By Dan Callahan
Pulaski County saw its football season come to an end Friday in Dobson Stadium with a, 43-20 loss to Salem. The Cougars’ season ends with a three-game losing streak and a 6-4 record. Salem closes the regular season at 8-2 and is headed for the playoffs, likely a three seed in Class 4, Region D.
Pulaski Co. got things started off with a bang when tailback Jaceri Eaves ran through a gaping hole in the Salem line and outran the Spartan secondary 81 yards and after Ryan Castle kicked the conversion the Cougars were up 7-0 after only three plays.
But Salem would steadily get back in the flow, and the Cougar offense sputtered on its next four possessions. After five consecutive running plays the Spartans went play action and tied the score at 7-7 on a 29-yard pass from Jack Gladden to Viante Tucker.
The Spartans drove and scored early in the second quarter on a 15-yard power sweep by tailback D’Angelo Ramsey, and Joseph Quinn ran over a two-point conversion for a, 15-7 lead. Following the kickoff Cougar quarterback Kade Akers and wide receiver Kellen Dalton had a misread on a pass play and Nathan Delby picked it off and ran 31 yards to paydirt and the Spartans were on top, 22-7.
However, Pulaski County drove the ball late, and Akers connected with Dalton this time on a quick crossing pattern and Dalton split two defenders at the five and dove into the end zone. Salem was penalized half the distance and the Cougars decided to go for two, but Eaves was thrown for a loss, and the halftime scored was Salem up, 22-13, but the Cougars were very much in the battle.
But in the second half the Cougar offense could not click, and Salem drove the ball relentlessly. On four consecutive possessions, the Cougars started from their own 20 because Nate Kraft kicked the ball into the end zone every time.
Ramsey scored on a 24-yard power sweep, Gladden hit Anthony Haupt with a 10-yard scoring pass, and Ramsey scored again from 17 yards out. Jaylin Nowlin scored from a yard out for the Cougars with 17 seconds to play and Castle’s kick made the final score, 43-20.
“When you miss assignments or are not in the right place, Salem makes you pay,” said Pulaski Co. head coach Stephen James. “I thought our kids played hard. We didn’t always do things right, and we made some mistakes, but the kids played hard tonight. Salem has a good team. They wore our defense down some in the second half, but I thought at times our defense played tough, but they had to spend too much time on the field. And when the game was, 15-7, the pick for six really hurt. I guess it was a misread between the quarterback and receiver.”
It will be very quickly back to the drawing board for Pulaski Co. “We must develop some consistency offensively. We can do that by getting bigger and stronger up front in the offensive line. So we need to work hard in the off season. Our big guys need to dedicate themselves. To get better we must win the line of scrimmage. So it’s back to work. We’ll take a break, rest a bit, but we’ll be back to work pretty soon,” said James.
Salem finished with 351 yards of total offense. The Spartans ran for 289 on 34 runs, and Ramsey finished with 185 yards on 21 carries. Tucker had 70 yards on only four carries. Gladden was four of nine passing for 62 yards.
Pulaski Co. finished with 332 yards total offense, 122 yards rushing on 33 attempts, 210 passing. Eaves led the way with 107, but 81 of that was on the big early play. Akers was 11 of 25 passing. E.J. Horton caught five passes for 123 yards, Mason Clark three for 34, Dalton one for 21 and the touchdown, and Braeden Blevins two for 20. Noah O’Dell also had a pass interception for the Cougars, and Alex Akers recovered a fumble.