Blue Devil defense shines at scrimmage

Blue Devil senior linebacker Hunter Higgins, right, tackles a Cosby runner during the UCHS football team’s home scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 4. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The offense was again successful, but it was the improvements made by his team on the other side of the ball that pleased Unicoi County High School football head coach Drew Rice when his team scrimmaged Cosby on Friday, Aug. 4, at Gentry Stadium in Erwin.

“I thought we played really well,” Rice said. “There is an old saying that you learn a lot between the first scrimmage and second scrimmage and that was true for us. It was very evident that we have fixed issues we had defensively during the scrimmage at Volunteer on July 26. That was good to see.

“At Volunteer, we had some alignment issues – as far as getting lined up defensively. We didn’t have any of those against Cosby on Friday night. To get lined up without having film work on the other team was very good to see. Senior linebackers Michael Smith and Hunter Higgins did a great job getting us lined up correctly. They played well and did a great job for us.”

Rice again continued to praise his defense, saying: “I was really pleased with how we played defensively. I think we caused three or four turnovers. Anytime you do that you are probably going to be successful. So we were very pleased with our defensive effort. … I felt like we played really fast and really physical. In football, those are two things you want to see, so that was a positive thing.”

While stopping Cosby from scoring, the Blue Devil offense found itself in the end zone several times.

“We were also pleased with our offensive performance,” Rice said. “There are still a couple things we have to shore up, but we are in good shape. Our offensive line blocked really well. Going back to our emphasis on stopping the run and being able to run the ball – we did both of those very well.”

The Blue Devils have one more scrimmage before they open the 2017 campaign. They will go on the road to face North Buncombe, N.C., at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 9.

“We have one more scrimmage and that will be our last practice against another opponent before the first game,” Rice said. “We are pleased with where we are right now. We are healthy and that’s a big thing. We will try to get out of the next scrimmage health. I feel good about where we are.”

His players’ attitudes and efforts have Rice feeling positive going into the new season.

“Our guys enjoy the game and enjoy competing,” Rice said. “We have a great bunch of kids and they have really bought in and believe in what we are trying to do. Their hard work so far shows that.”

• • •

The Erwin Record’s annual Unicoi County High School fall sports preview will appear in the Aug. 16 issue.

The Blue Devils will open the 2017 season on Aug. 18 at South Greene. They will play their first game at Gentry Stadium in Erwin on Aug. 25 when they host Sullivan East.

Season tickets are currently on sale for $25 at the high school. For more information, call 743-1632.

Sheriff’s Department, school system team up for improvements to Gentry Stadium

Above, pictured from left, Director of Schools John English, head football coach Drew Rice, Sheriff Mike Hensley and Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department Administrative Assistant Craig Masters stand in front of the newly-remodeled Gentry Stadium. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

Unicoi County football fans will see a new and improved Gentry Stadium when they visit the field for the Blue Devils’ home opener on Friday, Aug. 25.

“We are very, very thankful,” head coach Drew Rice said. “They have done great work.”

The “they” Rice referred to are the inmates of the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department (UCSD) work program.

“Sheriff Mike Hensley and Director of Schools John English teamed up for this project,” UCSD Administrative Assistant Craig Masters said. “We are doing this for the school system and the whole county. I am thankful we have leaders who will let us do things like this. The inmates enjoy it and are able to use their skills. They are also able to learn new skills they can use when they are released from custody. This work helps them in the future.”

Work done by the inmates at the stadium included cleaning and painting.

“This saves the school system a lot of money,” Hensley said.

The UCHS football program is happy with the work.

“They have been a huge help. This a big place up here,” Rice said. “There is a lot to maintain. All these metal roofs needed painting and they came in and painted them for us. The gate is the big thing people will notice. They repainted all of it. We have a new sign coming in the middle there. Those guys have done an awesome job. Our community can really take pride in this place.”

The Unicoi County School System is also pleased.

“We are very appreciative of the commitment they made and the work they have done to beautify Gentry Stadium,” English said. “For the fans who come here on Friday nights and the kids who play here, Gentry Stadium is a special place. All the work they have put in makes it even more beautiful and makes it even more welcoming to fans on Friday night or those who come to any other event at Gentry Stadium. A lot of our community will come here for different reasons throughout the year. We appreciate Sheriff Hensley, Craig and all the work of the inmates.”

Rice ‘pleased’ with scrimmage

By Keeli Parkey

With less than a month to go before the kickoff of the 2017 season, the Unicoi County High School varsity football team participated in their first preseason scrimmage last week at Volunteer.

“They went 5-5 last year and beat some good teams, including Sullivan South and Northview,” Blue Devil head coach Drew Rice told The Erwin Record. “We thought it would be a good test for us. We truly feel like Volunteer is as good as anyone on our schedule; that’s why we scrimmaged them. They are a good measuring stick for us. Overall, we were pleased.”

The Blue Devil offense got off to a fast start against the Falcons on Thursday, July 27, marching down the field to score on their first possession.

“In the first scrimmage you never know what to expect,” Rice said. “We came out on our first drive and scored in four plays. Brett (Strother) had a couple good runs to get us down the field, then he hit Troy (Podvin) on about a 40-yard touchdown pass. It was good for Troy to have success early.”

Rice said the coaching staff was also pleased with the way the Blue Devil defense performed against the Falcons.

“We did some good things defensively,” he added. “Overall, we were very pleased.”

Being able to run the football and stop the opponent’s running game was an emphasis this offseason for the Blue Devils, Rice previously said. In order to do this, the team spent much of the offseason in the weight room. The team saw their efforts pay off during last week’s scrimmage.

“Our focus has been stopping the run and we did that,” Rice said. “We were pleased about that. The big thing about scrimmages is coming out healthy and seeing what you need to work on. For us, to run the ball the way we did and stop the run the way we did was very, very good to see.

“We obviously saw some things we need to work on, but that is what scrimmages are for. I’d rather be working on those things in July than sitting there the Saturday after the South Greene game and wishing we had got it worked out.”

Rice said the Blue Devils are treating the week of July 31 as a typical game week. This week of practice will culminate with a scrimmage at Gentry Stadium in Erwin on Friday, Aug. 4, at 6 p.m. They are also scheduled to travel to North Buncombe for a scrimmage on Wednesday, Aug. 9.

The Blue Devils will open the 2017 season on Aug. 18 at South Greene. They will play their first game at Gentry Stadium on Aug. 25 when they host Sullivan East.

Season tickets are currently on sale for $25 at the high school. For more information, call 743-1632.

