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“We’ve Got a Stable of Running Backs;” Southwestern rushes for 400 yards, downs Pulaski County 35-14

Southwestern rolled to a 35-14 win over their county rival in the second round of the 5A playoffs in Kroger’s KSR Game of the Week. There were a few plays early that set the tone for the rest of the game.  

Pulaski County received the opening kickoff and marched down inside the Southwestern 5-yard line behind runs from senior Tristan Cox, a Purdue commit and one of the top players in Kentucky. Southwestern had no answer for his wildcat runs near the end of their 15-12 regular season home loss to Pulaski County a few weeks ago.  Friday night, however, they keyed on Cox and were able to keep him out of the end zone. Brody Perkins and Dylan Asher made big tackles on Cox behind the line of scrimmage to set up to force a Pulaski County fourth and goal.

“The first game, there in the second half, Tristan Cox, and he’s a phenomenal player, got going in their jumbo wildcat set,” Southwestern coach Jason Foley said about holding Cox to 16 yards on 14 carries last night. “We did a lot of prep in practice, made a few little adjustments and got an extra guy in the box and I think tonight we did well with that particular formation.”

Pulaski County elected to go for it on fourth down but sophomore QB Brysen Dugger’s pass was tipped away by DB Connor Crisp ending the Maroons’ six-minute drive.

The Maroons were one play away from forcing a three-and-out and getting the ball right back, but Crisp broke an 84-yard touchdown run down the left sideline to put the Warriors up 7-0, swinging all the momentum to Southwestern.

From that point on Southwestern was in control.  DB Ian Ware picked off Dugger on Southwestern’s 33-yard line late in the first quarter, ending another promising Pulaski County drive. After a Warrior punt, Pulaski County was driving again until they had another costly turnover in Southwestern territory, a fumbled exchange between Dugger and a running back, recovered by Southwestern’s Maddox Mink.  

That recovery set up a 34-yard Tanner Wright touchdown run to put Southwestern up 14-0. Pulaski County was dominating the time of possession battle and had several more plays than their opponent, but Southwestern was making all of the big plays.  

Pulaski County fumbled again on their next possession but got the ball back thanks to an interception by sophomore safety Cody Nichols. Pulaski County put together a nice drive that included passes from Dugger to Cox and junior Braden Gipson. Dugger capped off the drive with a 9-yard scoring strike to Gipson right before halftime, cutting the Warriors’ lead to 14-7.

After neither team scored in the third quarter, the Southwestern rushing attack shined in the fourth quarter.  They got touchdown runs from freshman Christian Walden (41 yards), junior Giddeon Brainard (47 yards) and Wright (six yards). In total Southwestern ran for 406 yards with Brainard (135 yards), Crisp (120 yards), and Wright (101 yards) all eclipsing the century mark. They passed the ball only twice.

“We’ve got a stable of running backs,” Coach Foley said.  “We’ve said all year that we have a three-headed monster.  Giddeon Brainard, Tanner Wright, and Conner Crisp. I thought we wore them down, physically as the game (went on) and started pounding them. That gave us a lot of success in the second half.”

Wright noted how important it is to have depth at running back.

“Instead of having just one guy making all the plays, we’ve got so many that they can’t just key on one of them,” Wright told KSR after the game.

 

Foley also mentioned young running backs JJ Hutchinson and Walden, noting that Hutchinson was a little injured tonight. He said that Walden came in and played outstanding, throwing some great blocks and running for 48 yards on five carries.

“It was really nerve-racking at first, but once you get into it, start making plays, you really just get used to it,” Walden said about playing in the playoffs as a freshman.  

Pulaski County just couldn’t get much going in the running game but passed for nearly 300 yards. They ran 28 more plays than Southwestern and won the time of possession battle, but that doesn’t count for anything on the scoreboard.  Don’t take it from me, just ask Nick Saban.

“Last time I checked, you get nothing for time of possession,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after last week’s 63-3 blowout win over Kentucky.  “If you score fast on offense you don’t have much time of possession.”

Dugger was 22-of-47 passing for 291 yards, 2 TDs and 3 interceptions. He took over midway through the season when starting QB Ben Polston, a junior, went down with an injury. Sophomore Barek Williams caught seven passes for 73 yards and Antonio Palmer hauled in a 64-yard TD pass to pull the Maroon’s to within 14 late in the game. Cox, who will play defense at Purdue, caught five passes for 39 yards.

Pulaski County finishes their incredible season with an 8-2 record. Their only other loss to #18 Belfry.  

“This has been by far my favorite team. We were more together than ever,” Cox said after the game. “I couldn’t do anything without my team. I would like to thank all those guys and my coaches. We proved a lot of people wrong and I’m happy with that.  (The future for Pulaski County) looks great. We will have Drew Polston back next year and Brysen Dugger. Barek Williams, I’m hoping to see a lot out of him,” Cox said of the phenomenal sophomore.

Southwestern is back in the quarterfinals, where they have been a mainstay over the last several years. They will host Frederick Douglass, a team that defeated the Maroons 44-8 in last year’s 5A quarterfinals. The Warriors will be big underdogs again, but they get the excitement of hosting a quarterfinal playoff game.

“Back-to-back district champions in a tough district,” Foley said.  “We came over here two years and beat Pulaski on their field in the district title. That is hard to do. They have a good program, a good football team, but I’m very proud of the direction that we are going. We are just going to try to keep climbing, that is what we want to do.”

 

 

Article written by Troy Howell

Follow me on twitter @ teeroyhowell