Unbeaten Maroons in region finals after 43-0 shut-out
Breeze past Perry County Central, but Harris, Madison Southern await
By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent Commonwealth Journal
Was it a muddy track or the fact that homestanding Pulaski County held a huge advantage in pure athleticism and talent?
Doesn’t matter. The only thing that mattered on Friday night in the second round of the Class 5 A playoffs is the fact that Johnny Hines and crew sunk the Perry County Central Commodores.
After a relatively close first half on a soggy night, the Maroons exploded for 28 points in a decisive third quarter, putting the visiting Commodores away with an impressive, 43-0 beatdown over Justin Haddix’ club.
With the win, Pulaski County improved to a perfect, 12-0 on the season and advanced to its fourth regional championship game appearance in the past five years with yet another lopsided victory.
“We sputtered a little bit early on offense, but we had an outstanding performance from our defense tonight,” stated a very happy coach Hines after his club’s impressive win.
“We were making plays all over the field tonight, and I thought our defensive line maybe played about as well as we’ve ever played in a game up front,” continued the Maroon coach. “Will Mobley, Jake Roberts, Jesse Hudson, and Nate Roskind all played well, and they each had huge nights on the line this evening.”
Indeed, PC’s defense put the clamps on Perry County Central all night long, holding the Commodores to just 109 yards of total offense for the game.
And, despite that slow start out of the gate offensively on a muddy track, the PC offense came to life after a scoreless first period, racking up 467 yards of total offense and 43 points.
It all got started for the Maroons with 7:00 remaining in the first half when senior running back Aaron Smith scored the first of his three rushing touchdowns on the night.
Smith’s first score — a 16-yard scamper — gave the Maroons a 7-0 lead thanks to Derek Burgett’s PAT.
Inside the final minute of the first half, Smith came up big again — this time on the defensive side of the ball.
Smith tackled Perry Central’s Cody Taylor in the end zone for a safety with :52 remaining in the opening half of play, giving the Maroons a 9-0 lead over the Commodores at the intermission.
That play and a quick start out of the gate in the third period by the Pulaski offense set the tone for the rest of the game.
“That play by Aaron on the safety gave us some momentum right before the half, and then we got the ball first in the third quarter and really started off well,” pointed out Hines.
“We had a good, long drive and scored a touchdown to start the third quarter, and I think that’s when we really took control of the game on the offensive side,” added the PC coach. “Defensively, we took control of this game from the opening kickoff.”
Leading the Commodores by that 9-0 margin at the break, Pulaski County all but put this game away by erupting for 28 successive points in the third quarter, to force the game into a running clock with a 37-0 lead.
And, it was Smith and freshman Jake Johnson leading the charge for the Maroons.
Johnson hauled in a 17-yard TD pass from quarterback Riley Hall with 9:23 remaining in the third stanza to push the lead out to 16-0 in favor of the Maroons, but there would be much, much more to come.
Late in the first half, Johnson caught his 62nd pass of the season, making him Pulaski’s all-time leader in receptions for a single season, but his special night would continue later in the contest.
On PC’s next drive, Smith would score his second TD of the night — this time on a 10-yard run — easing the lead out to 23-0 with 7:49 left in the third quarter of play.
After a Dylan Hopkins interception on Perry Central’s next drive, Smith would rumble up the middle for a 49-yard TD run, giving the Maroons a 30-0 advantage with 6:46 remaining in the third frame.
After forcing the Commodores to punt the ball back to PC, Johnson fielded the punt at his own 49-yard line and raced into the end zone from 51-yards out with 5:04 left in the third quarter, giving PC a very comfortable, 37-0 lead and forcing the game into a running clock for the remainder of the contest.
Reserve quarterback Jackson Mobley rounded out the scoring with a 15-yard TD run late in the game, giving PC a 43-0 win and a rematch next week against district rival Madison Southern for a regional championship.
“This was just a great effort and a great win, and I’m proud of all of our kids,” remarked coach Hines.
“I’m proud of our senior leadership and all the things that we’ve done, and holy cow, here we are going for a regional title for the fourth time in the past five years,” added the Pulaski County coach. “That’s exciting, and we’re happy about that because we bought another week.”
For the game, Smith rushed for a game-high 116 yards and those 3 touchdowns on only 11 carries, while Johnson led the way with 6 receptions for 71 yards and a score.
Caleb Cox added 68 yards on the ground on 9 attempts, while Hall completed 15-24 pass attempts for 146 yards and a TD, while rushing for 57 yards on 7 carries.
With the win, Pulaski County moved to 12-0 and advanced to next week’s regional title game against Madison Southern, who was an upset winner on Friday night at Harlan County.
The Eagles are led by junior All-State running back and University of Michigan signee Damien Harris, and are a club that gave Pulaski its only real test of the regular season.
The Maroons won the district title this season thanks to a hard-fought, 21-18 victory at Madison Southern way back on October 11th.
This week’s game for a regional crown will be played at PC Field on the Maroons home turf, and Hines says he is very grateful that his club has its fourth shot at a regional title in the past five years.
“I’m proud of our kids and I’m proud of the way they work,” pointed out Hines.
“The great thing about these kids is they go out each week and they expect to win,” he added. “They come to work hard every day in the weight room and at practice.”
Pulaski will be vying for its second regional championship in school history on Friday night against Madison Southern.
The Maroons previous regional crown came in 2009 with a win over Letcher County Central, while PC finished as regional runner-up to Harlan County in 2010 and again last season.
Kickoff for Friday night’s regional title game against the Eagles will get underway from PC Field beginning at 7:30 p.m.
PCC — 0 0 0 0 — 0
PC — 0 9 28 6 — 43
PC — Smith 16 run (Burgett kick)
PC — Smith safety
PC — Johnson 17 pass from Hall (Burgett kick)
PC — Smith 10 run (Burgett kick)
PC — Smith 49 run (Burgett kick)
PC — Johnson 51 punt return (Burgett kick)
PC — J. Mobley 15 run
RUSHING — (PCC) Napier 9-30. (PC) Smith 11-116 3 TD, Cox 9-68, Hall 7-57, Mobley 6-48 TD.