Blue Devils travel for 7-on-7 scrimmages

The Blue Devil football team recently traveled to Sullivan North and Elizabethton for 7-on-7 competitions. (Erwin Record Staff Photos by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School football team is one week closer to its Aug. 18 season opener and head coach Drew Rice is happy about what his Blue Devils are showing him.

The team traveled to Sullivan North on Tuesday, July 11, and Elizabethton on Thursday, July 13, for 7-on-7 competitions.

“I am really pleased with how we did,” Rice told The Erwin Record. “7-on-7 is what it is. We don’t put too much emphasis on it because it is really only half the game – if that. You don’t have pads on. You’re not blocking and you’re not tackling. But, we work on what we want to do and we were pleased with what we did.”

Attending the competition at North were Daniel Boone, Sullivan South, Volunteer, Trinity Christian and North. At Elizabethton, the Blue Devils saw Dobyns-Bennett, Cherokee, David Crockett, Happy Valley, West Greene, Union (Va.) and Elizabethton.

“We went against some good competition,” Rice said. “It was good for our guys to get to work on what we want to do against those teams.”

Both days gave new quarterback junior Brett Strother a chance to show what he can do, Rice said.

“Brett played well both nights,” Rice added. “We were really pleased with how he threw it and his decision making. He did a really good job of running the offense.”

At North two new additions to the team – Austin O’Dell and Matthew Hatcher – made their presences known.

“Both of them had good nights,” Rice said. “I would say between the two of them, they had 12 or 15 catches. For guys who just came out that was really good to see.”

Troy Podvin – another new player – had a good showing at Elizabethton.

“We were really pleased with what we saw in Troy,” Rice said. “He really gave the defensive backs we were going against a lot of trouble.”

Rice said another threat on the outside will be Trevor Hensley, who is also joining the squad for the first time. Hensley missed last week’s competitions in order to compete in a basketball tournament.

“We know what Trevor can do,” Rice said. “We are excited to have him and all the new guys with us.”

Also taking snaps for the Blue Devils was freshman quarterback Brock Thompson.

“We put him in there with the starters a lot,” Rice said. “We were really pleased with how he came in and threw against varsity defenses. It was impressive, actually. For a freshman to come in and march us down the field is really good. Obviously, Brett is our guy, but we are excited about what Brock can do for us; he has a bright future.”

Rice said he was also happy with what he saw from the Blue Devil pass defense. Senior Bradley Edwards and sophomore Tanner Vanhoy turned in solid performances last week.

“We saw some things we need to work on, but overall we were really pleased,” Rice added.

The Blue Devils are going to helmets and shoulder pads this week, which began on Monday, July 17.

“Practice will be tough,” Rice said. “We are going to worry about us and really put the pedal down. This week is going to be a grind for them and it should be. These linemen are ready to start hitting someone and we are excited about that.”

Practice in full pads will begin on July 24. During that week the team will travel to Volunteer for a scrimmage on July 27. They will host a scrimmage against Cosby on Aug. 4 and compete at North Buncombe on Aug. 9.

“After that, it’s game week,” Rice previously said. “We are really pleased with our offseason. We have spent tons and tons of time at work. The commitment out of the guys has been great. We are excited to see what they can do.”

The Blue Devils will open the 2017 season on Aug. 18 at South Greene. They will play their first game at Gentry Stadium on Aug. 25 when they host Sullivan East.

Season tickets are currently on sale for $25 at the high school. For more information, call 743-1632.

Final county all-star teams eliminated

Shortstop Chris Chavez catches the ball as a Jonesborough player steals second base during District 5 tournament action. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The postseason has come to an end for all of the Unicoi County Little League all-star teams.

Playing for the first time since they won the District 5 tournament last month, the 10-12 year-old softball all-stars faced Dickson County on Saturday, July 15, in Greeneville in the Tennessee state tournament.

Dickson County got the best of the Lady Devils, earning an 11-0 win and sending Unicoi County’s team to the losers’ bracket.

The Lady Devils bounced back on Sunday with a 14-2 win over Grainger County. The team was then eliminated from the state tournament with a 4-1 loss to Morristown.

Unicoi County finished in third place in the state.

• • •

The 10-12 year-old baseball all-stars saw their postseason come to an end on a walkoff home run.

Facing Jonesborough at Johnson City National in the opening round of the District 5 tournament on Saturday, the Blue Devils found themselves holding a 6-4 lead in the bottom half of the sixth and final inning. Jonesborough brought one run across, cutting the lead to one run, then a three-run home run gave the Washington County team an 8-5 victory.

The loss, which was the Blue Devils’ second of the postseason, eliminated Unicoi County from the tournament.

Jonesborough went on to lose to Johnson City American – the eventual district champion.

The Blue Devils made it to the district after advancing out of zone 1. They opened their postseason on July 10 against Johnson City Major at Daniel Boone Little League in Gray and earned a 13-8 victory to advance in the tournament.

Daniel Boone gave this Unicoi County team its first loss on July 11 and sent the Blue Devils to the losers’ bracket. On July 12, the Blue Devils defeated Johnson City Major again, which set up a rematch with Boone on July 13. In a game where the winner went on to the district and the loser went home, the Blue Devils earned an excited 14-12 victory, which set up the game against Jonesborough on Saturday.

Devils begin practice after busy offseason

Head coach Drew Rice instructs players during the Blue Devils’ first day of practice on Monday, July 10. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The lights at Gentry Stadium haven’t been turned on for the 2017 season yet, but that hasn’t kept the Unicoi County High School football team from taking the field.

The Blue Devils, under the direction of head coach Drew Rice, officially started practice on Monday, July 10, in preparation for their upcoming campaign. This, however, is just another day of work in what has been months and months of effort.

“The way football has evolved, it has really become a year-long commitment with training and lifting and other things,” Rice, who is entering his first full season at the held of the UCHS program, told The Erwin Record.

The Blue Devils ended last season with an overall record of 5-6. The team advanced to the first round of the 3A playoffs where they were defeated by the eventual state champion Alcoa Tornadoes.

Following the end of the 2016 season, Rice said he and his fellow coaches identified where the squad needed to improve and focused their offseason schedule on those facets of the game. A major focus for the team has been running the ball and defending the run, according to the head coach.

During the 2016 season, the Blue Devils gained 2,112 total yards in the air, while giving up 1,063 to their opponents. However, on the ground the Blue Devils had only 1,056 total yards, while giving up a total of 2,261.

“We had a lot of success throwing the ball last season, but I felt like we struggled to run the ball effectively,” Rice said. “We had some success, but not like we wanted. We also had trouble stopping the run.

