PREVIEW: George Washington football gears up for Region 4D semis against Pulaski
When the George Washington football team approaches the line for its first play of tonight’s Region 4D semifinal, it’ll be staring across at a familiar opponent.
GW’s first play, whether on defense or offense, will be against a Pulaski County squad it hosted the last time the Eagles made a regional semifinal appearance back in 2018.
Second-seeded GW (5–1) enters the game hoping history doesn’t repeat itself as Pulaski ended the Eagles’ season with a 17–14 loss the last time out.
Senior Jacob Bottoms was a sophomore and on the sidelines for that matchup, meaning he’s carrying a bit of a chip on his shoulder heading into tonight’s matchup.
“Honestly, we’re staying humble, but we want our revenge against them for that game at Averett,” Bottoms said. “That’s all we want.”
Junior Jakobe Dixon, a freshman back in 2018, echoed Bottoms’ sentiment.
“It’s definitely a revenge game,” Dixon said. “We want to get a little payback.”
Senior Sha’Kobe Hairston feels a bit differently.
“Me personally, I’m not really thinking about the past because it’s a new team, new system and we just need to come out there ready to fight,” Hairston said.
Our good friend Buddha once said, “Do not dwell on the past, do not dream of the future,” so let’s get on to the present and take a look at tonight’s game.
Season summary: Pulaski comes into the contest sporting a 4–2 record, including an identical mark in the River Ridge District. Over the span of their winning streak, the Cougars outscored their opponents (Cave Spring, Hidden Valley, Christiansburg and Blacksburg), 174–14, with shutouts against Cave Spring and Blacksburg. However, Pulaski dropped their final two games of the season to Patrick Henry and Salem to earn the №3 seed in the region. Meanwhile, GW enters the game sporting a 5–1 record, and riding a five-game winning streak after the Eagles were pounded 70–7 by Lord Botetourt in a quickly-arranged opener at Botetourt. The Eagles have outscored five Piedmont District opponents 244–36 since then to earn the №2 seed.
Keys: GW’s defense will have its hands full with the combination of running backs Ethan Gallimore, Keyonte Kennedy and Queemaar Porter. Quarterback Drew Dalton will also prove a threat as he can score with both his arm and legs. The Eagles’ receiving corps will need to focus on Chase Dotson when the Cougars go to the air.
According to Bottoms, GW’s defensive unit is a special bunch and will be ready for the challenge.
“We’re not the biggest group, but we’ve got speed and we’re athletes,” Bottoms said. “Our defense is a different breed this year. I’m trying to tell you.”
The Eagles will be evenly matched in the ground game as they have senior Willie Edmunds and junior Jakobe Dixon as a dual-headed threat. In GW’s six games this season, Edmunds has rushed for 895 yards and 13 touchdowns. The senior back has rushed for three touchdowns three times this season and has rushed for at least two in each of the Eagles’ matchups. He’s also rushed for at least 100 yards in five of GW’s contest, including a 305-yard performance against Bassett.
Dixon has broken out over the last couple of weeks, scoring three touchdowns (two rushing) against Halifax last week. The junior dual-sport athlete has rushed for 359 yards and five scores on 39 carries this season.
Pulaski’s defense will also have its hands full with junior quarterback Jeb Byrnes who has thrown for 887 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Hairston will be one of Byrnes’ favorite targets as the senior has hauled in 14 passes for 176 yards and a score this season. Sophomore Donavan Howard leads GW in receiving yards with 227 while seniors Isaiah Pritchett and Zavion King each have 176 receiving yards and two scores apiece.
Senior Jalen Strange and junior Ahmad Poole will pace the Eagles’ defense against the Cougars. Strange has a team-high 4.5 sacks while Poole is close behind with four.
Final judgement: If GW can keep being the three-headed its monster it’s been the past few weeks, the Eagles should walk out of J.T. Christopher Stadium with the victory. GW has gotten scoring contributions from all three of its units in its past three wins over Magna Vista, Bassett and Halifax. The Eagles will have to slow down Gallimore, Kennedy and Porter, along with Dalton and Dotson if they hope to stifle the Cougars’ potent attack that’s averaging 35.1 points per game this season.
Next week: The winner will advance to play the victor of the other regional semifinal final between top-seeded Salem and №4 Amherst.