Four years ago, Andrew Dunlop knew the future was bright.
The varsity football team at E.C. Glass was in rebuilding mode back then, fresh off a paltry 1-9 season.
But the JV squad, on which Dunlop was a lineman, was picking opponents apart. It was a talented bunch. All Glass had to do was wait.
The good times are here at last. Now a 6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive lineman, Dunlop is part of an E.C. Glass squad that enters the Region 4D semifinals with a 10-1 record, a lights-out defense, a high-octane offense and all the upside in the world.
“It’s been cool to be a part of it,” Dunlop said this week when asked about the progression of E.C. Glass from pushover to powerhouse.
Nobody in midtown wants this ride to end any time soon. To keep it going, the Hilltoppers will put their offense on display against a particularly tough defense when Pulaski County visits City Stadium tonight at 7 p.m.
By now, fans around the Lynchburg area likely know about Glass’ offense. It hums to the tune of 436 total yards per game, with 320 of those yards coming from the ground attack. It’s produced 43.7 points per game through 11 contests, driven forward by speedy, savvy players like quarterback DreSean Kendrick and running backs Quoterris Craighead and Ty Foster.
Here’s a snapshot of the Pulaski defense: the Cougars (9-2) have secured more than 100 tackles behind the line of scrimmage this season. Austin Gallimore leads the team with 28½ tackles for a loss, Luke Russell has 24. Gallimore’s twin, Ethan Gallimore, leads the team with 12.5 sacks; Austin has 7.5 and Tristan Bowden nine.
Those are startling numbers that leap off the stat sheet.
“We’ve got our hands full,” Glass coach Jeff Woody said. “We’re taking heed. You’ve got to respect them and bring your ‘A’ game. If we don’t play our ‘A’ game, we’re gonna have some serious problems.”
The good news for the Hilltoppers (10-1) is two-fold.
First, Glass’ defense, allowing just 12 points per game, is pretty darn good itself. It’s pitched three shutouts, held opponents to fewer than 21 points eight times and hasn’t given up more than 28 points all season (the majority of those points, scored by Liberty Christian, occurred after Glass had removed its starters in the fourth quarter).
Second, Glass will have speed on its side tonight, in the form of players like Kendrick and Craighead, receivers like Markevus Graves, D-Moe Mosley and Mac Johnson, recently back from an injury that kept him sidelined most of the season.
Glass’ speed also can be found on the lines, in the defensive backfield and on special teams.
But “we’ve got to match their physicality,” Woody said. “We’ve been able to handle the physicality in every game we’ve played this year.
“Granted, we lost by an inch [to Heritage] and [they] were very physical. But I foresee Pulaski’s defense being as physical as Heritage. Not as fast, but as physical.”
Pulaski is led offensively by running back Keyontae Kennedy (571 rushing yards) and quarterback A.J. McCloud (565 passing yards).
Those numbers pale in comparison to Glass’ overwhelming offensive output.
Kendrick eclipsed the 1,000-yard passing mark against Jefferson Forest last week and now has 1,083 passing yards and a team-leading 1,830 rushing yards. Ty Foster has 892 rushing yards, while Craighead has rushed for 604 yards.
The trio has combined for 53 rushing touchdowns.
Woody believes special teams will play a large role in this game, as the second-seeded Hilltoppers look to advance to the region championship. Get there and Glass would either travel to top-seeded Salem (10-1) or host No. 5 GW-Danville (8-3).
“We’ve got to control field position,” Woody added. “They’ve got a great kicker [Broc Simpson, 29 of 31 PATs and 11 of 13 field goals]. We’ve got to make some plays in the return game and make sure we’re solid with our protection.”
Pulaski enters with a 21-point loss to Hidden Valley, in which it was shorthanded because of injuries, and a 12-6 loss to Salem in the regular-season finale. In addition to two shutouts, the Cougars have held opponents to 12 or fewer points six times this season.
But Glass’ offense is explosive. Only two teams, Brookville and Heritage, have kept the Hilltoppers under the 20-point threshold all season.
“We just want to shut them down,” Dunlop said, “keep them to as [few] yards as possible, shut down their three-back system and, once we get settled, get the offense going.”