“We want to keep our passing game successful, but for us to be where we want to be we have to be able to run the football and we have to be able to stop the run. Most teams in our league that is what they do – run the football. To run the football effectively and to stop the run, we had to get stronger.”

The Blue Devils went to work in January.

“We started and we have worked five days a week since then, except for the recent dead period,” Rice said. “We haven’t just been lifting. We have worked on flexibility and agility and have been working on our speed.

“We have gotten a lot stronger for sure, but our greatest gains have been with our speed. We’ve tested the players four times – in December, in February, in April and in June – with our lifting and with our speed. Our team growth has been great. In December we had six guys who ran a 40 in 5 seconds. In June we had 19. Our weight room numbers have really went up.”

Rice credited those gains to the hiring of Mark Peterson as the team’s strength and conditioning coordinator. Peterson will also be the running back coach during the season.

“It has been huge to have someone on staff who is dedicated to getting us bigger, faster and stronger as a football team,” Rice said. “That was tons of help.”

The Blue Devils participated in spring practice during the first two weeks of May. This portion of their offseason work culminated with a scrimmage against Cosby.

“We had a great showing,” Rice said of the scrimmage. “Our defense played lights out. We didn’t give up a touchdown.”

Since spring practice, the team has been working out five days per week.

“We transitioned into conditioning after spring practice,” Rice said.

The Blue Devils also worked on their passing game prior to the recent dead period.

“We threw some in June,” Rice said. “We worked on putting in our offense and our defense. June was great.”

The Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA) does not permit practices or scrimmages during the week prior to and the week of July 4. This gave the Blue Devils a break before they returned to work on Monday with approximately 60 players on the roster.

“We have tried to make our offseason so hard in order to get guys committed and invested,” Rice said. “When you have been working five days a week since January, it’s hard to quit. We are excited about the guys who have been here. We think they have bought in and are ready to roll.”

The Blue Devils will participate in two 7-on-7 competitions this week. The first was held at Sullivan North on Tuesday, July 11, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline; the second will begin at 5 p.m. at Elizabethton on Thursday, July 13.

“We are looking to see what our guys can do, especially the guys who are playing for the first time or haven’t played in a few years,” Rice said of the 7-on-7 competitions.

Beginning on July 17, the players will go don helmets and shoulder pads for practice.

“We will really start to ramp up the football portion then,” Rice said. “We will work on blocking technique and tackling technique. It will be a tough week. We will find out who wants to be there and who’s for real about it. It’s exciting.”

Practice in full pads will begin on July 24. During that week the team will travel to Volunteer for a scrimmage on July 27. They will host a scrimmage against Cosby on Aug. 4 and compete at North Buncombe on Aug. 9.

“After that, it’s game week,” Rice said. “We are really pleased with our offseason. We have spent tons and tons of time at work. The commitment out of the guys has been great. We are excited to see what they can do.”

The Blue Devils will open the 2017 season on Aug. 18 at South Greene. They will play their first game at Gentry Stadium on Aug. 25 when they host Sullivan East.

Season tickets are currently on sale for $25 at the high school. For more information, call 743-1632.

UCHS football program plans flag league

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School football program is inviting boys in third, fourth and fifth grades to play in a new league this summer.

“It is an exciting time for Unicoi County football,” head coach Drew Rice said. “We are announcing the creation of our new flag football league backed by the National Football League’s flag football program. These players will have the opportunity to play in an official NFL jersey with classmates from across the county.”

Rice said tryouts will be held on Saturday, July 29. Practice will begin on Monday, Aug. 1, with games starting on Thursday, Aug. 17.

“Teams will play at least five games and have a playoff leading up to the Blue Devil Bowl to be played on Sept. 28,” Rice said. “All games will be played at Gentry Stadium and the entire season will be completed by the beginning of fall break.”

Rice described the new league as “a top priority for our football program as a whole.”

“We believe that for our high school team to be successful, we must begin cultivating well rounded football players at the elementary age,” Rice said. “This league, which is fully backed by both Unicoi County schools and the National Football League, plans to be the first step in a very successful football career for these young athletes.”

The cost of the league, which includes a reversible jersey, flags and player/parent membership in USA Football, is $40. Players should register online at https://www.nflflag.com/form/player (where they should select Tennessee/Unicoi County Football League). Checks should be made payable to UCFL and mailed to Unicoi County Middle School Attention: Coach Hensley, 599 S. Mohawk Dr., Erwin, TN 37650.

For more information, contact Rice at 743-1632 or ricea@unicoischools.com or contact assistant coach Jason Hensley at 735-0236 or hensleyj@unicoischools.com.

One all-star team eliminated, another begins play

The 10-12 year-old Unicoi County baseball all-star team includes, pictured from left, back row, coach Aaron Banner, coach Paul Green and coach Todd Hopson; middle row, Caleb Pelaez, Chris Chavez, Alex Green, Lucas Slagle, Blake Edney, Logan Groom and Ryder Casey; front row, Connor Banner, Cody Rainbolt, Dylan Cerezo, Seth Hopson, Jordan Grindstaff and Nicky Slatterly; not pictured, coach Donnie Slagle. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

And then there were two.

Of the five all-star teams representing Unicoi County Little League this summer, three have been eliminated from tournament play. Left standing are the 10-12 year-old baseball and softball teams.

The 10-12 year-old Blue Devils opened their postseason on Monday, July 10, against Johnson City Major at Daniel Boone Little League in Gray. Coached by Paul Green, the team earned a 13-8 victory to advance in the tournament.

With the win, the Blue Devils moved on to face Daniel Boone on Tuesday, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline. Win or lose on Tuesday, the team will play on Wednesday, July 12.

• • •

Thanks to a District 5 championship, the 10-12 year-old softball all-stars advanced to the state tournament.

The Lady Devils are scheduled to play in the state tournament on Saturday, July 15, at 1 p.m. against Dickson County. The tournament will be played at the Hardin Park Old Fields in Greeneville.

• • •

The 6-8 year-old baseball team was eliminated from their District 5 tournament with an 11-3 loss to Jonesborough in the District 5 tournament on Thursday, July 6.

This team opened zone 1 play on July 2 in Erwin with an 8-5 win over Johnson City Major. On Monday, July 3, the team lost to Jonesborough, 14-11, sending the Blue Devils to the losers’ bracket of zone play and advancing Jonesborough to the District 5 tournament.

On July 4, the Blue Devils defeated Johnson City Major again, this time by the score of 9-8, to advance to the district tournament. In their first district game, the Blue Devils defeated Daniel Boone, 14-13, on July 5, setting up a rematch with Jonesborough the following day.

Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, this game went the same as the previous one as Jonesborough bested Unicoi County, 11-3. The loss eliminated the Blue Devils from postseason play.

Johnson City American later defeated Jonesborough to win the tournament and advance to state.

• • •

The 6-8 year-old softball team and 8-10 year-old baseball team were eliminated last month.

Little League all-star action continues

By Keeli Parkey

Avery Hatcher slides into home plate during the Unicoi County 6-8 year-old all-star baseball team’s victory on Sunday, July 2. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Some of Unicoi County Little League’s all-star teams participated in postseason play last week. Two teams were eliminated from their respective tournaments while another team won its first game.

After opening their District 5 tournament in Erwin with a victory over Bristol on Sunday, June 25, the 6-8 year-old softball all-stars fell to Boone – the eventual tournament champion – the following day.

The Lady Devils next faced Bristol in the losers’ bracket. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t pull out a win, losing a close 17-16 decision on Thursday, June 27.

Bristol went on to face Boone in the championship round, but lost 15-9. With the victory, Boone advanced to the state tournament.

• • •

The Unicoi County 8-10 year-old baseball all-stars advanced out of zone 2 play to compete in their District 5 tournament.

The Blue Devils opened zone play with an 11-1 loss to JC American on Saturday, June 24, at Daniel Boone Little League in Gray.

The loss sent the team to the losers’ bracket where they faced Boone on Monday, June 26. In a game where it was win or go home, the Blue Devils claimed a decisive 12-2 victory to advance to the District 5 tournament.

In the district, the Blue Devils defeated Johnson City Major on Wednesday, June 28. The next day they faced zone 1 champions Johnson City National. Despite battling hard, the Blue Devils lost a very close 16-14 game. The loss eliminated them from postseason play.

Johnson City National went on to face Johnson City American in the championship round. American won the district title.

• • •

The 6-8 year-old baseball all-stars, coached by Josh Jones, opened zone 1 play on Sunday, July 3, in Erwin.

The Blue Devils found themselves in a 1-1 tie with Johnson City Major before they took a 3-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning. Major then responded, tying the game at 3 in the home half of the inning. Major would later take a 5-3 lead over the Blue Devils.

The Blue Devils later bounced back with a 5-run inning to win the game, 8-5.

The win set up a game against Jonesborough on Monday, July 3, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.

With a win, the Blue Devils advanced to the District 5 tournament; a defeat sent them to the losers’ bracket where they will play in a win-or-go-home game on Tuesday, July 4. A loss on July 4 will end the postseason; a win advances them to the district tournament.

The district tournament will be played in Erwin and begin on Wednesday, July 5.

• • •

The 10-12 year-old baseball all-stars, coached by Paul Green, will play in zone 1 of their district tournament beginning July 10 at Daniel Boone. They are scheduled to open zone play on that day at 6 p.m. against Johnson City Major.

With a win, they will play Daniel Boone at 6 p.m. on July 11; a loss will send them to the losers’ bracket where they will play at 8:30 p.m. on July 11.

• • •

Thanks to a District 5 championship, the 10-12 year-old softball all-stars advanced to the state tournament.

The Lady Devils are scheduled to play in the state tournament on Saturday, July 15, against an opponent from District 9. The tournament will be played at the Hardin Park Old Fields in Greeneville.

All-Star softball team earns state berth

The 10-12 year-old Unicoi County softball all-star team won the District 5 tournament and qualified for the state tournament. The team includes, pictured from left, back row, coach Terry Higgins, Kendell Gouge, Jimena Rodriguez, Teagan Ray, Adrianna Richardson, Cami Peterson, coach Wendy Ray and coach Tony Ray; front row, Leia Richardson, Betsabe Chavez, Kynzie Jones, Katlyn Nelson, Hope Shelton, Peyton Higgins, Meredith Garland, Skylar Tipton and Sierra Franklin. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

A Unicoi County softball team is state bound.

Back-to-back victories over Bristol last week gave the 10-12 year-old softball all-star team a District 5 championship and a berth in next month’s state tournament.

The Lady Devils defeated Bristol’s all-stars,12-2, in Erwin on Friday, June 23. Being the only two competitors in the tournament, the teams squared off again immediately after. The Lady Devils came out victorious again, this time by a 10-2 margin.

The Unicoi County team is scheduled to play in the state tournament on Saturday, July 15, against an opponent from District 9. The tournament will be played at the Hardin Park Old Fields in Greeneville.

• • •

The Unicoi County 8-10 year-old baseball all-stars advanced out of zone 2 play to compete in their District 5 tournament.

The Blue Devils opened zone play with an 11-1 loss to JC American on Saturday, June 24, at Daniel Boone Little League in Gray.

The loss sent the team to the losers’ bracket where they faced Boone on Monday, June 26. In a game where it was win or go home, the Blue Devils claimed a decisive 12-2 victory to advance to the District 5 tournament. They will play in the opening round on Wednesday, June 28, at 8:30 p.m. at Johnson City National Little League.

With a win on Wednesday, they will play on Thursday, June 29, at 7 p.m.

JC American won zone 2 and JC National won zone 1.

• • •

Another Lady Devil softball all-star team represented Unicoi County last week.

The 6-8 year-old softball all-stars defeated Bristol, 15-14, on Sunday, June 25, at Unicoi County Little League, but lost to Boone on Monday, June 26.

The loss dropped these Lady Devils to the tournament’s losers’ bracket where they played on Tuesday, June 27, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline. A loss on Tuesday ended the postseason for the team; a win set up a rematch with Boone for the district title on Wednesday, June 28, at 7 p.m.

• • •

The 6-8 year-old baseball all-stars, coached by Josh Jones, will play in zone 1 of their district tournament at Unicoi County Little League in Erwin beginning Sunday, July 2. These Blue Devils will open the tournament at 2 p.m. against the winner of the Bristol/JC Major game played on July 1.

A win on July 2 will advance the team to face the winner of the JC National/Jonesborough matchup on Monday, July 3, at 6 p.m. A win in this game would advance the Blue Devils to their district tournament.

A loss on July 2 sends the team to the losers’ bracket where they will play at 4 p.m. on July 2. Another loss would eliminate the team. A win advances them in the losers’ bracket to play at 8 p.m. on July 3.

• • •

The 10-12 year-old baseball all-stars, coached by Paul Green, will play in zone 1 of their district tournament beginning July 10 at Daniel Boone. They will open zone play on that day at 6 p.m. against Johnson City Major.

