Pulaski County’s football team got a huge victory over Patrick Henry Friday night, routing the Patriots, 56-19 in Dobson Stadium, the Cougars’ biggest offensive explosion of the season. It was a somewhat rainy, dreary evening, and the crowd was understandably small after a day of steady rain, but it did not deter the Cougars from having a scoring festival at PH’s expense.
It was a huge night for tailback Gage Mannon, an impressive performance by the Cougar offensive line, two big scoring plays by E.J. Horton, and the Cougars defense was its usual impressive self.
Mannon finished with a shocking 253 yards rushing on 32 carries and four touchdowns. The Cougars dominated the line of scrimmage and Cougar runners had gaping holes to run through. The defense was actually responsible for allowing only six points, gave up just 80 yards rushing, and Horton had a 66-yard touchdowns pass and run, and a 75-yard touchdown run with an interception.
The performance was a huge confidence builder for the Cougars heading into next Friday’s final regular season game at Salem. “I believe this win really helps us,” said head coach Stephen James. “Gage had a terrific night, the offensive line did a great job in the first half, the defense always gives us a chance, and it was a great victory. We’re in position to get a good position to start the playoffs. We just need to take advantage of our opportunity, and that means getting back to work on Monday and get ready to go again.”
There were a lot of surprises in the game. The weather was expected to be a huge factor. It was not. There was only a slight drizzle during the game, and much of the time nothing at all. So much for forecasters. But with over 10 hours of rain prior to kickoff, the turf was expected to be slow, slippery, and even downright muddy. It was not. The footing was firm. The Cougars were ready to roll. Even late in the game when PH had a first and goal at the Pulaski Co. two yard line, they ended up back on the nine after fourth down as the Cougar defense was relentless.
“Those kids on defense come to play everyday,” said James. “When you consider the weather it was great how we were able to run the ball. That’s what we wanted to do, and we did it. When it was necessary, the defense shut ’em down. This was really a good win for the kids,” added James.
PH was led by Dayshawm Caldwell who was responsible for almost every point the Patriots scored. He had kickoff returns of 70 yards or more three times. The one disappointing factor in the game for PCHS was 283 kick return yards allowed. Leroy Thomas caught a 17-yard tourchdown pass from Roy Gunn after Caldwell’s first big return. Gunn passed to Caldwell for a 33-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and a 14-yard scoring catch in the second quarter. The Cougar defense held the Pats scoreless in the second half. And other than Caldwell’s big plays, the Cougar defense smothered everything else.
Mannon scored on runs of eight, six, four, and one, but he had a dozen runs of nine or more yards, his longest being 26. Pulaski County did not punt in the first half, but the offense was forced to punt three times the second half. After PH’s first score, Horton teamed up with quarterback A.J. McCloud when he caught a slant pass, a PH tackler missed, Horton cut toward the hash and outran the Patriots 66 yards to paydirt. His other touchdown came in the final minute of the first half. Gunn was trying to get the ball to Caldwell in the flat on an out route. Gunn’s pass was a bit behind Caldwell. Horton stepped in, picked it off, and it was a 75-yard romp to the end zone.
McCloud got a touchdown on a three yard run after he faked inside to Mannon, and ran seven yards to the corner of the end zone, battling through a PH defender the final three yards. Luke Russell gave Mannon a break at tailback in the second quarter, but that didn’t help PH at all, and Russell blasted over the goal line from three yards out. The score was 49-19 at the half and all suspense was over. Mannon’s final score was the only touchdown of the second half. Ryan Castle was eight for eight on extra point kicks, and also kicked off into the end zone three times.
Pulaski Co. finished with 397 total yards of offense. In addition to Mannon’s 253 yards rushing, Russell finished with 23 on five runs, McCloud had 25 on three, Keyonte Kennedy four on three carries, Horton three on one, and Kade Akers three yards on three carries. McCloud was two of six passing for 70 yards and a touchdown. Akers was two for four for 16. Horton had three pass receptions for 77 yards and Logan Burchett one for nine.
PH ran 31 times, but could muster just 80 yards, and 38 of that came on one play. Thomas ran 12 times for 45 yards, and the Cougar defense sacked Gunn five times for 22 yards in losses. PH totaled 234 yards. Gunn was 11 of 20 passing for 154, but suffered Horton’s huge pick. Caldwell caught four passes for 94 yards, Thomas four for 52.
Pulaski County travels to Salem next Friday.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot