By Dan Callahan
Blacksburg– It was expected to be a shootout. It was, and Pulaski County, like many teams previously this season, got out-gunned by Blacksburg Friday, 53-28.
The Cougars have skill and speed, and a potent passing game, but nobody in this region, and maybe the state, has the speed of Blacksburg. Pulaski County tried to hang with the Bruins, but the big plays just kept coming, and a couple big mistakes hurt the Cougars badly, and they just couldn’t keep pace. If you made a mistake, or missed a tackle, it was six points.
Cole Beck, maybe the fastest high school player in the nation, scored on runs of 68, 54, and 13. He finished with 184 yards on 17 carries. Tiquest Terry caught and ran for touchdowns of 49, 10, and 24 yards. He finished with four pass receptions for 97 yards. Josh VanGilder took a short pass and turned it into a 64-yard touchdown. He finished with three catches for 90 yards. Quarterback Grant Johnson was very efficient hitting 13 of 19 passes for 224 yards. The Bruins finished with 455 yards of total offense. And to make matters worse, the Cougars botched a “pooch” kickoff attempt to start the second half it was returned 54 yards for a touchdown by Chas Shelor. The Bruins scored from 49 yards or farther five times.
The win pushed Blacksburg to 7-1 on the season, and dropped Pulaski County to 6-2. The Cougars will have an open date next Friday before finishing their season with a road game in Roanoke against Patrick Henry and a home game vs. Salem.
“They have a lot of weapons,” said PCHS head coach Stephen James. “Beck is the fastest down hill runner I’ve even seen in high school football. Terry is different, but he’s just about as fast, and quicker. Blacksburg is the kind of team that you just can’t miss a tackle, mess up an assignment, or be out of position. Make an error and they might score six. Your margin of error is very thin.”
But even with the margin of defeat, it was evident Pulaski County gave a spirited effort. “We made plays, made a bunch of good plays. Unfortunately we made a few bad ones too, and we paid for it. But the kids played hard. Our team got after it. We never quit trying. I thought our kids showed some heart and played with class,” said James.
The Cougars likely even played a little better than James realized. In seven previous games Blacksburg had allowed an average of 17 points a contest. Salem scored 12, Patrick Henry nine, and Cave Spring seven. Pulaski County’s 28 points were the most scored on the Bruins this season.
The Cougars scored to take a, 7-6 lead on a Kade Akers to E.J. Horton pass of 12 yards. Akers and Horton hooked up again from 31 yards out to put the Cougars in front a second time, 14-13. But then came three big plays by Blacksburg and a, 33-14 halftime lead.
And even after the botched “pooch” kickoff to start the second half, Pulaski County drove 80 yards and Akers scored from a yard out. Akers scored again on a two-yard run. Ryan Castle was four for four on conversion kicks. He did miss his first field goal, but it was a 54-yard attempt in the first quarter.
“I hate that Ryan missed his first field goal, and I know it was long, but he had been hitting pretty good all week during practice, and it was a high percentage thing for us to do because we knew that if he missed, he would hit it good enough to make the end zone and they would have to start at the 20. So it was a good gamble, and he had it on line, just a bit short,” said James.
Akers was 17 of 30 passing for 270 yards, and two touchdowns, but the Cougars could not run the football, and finished with just 21 yards on 38 attempts for 291 total yards of offense. Kellen Dalton had five pass receptions for 81 yards, Horton had five for 77 and two scores, Braeden Blevins had four catches for 51 yards, and Mason Clark three for 61.