With a win, they will play Daniel Boone at 6 p.m. on July 11; a loss will send them to the losers’ bracket where they will play at 8:30 p.m. on July 11.

Registration open for annual Triple Threat

From Staff Reports

Erwin will once again be the site of a unique obstacle course for fitness enthusiasts when the 3rd Annual Nolichucky Triple Threat takes place in August.

Coordinated by the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce, the event is designed to challenge the most enthusiastic competitor.

“This is the only event of its kind that begins on the churning whitewater of the Nolichucky River and finishes with a trail run just steps from the acclaimed Appalachian Trail,” Chamber Executive Director Amanda Delp told The Erwin Record. “With the growing popularity of obstacle course racing challenges across the country, two years ago the Chamber of Commerce saw a unique opportunity to coordinate the Nolichucky Triple Threat in Erwin. The Chamber’s initial vision for this event was to create a competitive adventure like no other that would utilize and showcase the county’s two major recreational anchors – the Nolichucky River and the Appalachian Trail.”

The 2017 staging of the Triple Threat will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26, at USA Raft where participants will enter the Nolichucky River.

Using the watercraft of their choice, including either a raft, kayak or bellyak, racers will travel 1.5 miles down the river before exiting and beginning the obstacle course and timed section of the race.

“Whether peddling or paddling, participants are sure to have an adventure,” Delp said.

After crossing the starting line for the course, races will face obstacles designed to challenge their strength and agility. Delp said these obstacles include a sand crawl under barbed wire, water walk through, balance beam, monkey bars, tire drag and much more.

After the obstacle course, the Triple Threat continues with a 5K run back to USA Raft.

“Racers will run on Temple Hill Road to River Road where they will race alongside the Nolichucky River for a section of the race,” Delp said. “Then for the last steps of the race, participants will battle trail terrain where they will complete the run back to their final obstacle before crossing the finish line.”

Registration for the Nolichucky Triple Threat is now open. The first 25 registered participants will receive a 2017 “I Am Training Nolichucky Style” T-shirt.

Until July 30 the entry fee is $55; from July 31 through Aug. 25 the fee is $65; day of race registration is $85.

For more information about the Nolichucky Triple Threat, call the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce at 743-3000 or visit the website at www.nolitriplethreat.com. Registration is available online.

Blue Devils, Lady Devils earn awards

By Keeli Parkey

Several Unicoi County High School athletes were recently recognized for their performances during the 2017 spring sports season.

For the Blue Devil baseball team, senior Shaddon Peavyhouse was named the Three Rivers Conference player of the year. He was also named to the District 1-AA all-tournament team.

Seniors Nick Fender and Dylan Putman, as well as juniors Troy Podvin, Owen Nicholson and Clay Simpson were awarded all-conference honors.

Head coach Chad Gillis was named coach of the year.

The Blue Devil baseball team won the Three Rivers Conference regular season title and finished with an overall record of 18-15 and a conference record of 9-3. The season came to an end in the district tournament.

• • •

From the Lady Devil softball team, senior Neelee Griffith was chosen as the Three Rivers Conference player of the year. Junior pitcher Halie Padgett was chosen as the conference’s co-pitcher of the year.

Named to the all-conference team were seniors Keelie Hall and Savannah Lafever, juniors Rylie Stiltner and Tanya Chavez and sophomore Halie Hawkins.

Senior Hannah Bowen joined Hawkins, Griffith and Padgett on the District 1-AA all-tournament team.

The Lady Devils won the conference regular season championship, finished in second place in the district tournament and second in the Region 1-AA tournament. Their season came to an end with a loss to Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK) in the substate round.

The UCHS softball team finished the season with an overall record of 33-14 and a conference record of 12-1.

• • •

The Blue Devil soccer team was well-represented on the All-District 1-A/AA team.

Senior Jose Ortiz was named the league’s offensive player of the year and senior Christian Leon was the league’s defensive player of the year.

Joining Ortiz and Leon on the all-district team was senior Sam Murillo and juniors Daniel Meza and Chris Andrade.

The Blue Devils posted an overall record of 12-7-1 and a league record of 7-2-1. In just its second season in existence, the team won the District 1-A/AA championship and finished in second place in the Region 1-A/AA tournament. The season came to an end with a loss to CAK in the substate round.

• • •

For the UCHS track and field program, senior Stephanie Wisse earned the Three Rivers Conference most valuable runner award thanks to her first-place finishes in four events –  the 100-meter dash, 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles and 200-meter dash.

Wisse competed at the TSSAA state meet and won four medals – second place in the pentathlon, third place in the 100-meter hurdles, fourth in the 100-meter dash and fifth in the 300-meter hurdles.

Also representing UCHS at the state meet were senior pole vaulter Andrew Bowen and sophomore pole vaulter Halie Hawkins, who pulled double-duty this spring, competing with the track and softball programs.

Bowen won sixth and Hawkins finished in a tie for fourth place in the state pole vault.

TFWC sets 2017-18 hunting seasons

From Staff Reports

The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission (TFWC) established the state’s 2017-18 hunting and trapping seasons at its May meeting which took place on the campus of Bryan College.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) staff had recommended few changes to the 2017-18 regulations during its season’s preview held at the April meeting.

The TFWC voted to increase the total number of elk hunt permits from 11 to 15 and increase the three hunt segments to seven days each. This will include seven archery permits, seven for gun (which includes the auctioned permit), and one youth permit.

The archery only elk hunt was increased from five to seven days and will be held beginning the last Saturday of September. The dates are Sept. 30 through Oct. 6.

The gun season hunt, with its increase of two days from previous years, will be held Oct. 14-20, 2017. Similar to last year, all hunt permits are valid on the North Cumberland WMA and can also be used on private lands (with landowner permission) within the Elk Restoration Zone in Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Morgan and Scott counties.

The Young Sportsman hunt was previously a two-day weekend hunt and increases to seven days. It begins Oct. 7 and continues through Oct. 13.

No changes were made to the deer and turkey hunting seasons, limits and regulations though there was considerable discussion on the definition of antlered deer and turkey daily bag limits.

There were also no changes to the bear hunting dates but standardized bear seasons language was adopted. There were no changes to the furbearer proclamation other than removing some antiquated language in the proclamation regarding fox hunting.

Some slight changes were made requiring hunters to check in their big game animals prior to gifting an animal to another person and prior to a big game animal leaving Tennessee.

Due to removal of some language in a state law, the commission will now have more authority in determining the type, placement and inspection of traps utilized in furbearer trapping. All traps approved implement accepted Best Management Practices.

Various minor changes to several WMAs were made across the state. They will be posted soon on TWRA’s website.

The commission also discussed a few fishing topics. Upper Chilhowee Reservoir has been closed to fishing during a dam maintenance project for about two years. The TFWC voted to amend the current sport fish proclamation opening Chilhowee Reservoir to fishing upon notification from Brookfield Renewable, which is the company that operates the dam. The TWRA will make a formal announcement on the date in the coming months.

The commission passed a rule in regard to commercial fishing and wholesale fish dealers. This rule addresses commercial fishing licenses, permits, and reporting requirements.  Passage of this rule will not change these licenses or requirements as currently found in the proclamation. This rule also creates a new process to sell available resident commercial roe fish permits. When available, TWRA will announce a live drawing for eligible commercial fishers.    

In another housekeeping item, the commission passed a rule in regard to commercial musseling. This rule addresses commercial mussel licenses, mussel fees, and importation and exportation procedures. Passage of this rule will not change licenses, fees or procedures as currently found in proclamation.

Former commissioner David Watson was recognized at the meeting. The Lookout Mountain resident had been elected as the TFWC vice chairman in February, but resigned from the commission due to health reasons.

Members of the Birchwood Area Society Improvement Council were recognized for their assistance. The TWRA and the council have worked together the past 26 years to host the annual Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival.

TWRA Boating and Law Enforcement Cpt. Matt Majors gave a report on the TWRA Honor Guard. The Honor Guard, formed in 2013, provides 3-tiered service to the fallen, ceremonial services, and assistance/support to other conservation law agencies. The TWRA Honor Guard recently participated in the National Police Week in Washington, D.C., which thousands of officers from around the world participate.

Brandt Information Services representatives presented details for a digital marketing proposal. Brandt became the agency’s new license vendor last Oct. 31. Sportsmen now have the opportunity to purchase a new collectible hard card with revenue being used to invest in the marketing program.

Jennifer Wisniewski, the Georgia Department of marketing and communications director, gave a presentation on her Email marketing experience in her state. She explained the benefits, which includes the license sales increases that Georgia has enjoyed.

Athletes compete at state meet

Pictured, from left, Stephanie Wisse, Andrew Bowen and Halie Hawkins with the medals they won during the TSSAA state track meet held in Murfreesboro last week. (Photo contributed by Daniela Martinez)

By Keeli Parkey

Only three Unicoi County athletes represented their high school at last week’s state tournament competitions – and they represented their school well.

Senior track and field athletes Stephanie Wisse and Andrew Bowen and sophomore Halie Hawkins competed at the TSSAA state track meet at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro last week and returned home with medals around their necks.

Wisse, a Milligan College-signee, competed in the pentathlon on May 22 and in individual events on May 25. This was Wisse’s first season competing in the pentathlon, a competition made up of five events – the 100-meter hurdles, long jump, high jump, shot put and 800-meter run – designed to test an athlete’s endurance, skill and will to compete.

“Coming out of the first event – the 100-meter hurdles – Stephanie was in second place,” head UCHS track coach Megan Davis told The Erwin Record. “She went into the field events after that. Following the long jump, high jump and shot put, Stephanie was in third place, but she had put herself in a good position going into the 800-meter race, which was the last event of the competition.”

Wisse rose to the challenge in the 800-meter, according to Davis.

“Before the race coach (Thad) Higgins and I talked to her about her running her individual best in the 800,” Davis said. “Competing in the pentathlon is a long, tiring day for the girls and Stephanie gave it her all.”

Thanks to her performance in the 800-meter race, Wisse jumped a spot and won second place in the pentathlon behind Lennox Walker from the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences.

A few days after the pentathlon, Wisse was back in Murfressboro to compete in three additional individual events – the 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles and 100-meter dash.

“It was a long week for her,” Davis said. “Competing in that many events is hard to wrap your mind around.”

Again, Wisse rose to the challenge, finishing in the top-5 in all three events. She took third place in the 100-meter hurdles, fourth in the 100-meter dash and fifth in the 300-meter hurdles.

“In every event Stephanie performed well,” Davis said.

The state meet isn’t the end for Wisse. She has more competition ahead of her.

“Milligan is going to be happy to get her,” Davis said. “I am excited for her future. The way she ended her career for Unicoi County sets a precedent for our track program. She put a lot of work in for four years.”

Bowen competed in the pole vault on May 26 and Hawkins competed in the pole vault on May 25.

“Both of them competed very well at sectionals before the state tournament,” Davis said, “and they represented UCHS track very well at state.”

Bowen ended his career on a high note, taking sixth place in the state pole vault competition with a vault of 11’-6”.

“Andrew really competed well,” Davis said. “He has been a very gifted vaulter for us during his career. He put a lot of work into pole vaulting, so to end his high school career with a state berth and medal is great.”

In just her first season as a vaulter, Hawkins finished in a tie for fourth place at the state meet.

“Halie finished with a vault of 8-feet,” Davis said. “It wasn’t her highest vault, but her mechanics and coachability mean she has a bright future ahead. This was a huge accomplishment for her.”

Wisse, Bowen and Hawkins represented UCHS well last week, according to their head coach.

“With their performances during the meet they showed what Unicoi County is made of,” Davis said. “I am proud of what they accomplished.”

Tennis teams end seasons, recognize players

The UCHS tennis program recently honored its players for their hard work this season. Pictured, from left, are Ben Hensley, Trey Hatcher, Trent Treadway, Noah Starnes, Brandolyn Thomas, Chase Erwin, Carson Moore, Katherine Altemose, Abbie Hensley, Natalia Hernandez, Winter Day-Honeycutt, Katlyn Higgins and Taylor Thomas; not pictured Aaron Manzanares and Daniel Campbell. (Contributed photo)

By Keeli Parkey

The 2017 season recently came to an end for the Unicoi County High School tennis teams. Blue Devils and Lady Devils played their final matches of the season in the District 1-A/AA tournament earlier this month.

For the Blue Devils, senior Trent Treadway advanced to the semifinals in the singles tournament, defeating South Greene’s Aiden Stills in the first round and Elizabethton’s Laken Barnett in the second round. A loss to Sullivan South’s Nate Barrett in the semifinals eliminated Treadway from the tournament.

Sophomore Ben Hensley also represented UCHS in the district tournament, losing to Jullian Hill of Sullivan North in the first round.

The UCHS doubles teams of juniors Chase Erwin/Daniel Campbell and juniors Trey Hatcher/Noah Starnes also competed in the district. Erwin and Campbell won their first round match, defeating Sullivan North’s Cox/McAmis team. Erwin and Campbell were eliminated from the tournament with a loss to the Sullivan South team of Manis/Carter in the second round.

