Roanoke– Pulaski County ran it well, passed it well, kicked it well, and the defense pitched a shutout. It doesn’t get much better than 51-0 for your first victory of the season and the Cougars dropped the hammer on William Fleming on the road Friday night.
After a sluggish first quarter, Pulaski County dominated the Colonels in every phase of the game, scoring 28 points in the second quarter. The game went to a continuous clock just 15 seconds into the second half after E.J. Horton returned the second half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown.
It was a happy atmosphere in the Cougars locker room following the game. “We executed better,” said PCHS head coach Stephen James. “We played physical. We did the things we prepared to do in practice during the week and we had good practices. We had players make plays. Our offensive line adjusted to some new looks Fleming gave us very well. Feel real good about that. Our defense was aggressive. It was a really good win for the kids,” said James.
The defense being aggressive might be the understatement of the evening. How about nine quarterback sacks. “We wanted to pressure their spread offense some. Our linebackers did a better job and got into the action, and our quickness up front was real good tonight,” added James.
Pulaski County only ran the ball for 119 yards on 28 carries, but field position was so good most of the game, and with the second half flying by, there wasn’t time to put up big numbers. The Cougars also scored twice in the kicking game, the defense set up a score by recovering a fumble at the Fleming six, and Kade Akers was seven of eight passing for 140 yards and two touchdowns. It was mostly quick strikes.
After throwing an interception on the first series of plays in the game, Akers never missed connections again. The longest drive of the game was 63 yards on seven plays and Jakari Finely zipped up the middle to scored from 15 yards out. A second turnover on a fumble by Finley ended another Cougar drive.
But then came the second quarter and Horton was lights out. He caught a pass for 38 yards, and then Akers ran it over from the eight. Akers then hit Horton with a pass for 16 yards to the Fleming five, and then Horton caught a quick slant pass from the four for the touchdown.
The Colonels were forced to punt. Horton caught it at the Flemign 41. He reversed his field twice, then picked up a wall of blockers down the left hash and zoomed 41 yards to paydirt. Then with just 5.2 seconds left in the first half, Akers found Horton running clear down the middle, and this time it went for a 49-yard score. Horton scored four touchdowns in the game, and three in the second quarter. Those three came in just 4:34. It was 35-0 Cougars at the half.
The game went to a continuous clock almost the entire second half because Horton ran the kickoff back 87 yards for his fourth touchdown. Quickly players started moving in and out of the game for Pulaski County. The most sustained drive of the second half came when the Cougars moved 62 yards on 10 plays behind the blocking up front from tackles Clay Phillips and Cooper Dunnigan, guards Carter Murray and Logan Fox, and center Jaxson Callahan. Luke Russell carried the pigskin eight times for 28 yards, and on a third and long backup quarterback A.J. McCloud tossed a pass down the right side and James Jackson made a nifty over the shoulder catch for 36 yards to the four. Russell took two plays to run it in.
The junior varsity played the fourth quarter for Pulaski County. It was great for them since their game had been called due to inclement weather on Thursday. The ball was at the Fleming one on fourth down, but Pulaski County elected to give Broc Simpson some experience and he drilled a 17-yard field goal for the final, 51-0 victory. Ryan Castle had connected on six of seven extra point kicks, and also kicked the ball off into the Fleming end zone eight consecutive times, forcing Fleming to start at their 20 almost every possession of the game.
The Cougar defense allowed Fleming just 57 total yards of offense in the game, and had it not been for a missed coverage in the second half that went for a 60-yard gain for the Colonels, they would have finished minus yards. The Colonels had 33 carries for minus 53 yards rushing in the game, and much of that was due to the nine quarterback sacks, but seldom did a Colonel find any running room, and the Cougar defensive front won the battle up front.
Finley ran the ball six times for 44 yards for Pulaski County, Russell eight for 28, Horton once for 19, Gage Mannon five times for 14, Noah O’Dell one for two, McCloud one for two, and Keonte Kennedy three for five. Akers completed five passes to Horton for 118, O’Dell caught two for 20, and Jackson had two receptions for 43 yards. Pulaski County finished with 302 total offensive yards.
The Cougars will open their home season next Friday in Dobson Stadium when they host Abingdon. The Falcons will come into the game 2-0 on the season after being a lopsided winner over Gate City Friday on the road.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot