By DOUG EADS
Despite the fact Southwestern already owned a victory over its arch-rival Pulaski County — 15-7 in overtime two weeks ago — the Warriors came into Friday night’s Class 5 A playoff opener mired in a three-game losing streak to PC in the playoffs.
However, that all changed thanks to the final 12 minutes in Friday’s clash.
With the two teams knotted up at 7-7 in the fourth period, Max Brainard booted a field goal and Giddeon Brainard added the back breaker, rushing for a huge, big-time touchdown to put this one away for the Warriors, as Southwestern topped Pulaski County for the second time in two weeks with a hard-fought, 17-7 win over the Maroons.
When the two clubs met two weeks ago, the Maroons held a slim, 16-14 advantage over the Warriors all-time in this series.
After Friday night, Southwestern had knotted things up at 16-16 all-time in games between these two fierce rivals, but more importantly, Jason Foley’s club had punched its ticket to next week’s district championship game.
Tanner Wright put the Warriors on the board first in this playoff rematch, thanks to a 15-yard run straight up the gut early in the second frame.
The Warriors took that 7-0 lead into the intermission, thanks in large part to Pulaski County’s struggles on offense.
The Maroons were inside the red-zone on two occasions in the opening half of play, yet came away with ZERO points. And that would come back to haunt Johnny Hines and crew.
Missing its starting quarterback — Drew Polston — along with the top two receiving targets — Jake Sloan and Grant Oaks — the PC offense struggled for much of the game.
Yet, the Maroons had their chances.
A Tristan Cox 3-yard run for a score late in the third period knotted this one up at 7-7 headed into the fourth period of play.
In that final frame however, thanks to a huge play on special teams, it was a 26-yard field goal from Max Brainard that put Southwestern back out in front of the Maroons at 10-7 early in the final stanza.
Later in the frame, it was Cox picking off a pass from Southwestern quarterback Blake Burton, setting up the Maroons with a first and ten at the Warrior 43-yard line.
However, PC couldn’t punch it in due to yet another missed opportunity inside the red zone.
And, it would be Giddeon Brainard who would make the Maroons pay big-time for their offensive woes.
The Southwestern running back broke through a hole and sped away from the Maroons defense for an 83-yard touchdown scamper late in the contest, that all but put this one away for the Warriors.
PC got the ball back but couldn’t move it, and the Warriors — for the second time in two weeks — had defeated Pulaski County on the Maroons home turf, this time by a final count of 17-7 with the stakes much higher.
With the loss, Pulaski County finished the 2019 season with a 7-4 record, by losing its final three games of the season.
For the Warriors, Southwestern ran its record to 6-5 on the year, and won its fourth game in a row.
Southwestern advances to the district title game with the win, and the Warriors will be on the road again next Friday night playing for a district championship against the Whitley County Colonels in Williamsburg.
Whitley County won its opening round game of the Class 5 A playoffs last night with a 21-20 victory over North Laurel.