By Dan Callahan
Abingdon– Pulaski County hit the road for the first time this season, and exploded in the second quarter, putting up over 200 yards of total offense in 12 minutes, and defeated Abingdon, 27-20. The Cougars and Falcons are now both 2-1 on the season.
Pulaski County did not register a first down in the first quarter. Abingdon had only one, but it was a 48-yard touchdown run by fullback Austin Holloway.
But the Cougar defense held strong long enough for the offense to get things cranked up. It came with Plan B. Head coach Stephen James decided to go with his option, pass, run package, and it befuddled the Falcon defense. PCHS ran the tailback over the football, brought the side receiver in motion. Quarterback Kade Akers would either keep the ball and run it himself, or make the pitch, but he could also read the defense and if the secondary came up to stop the run, he would throw. The Cougar offensive unit executed the package to perfection and counting the first possession of the second half, scored on four consecutive possessions.
But turnovers and penalties were a big problem. Twice with great field position and the opportunity to put the game away, tailbacks committed unforced fumbles. Then a touchdown was called back due to holding. That resulted in a 30-yard field goal by Ryan Castle to cut the deficit to, 7-3.
On the next possession Akers passed to wide-out E.J. Horton for 39 yards to the Abingdon 37. Akers then hit Mason Clark for 16 to the 20. Jaylin Nowlin ran for seven and then 13 up the middle to the end zone. Castle’s conversion make it, 10-7 Cougars.
Pulaski County’s defense held again, and late in the second quarter the Cougars marched. Akers hit Horton for 11 and then again for nine to the 15. On the next play Akers lofted a soft pass into the back of the end zone to a streaking Kellen Dalton for the touchdown with 1:02 left in the half. Castle’s foot made it, 17-7 at the half.
Horton got a big return on the second half kickoff to the 46. After three consecutive first downs Akers drilled Dalton for nine to the 16. Horton got four to the 11, but a botched hand off in the backfield cost the Cougars a chance at six points, but enter Castle. He drilled a three-pointed from 31 yards and the Cougars were up, 20-7. Castle is now four for four on field goals for the season, and has missed just one extra point and a penalty was the reason for that.
But then with the game seemingly under control, the Cougars started sputtering, and the loss of senior nose tackle John Minnick seemed to hurt the defense. The Cougars are down to almost no depth in the line. The seriousness of the knee injury to Minnick was undetermined at press time. Linebacker Alex Akers changed his jersey number to 50 so he could play offensive guard after D.J. Gathers was lost for the season due to injury.
The Falcons scored on a fourth down swing pass to Pierre Jordan who ran untouched down the sideline for 29 yards. But back came the Cougars. After missing another opportunity due to a fumble the Pulaski Co. stopped the Falcons on downs behind the play of Ben Arnett, Camden Mariotti, Alex Akers, and Reymon Williams. The Cougars took over at the 42.
Kade Akers nailed Braeden Blevins with a pass for 33 yards to the Falcon nine. Horton would score on a “Jet Sweep” left. Castle was good again, and the Cougars seemed to be in comfortable shape, up 27-14.
But then Abingdon opened up its passing game, and quarterback Gable Boothe outran the Cougar secondary to the flag from 10 yards out. A two-point conversion was botched, but the Falcons were within one score, 27-20.
The Cougars were stopped following the kickoff, and then the most shocking play of the game took place on fourth and 12 when Matt Click, an up back in punt formation, took the short snap, got around the left corner and ran 15 yards for a stunning first down to the Abingdon 47, but on the next play, Pulaski Co. fumbled the ball away again. But the defense held strong, and forced the Falcons to go four and out.
“We made a lot of good things happen,” said James following the game. “Our option, pass, run package really gave Abingdon problems. We are capable of doing different things, and that was one example. I thought the defense did a better job than the score indicates. I hope John Minnick is okay. He really played well for us tonight. Ryan Castle has turned into a real weapon for us. His improvement over last season is very impressive. He has worked hard, and it shows.
“But we need to stop fumbling the football, and we need to stop having touchdowns called back because of penalties,” continued James. “But we’re moving kids around, and some of them are doing a nice job. I’m proud of these kids. We’ve got some players that are willing to do some things to help the team. We still need to get better in many areas, but tonight was a good high school football game. Abingdon is going to have a fine season. I’m happy to get the win. I just wish we would stop making it hard on ourselves,” added James.
Pulaski Co. finished with 332 yards of total offense, 185 passing and 147 rushing. The Cougars are still trying to establish a running game and ran the ball 40 times. Kade Akers was 12 of 21, no picks, and a touchdown. Nowlin lead the team in rushing carrying the ball 10 times for 53 yards and a touchdown. Horton had five catches for 73 yards, Clark three for 44, Blevins two for 44, and Dalton two for 24 and a touchdown.
Abingdon had 196 total yards. Holloway lead the Falcons with 59 yards rushing on eight attempts. Boothe was seven of 11 passing for 68 yards. The Cougars are on the road again next Friday, traveling to Hillsville to take on Carroll County.