Hatcher and Starnes also won their first round match, defeating Ferguson/Jones from North Greene, and lost their second round match. The team of Brown/Crum from South Greene defeated Hatcher and Starnes in the second round.

“I was really proud of the way the boys team performed this year,” head coach Karla Keesecker said. “They worked hard and improved their game all season long. Even though we came up a little short in a few matches, they all competed well.”

***

Representing the Lady Devils in the district singles tournament was sophomore Taylor Thomas and freshman Katlyn Higgins. Thomas was defeated by Sullivan South’s Heather Sanders, the tournament’s top seed. Higgins lost to South’s Courtney Gibson.

In the doubles tournament, the Lady Devil team made of juniors Winter Day-Honeycutt and Abby Hensley lost to Sullivan East’s Nelson/Murray, the top team in the tournament. Also in doubles, the Lady Devil team of junior Carson Moore and sophomore Katherine Altemose lost to Johnson County’s May/Henson.

“The girls had a tough season this year,” Keesecker said. “They are a great group of girls to work with and I’m sure they will continue to work hard and improve.”

***

Following the conclusion of the season, the Blue Devils and Lady Devils recognized players receiving awards from the conference and from their team.

For the Blue Devils, both Treadway and Erwin received all-conference awards. Treadway also received the team’s Blue Devil Award.

“Trent had a good season,” Keesecker said. “He played really well as the number one seed. He was a great role model for the team and I am proud of the way he performed this year, which is why he received our Blue Devil Award as well. Trent was our only senior this year.  He has been a great leader and role model for the boys’ team. He was always an encouragement and an excellent competitor. We will miss him.

“Chase had a great season this year,” Keesecker continued. “He played some long, tough singles matches and won some key matches for us during the season. I was really proud of his work ethic and  the way he competed.”

Hensley was named the boys’ Best Singles Player.

“This was Ben’s first year on the tennis team and he did an excellent job,” Keesecker said. “He finished the season with a 4-5 record. He won some great singles matches and lead the team to victory on several occasions. I was proud of how Ben improved and competed this season.”

Hatcher and Starnes were named the Blue Devils Best Doubles Team.

“This was Trey and Noah’s first year on the tennis team,” Keesecker said. “They did a wonderful job working on their game all season long and played some great doubles matches that went down to the wire and they had some great down from behind comebacks. They worked hard and competed well during the entire season.”

Sophomore Aaron Manzanares was recognized as the team’s Most Improved Player.

“I am so proud of Aaron this season,” Keesecker said. “He has worked so hard to improve and he has exceeded every expectation. He played some great matches this season in doubles with Ben Hensley and won a very important singles match at Sullivan East to help the team have a chance to win the overall match. He has worked hard and I look forward to his continued success.”

Keesecker also praised Campbell’s contributions to the team this season.

“I would also like mention Daniel Campbell who attends University High, but plays for UCHS,” she added. “Daniel had a great season as well. He was the key in our win against Sullivan Central and Sullivan North. He worked hard during the off season and was a great competitor during the season.”

Receiving all-conference honors for the Lady Devils were Day-Honeycutt and Thomas. Thomas was also chosen as the team’s Best Singles Player.

“Winter has worked extremely hard on her tennis game,” Keesecker said. “She continues to improve. I thought she did well especially since she went from the number 5 seed last year to the number 1 seed this year. She played some tough competition but was able to compete well.  I’m looking forward to her continued success.

“Taylor Thomas had an excellent season,” Keesecker added. “She competed well and worked hard. She did an excellent job in her matches and won a great match against Sullivan Central where she was down from behind and came back to win. I’m looking forward to her continued improvement.”

Moore and Altemose were named the girls’ Best Doubles Team. Altemose also received the Blue Devil Award.

“Carson and Katherine played some good doubles matches this year,” Keesecker said. “Including a great win against Sullivan North.

“Katherine went above and beyond this season,” she continued. “She has an excellent work ethic and attitude. She is a great role model for the team on and off the court. She always does her best in every match and has excellent sportsmanship. I’m looking forward to her continued success.”

Brandolyn Honeycutt was chosen as the Lady Devils’ Most Improved Player.

“Brandolyn played her first season of tennis this year,” Keesecker said. “I was very proud of Brandolyn’s work ethic and attitude. She did an amazing job this season. She worked so hard to improve. She won several of her matches and was an excellent competitor.”

Junia Gindlesperger served as an assistant coach for the UCHS tennis program this season.

Soccer team ends season with substate loss

Sam Murillo battles with two Greeneville players during the Region 1-A/AA championship game on May 18. Murillo scored two goals in the Blue Devils’ victory over Cumberland Gap played on May 16. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School soccer team’s history making season came to an end last week.

After winning the District 1-A/AA championship the week before, the Blue Devils (12-7-1), in only their second year as a program, defeated Cumberland Gap, 2-0, in the semifinals of the Region 1-A/AA tournament on Tuesday, May 16, in Erwin.

“That was a fun game for us to get to play,” head coach Justin Ciralsky told The Erwin Record.

The Blue Devils took control of the game in the first half, thanks to a first-half goal by senior Sam Murillo.

“We scored pretty early, so going into halftime we were pretty confident,” Ciralsky said. “We were able to shut down their better players, then the second goal helped seal the deal.”

Murillo scored the Blue Devils’ next goal during the second half.

Ciralsky praised the play of senior Christian Leon and sophomore Juan Ramirez in the game.

“Christian and Juan had been playing very well the previous three or four games,” he said. “We had heard they had a couple of really strong players and our guys were able to shut them down and keep them from hurting us. This opened up our forwards and midfielders to move up and try to get goals.”

• • •

The victory over Cumberland Gap sent the Blue Devils to the region championship game where they faced Greeneville on Thursday, May 18, in Erwin. The win also sent the Blue Devils to the substate round where they faced Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK) – the reigning state champions – on Saturday, May 20, in Knoxville.

Against Greeneville the Blue Devils did not turn in the performance they needed to defeat the reigning region champs.

“You could tell our boys were a little timid,” Ciralsky said of the Greeneville game. “You could tell some of them were distracted by graduation. We didn’t play terrible, but we played scared, almost like we didn’t know what to expect.

“Greeneville is a good team and they move the ball very well. Obviously, we wanted to walk out of there with a win, but I think a lot of little distractions, mixed with playing a team of that level led to our defeat.”

Greeneville scored near the midpoint of the first half.

