came the second half and the complexion of the game completely changed. On its first possession the Cougars drove 70 yards in 10 plays with the touchdown coming on a pass of 13-yards on a crossing pattern from James Jackson to E.J. Horton. A two-point conversion try failed.
Radford went three and out, and the Cougar offense rolled again. This time it was 68 yards on seven plays with a big 19-yard run by Jakari Finley putting the ball at the Radford 20 and then Gage Mannon swept left for the score, but a holding penalty nullified the effort, but no matter, two plays later tailback Luke Russell scored a 14-yard run. Castle was good and the Cougars were in front, 20-12.
The final score came on another long drive, but featured backup players. Quarterback Drew Dalton passed to Corvin Carter for 22 yards to the five. Two plays later Dalton hit Xavier Cobbs on a crossing pattern from the three for the score with 3:23 left to play on a continuous running clock in the fourth quarter. Castle was good again for the final, 27-12 tally.
Pulaski County racked up 28 first down in the game, Radford 16. The Cougars totaled 389 yards of offense, Radford 231. Pulaski County rushed for 244 yards on 47 attempts, Radford 170 on 32 carries. The Cougars hit 11 of 20 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions. Radford was five of 12 passing for 61 yards.
Finley was the game’s leading rusher with 137 yards on 18 carries. Mannon had 44 on 12 attempts, Russell 23 on two and a touchdown, and Wes Riddle 21 on five carries for the Cougars. Zane Rupe led Radford in rushing with 71 yards on 12 carries, Prioleau finished with 66 on 10. By taking control of the game in the second half, the Cougars finished with a huge advantage in possession time. Pulaski County had 67 snaps in the game, Radford 44.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot