By Dan Callahan
It was a long, lonely ride back home, and far away from the great cornfield that nestles itself next to Dobson Stadium and is the backdrop to all Pulaski County football practices. The season was over. Final score; Amherst 49, Pulaski County 28.
The numbers don’t look so good, but the obvious reality of it was the game was not that far out there at all. Amherst was good, far from perfect, but good, however, the Cougars weren’t exactly a bowl of Fruit Loops either. The Cougars played hard, not always well, but hard. Changes were made to try and combat the obvious talents of the opponent and fortify some things defensively. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t, but such is the result when you make major major changes for game 11. The offensive look was a bit different at times, and that was successful to a degree. I guess the point is nothing that Pulaski County tried to do against Amherst was a failure, but nothing was a total success either.
There were a lot of yards gained, twists and turns in the game, good plays, not so good plays, some outstanding performances, but through it all, it came down to three plays. The score was Amherst 21, Pulaski Co. 14. The Cougar defense had apparently withstood a Lancer advance. It was fourth and long. Octavious Jones, not to be confused with Bert Jones, passed down the middle of the field and tight end Derrick Spencer was wide open, uncovered inside the five and he stepped into the end zone. Busted coverage.
Then seconds later comes the kickoff, and there was no deep kickoffs in this game, and the Cougars had good field position, had a nice gainer, Amherst got whistled for one of its three personal foul 15-yard penalties, and suddenly the ball is at the 50 and the Cougars have time left to strike before half. On the next play quarterback Bryant Grubb rolls to his left, steps free of one tackle attempt, looks downfield and sees J.T. Thompson breaking open just outside the hash. If he hits him it’s six, but as he’s running left and trying to load up his right hand to pull the trigger, the ball popped out, bounced on the ground, it was correctly ruled a fumble, Jones, an end on defense, scooped up the bouncing pigskin at the 40 and zipped to the end zone untouched.
And that’s game time. With 1:26 left in the first half, it’s 21-14 Amherst. Other than a couple big runs popping out, the Cougar defense was hanging in there. The offense could move the ball against the Lancer defense and had already proven it with two long touchdowns drives. But suddenly came the busted coverage and fourth down touchdown from 28 yards, and then one play following the kickoff came the fumble. It went from 21-14 to 35-14 in 32 seconds. And such are games determined in this wacky way of playing football these days.
Another touchdown pass took the Cougars out of the game with 7:49 remaining. It was again a fourth down, and 23 yards away, but Jones tossed a floater down the middle to Jordan Woodfolk. There was coverage this time, a fight for the football, Woodfolk won the battle, then pushed his way into the end zone. Two not very pretty passes, and a fumble resulted in three scores. The difference on the scoreboard, 21 points.
“That was it,” said Pulaski County head coach Stephen James, “those two passes and the fumble, Our kids gave a good effort, nobody quit. We kept playing right up to the last play. That’s all I can ask. We kept our heads up the whole game. If we had played with this much enthusiasm and intensity the whole season like we did tonight, we wouldn’t even have been playing this game, we would have lost a couple fewer games and been a high seed and playing at home. So I feel good about the effort of our team tonight. They played four quarters. I feel badly for this senior class. We are going to lose some good players, but some really good kids. They have worked very hard the past three years, and I appreciate this senior class,” added James.
The Lancers scored on the very first play of the game, a 60-yard run by Jerry Page who had a big night for the Lancers. But back came Pulaski County who moved 68 yards in 10 plays and Grubb zipped over from 18 yards out. Woodfolk got home from two yards, and Page busted a couple of tackles and zipped 25 for his second second with 9:08 left in the first half.
But back came the Cougars again, it was another solid nine-play possession with excellent mixture in the running game, and Hunter Thomas made a sharp cut and slipped through the middle of the Lander defense to cut the margin to, 21-14. Then came the terrible final few seconds of the half for Pulaski County.
But with the second half kickoff the Cougars came out determined, but this time, a terrific weaving 55-yard run to the Amherst two was called back for holding. Instead of it being first and goal at the two, Pulaski County was first and 17 at its own 37. Amherst would capitalize and Woodfolk outran everyone to the corner, and turned to tightrope the sideline for a 21-yard touchdown.
Thomas was trying to match Amherst play for play. This time he caught a middle screen from Grubb, and blitzed through the Amherst defense to score from 27 yards out. But then came the final touchdown on the deflected pass to put the game out of reach, however, Grubb kept off the option with 6:55 left to play and rambled 60 yards to the end zone for the Cougars. Ryan Castle was good on all four conversion kicks following touchdowns for Pulaski Co., and the final was on the board, 49-28.
Page ran for 212 yards on 22 carries for Amherst, Woodfolk got 86 on 11. For Pulaski County, Thomas’ performance made him the all-time career leading rusher in Cougar football history. The Cougars’ version of a “pocket rocket” got 114 yards on 17 carries, scored two touchdowns, and caught a pass for 27. Grubb also scored two touchdowns and had an even 100 yards rushing on 11 carries. Jamall Edmonds finished with 36 yards on 12 attempts.
Amherst was only three of six passing, and those weren’t very pretty for 60 yards, but the Cougars had problems once again getting the passing attack cranked up and Grubb finished just three of 16, and often had trouble finding open receivers. Jeff McDonald had a 23-yard catch and C.C. Grubb one for 10. Bryant Grubb also recovered a fumble for the Cougars. The Lancers, now 9-2, will travel to Dominion, located east of Winchester, to play in the second round of the playoffs next Friday. And the headgears will be put away one more time in Pulaski Co., and soon next year will be on the minds of the Cougars faithful.