Trailing for the bulk of the game by at least two scores on the road, Pulaski County came from behind to advance to its third straight state championship game with a 41-31 win at Highlands on Friday afternoon.
George Gregory carried the Maroons, rushing for 132 yards and four TDs, including the go-ahead score at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The script-flipping score came after Christian Holman intercepted Highlands quarterback Austin Hergott near the end of the third quarter to set Pulaski up in Highlands territory.
“George just ran hard,” Pulaski Coach John Hines said. “George Gregory’s a hoss.
The Maroons scored 20 unanswered points to end things after Highlands kicker Tyler Dougherty drilled a 27-yard field goal to give his team a 31-17 lead midway through the third quarter.
“I’m just proud of our team to come back and win on this field against that team,” Hines said. “That’s a big deal.”
Pulaski County gets the winner between Fern Creek and Bowling Green next week. The Class 5A title game will be played at 9 p.m. EST on Saturday. The Maroons won their first title last season.
I’m just proud of our team to come back and win on this field against that team. That’s a big deal.
Pulaski Coach John Hines
Pulaski County walked away with more than a win. Kicker Derek Burgett set a state record with 88 consecutive PATs after connecting on the Maroons’ fourth and fifth scores of the game. The streak came to an end after he didn’t connect following Pulaski’s final score late in the game (Gregory’s fourth TD).
“I wish it was still going,” Burgett said. “But you can’t do anything about that. And I can’t take full credit for (the streak). I couldn’t do it without my blockers and holders and snappers so it’s big for everybody.”
The Bluebirds jumped to a 14-0 lead courtesy of runs by Nick Kendall on their first and third possessions of the game.
It took Pulaski County three drives to find the end zone. Soon after a monster run by Gregory to set up the Maroons in the red zone, Riley Hall evaded Highlands junior Trey Bowden and dived to get Pulaski on the board before the first quarter ended.
“We were calm and knew we had a chance to win,” Hall said of the team’s mentality after finally getting something positive going. “We just had to fight the whole game.”
Highlands quickly regained a two-score lead on a quarterback keeper by Austin Hergott just 2:39 into the second quarter. The teams traded empty possessions before Gregory scored on a fake toss to draw Pulaski to within 21-14.
The Bluebirds again struck quickly. Hergott found Eric Miller for a 39-yard TD on a drive lasting only 25 seconds. Highlands took a 28-14 advantage into the break after Pulaski failed to convert on fourth down in Highlands territory to end the first half.
“Highlands is a great team,” Hall said. “We just had a lot of grit.”
Hall was in sixth grade when Pulaski County came to Highlands in 2009 and limped back home after a 52-12 rout. He obviously wasn’t playing for the Maroons then, but he was in the stands watching.
“We played for them tonight because they took a beating,” Hall said. “ … We got stuff done today.”