“We played pretty well after they scored the first goal,” Ciralsky said.

It was the Green Devils second goal, which came in the second half, that deflated the Blue Devils.

“The second goal is the one that was more morally defeating because we had been playing well. We had been moving the ball and had corrected things we hadn’t been doing in the first half.”

The loss to Greeneville sent UCHS to CAK for the do-or-die substate game on Saturday where the reigning state champions took control of the game in the first half and a 3-0 lead into halftime.

“We went in knowing that we were the underdog,” Ciralsky. “… We told the guys before they game that they needed to leave the field knowing that they did everything in their power to be successful and to play an excellent game. Honestly, the score doesn’t reflect how well we played. … The timidness we played with against Greeneville was not there.”

Despite trailing early in the game, UCHS kept fighting.

“They still attacked the goal and they still moved the ball,” Ciralsky said. “They did everything we asked them to do.”

Trailing 3-0 at the half, the Blue Devils didn’t quit.

“We came out and played well in the second half,” Ciralsky said. “I was very pleased with our effort.”

CAK added another goal late in the game to win 4-0 and advance to the state tournament.

The loss to CAK was the final game as a Blue Devil for the team’s eight seniors – RJ Phillips, Carlos Delgado, Christian Leon, Samuel Murillo, Jose Ortiz, Derek Andrade, Donnie Metcalf, and Gerardo Batrez.

“These guys are irreplaceable,” Ciralsky said. “Sam, Christian and Jose – their love and passion for the game really impacted other players.”

The future is bright for the Blue Devils, though.

“After the CAK game we talked about how this is just the foundation of what we want to build on,” Ciralsky said. “I let our leaders – Sam and Christian – talk to the boys. They were encouraging them and reminding them that this season wasn’t a fluke. We set the standards high for what we want to attain for the years to come. … We are excited to build on this season going forward.”

• • •

Ciralsky also expressed his appreciation to the fans who supported the Blue Devil soccer team this season.

“One of the things we focused on this season was the ‘Stand As One’ phrase we said before and after every game,” Ciralsky said. “I think the community is starting to see that we are not just playing for ourselves, or even the high school – we are playing for our community. That was something that was evident by all the people who came to our games last week.”

Following the win over Cumberland Gap, the Blue Devil players and coach urged fans to join them on the field – where a celebration ensued.

“Our boys enjoyed celebrating that win with the community,” Ciralsky said. “It was a great feeling.”

Throughout the 2017 season, the Blue Devils felt the support of the community, for which they are very appreciative, according to their head coach.

“Thank you so much to everyone who came out and supported,” Ciralsky said. “It was such an encouraging thing. To see the support the community had for those boys just reinforced what we were teaching them about life on the field and off. We just want to thank everyone who came out to the games and supported us – it was the heartbeat to what we are playing for.”

CAK defeat keeps ladies out of state – again

Ashley Edwards fields a ground ball during the Lady Devils’ loss to Elizabethton in the region championship game. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

A familiar foe ended the Unicoi County High School season for the third consecutive year.

Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK) defeated the Lady Devils (33-14), 11-1, in substate action on Friday, May 19, in Knoxville. The victory sent CAK – the defending state champions – to the state tournament and ended the season for UCHS.

“It was a tough loss,” head coach Grady Lingerfelt told The Erwin Record.

Things didn’t go well for UCHS from the start of the CAK contest. Errors by the Lady Devils in the home half of the first inning led to four runs for the Lady Warriors.

“It’s no fun to go down there and play,” Lingerfelt said. “If any team has a home-field advantage, they have one – with the turf and the ball taking crazy bounces. Those errors in the first inning got us off to a real bad start.”

The Lady Devils responded in the second inning, adding 1 run after junior Halie Padgett reached on a single and Hope Bailey, in as a courtesy runner for Padgett, scored on Savannah Lafever’s RBI-single.

CAK squashed any hope of a comeback by UCHS in the bottom half of the second, third and fourth innings. The Lady Warriors scored 2, 3 and 2 runs, respectively to win the game and advance to the state tournament.

“They are a very good team,” Lingerfelt said of CAK. “They won the state last year and it’s the same bunch of girls. They lost their shortstop from last year, but everyone else is back. They have five girls who are going to play college softball. They are very good. That’s all you can say.”

Leading the Lady Devils at the plate were seniors Neelee Griffith and sophomore Halie Hawkins who had 2 hits each. Tanya Chavez, Lafever, Rylee Stiltner and Padgett each had 1 hit for UCHS. Lafever had the team’s only RBI.

The loss to CAK was the final game as a Lady Devil for the team’s six seniors – Neelee Griffith, Ashley Edwards, Keelie Hall, Savannah Lafever, Faith Bailey and Hannah Bowen.

“They are all good softball players who contributed a lot to the program,” Lingerfelt said. “We hate to lose them.”

• • •

UCHS had to go on the road to face CAK in the substate game due to a loss to Elizabethton in the Region 1-AA title game played on Wednesday, May 17, in Carter County.

It certainly didn’t appear that the Lady Cyclones had any chance of winning the region crown early in the game as the visiting Lady Devils jumped out to a 5-0 lead after their first two at-bats, including a 2-run home run by Chavez.

“We really hit the ball hard early in the game,”Lingerfelt said. “I thought we were in clear sailing after we went up 5-0. As it turns out, that didn’t last.”

Elizabethton’s offense came alive in the their half of the second inning, scoring 4 runs to cut the Lady Devils’ lead to 1, 5-4. After both teams went scoreless in the third inning, Elizabethton took the lead in the fourth, scoring 2 runs for a 6-5 advantage.

“We didn’t make any errors in the game,” Lingerfelt said. “Usually you start kicking the ground when people start coming back like that. But, they got base hit after base hit – hard base hits. And, they had some bloopers that landed just out of the reach of people.”

The Lady Devils tied the game, 6-6, in the top of the fifth when Bowen’s double scored Padgett from first base. Any momentum UCHS built in that inning disappeared in the bottom half of the inning when ‘Betsy added four more runs for a 10-6 lead.

“Our lead just didn’t hold up,” Lingerfelt said. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”

Stiltner and Bowen had 2 hits and an RBI each in the loss. Chavez (1 HR, 2 RBIs), N. Griffith, Hall (1 RBI), Padgett, Allee Griffith and Hawkins (1 RBI) each contributed a hit.

Wisse, Bowen, Hawkins qualify for state meet

Andrew Bowen runs to a vault during last week’s sectional meet. Bowen won second place in the pole vault and qualified for the state meet. (Photo contributed by Daniela Martinez)

By Keeli Parkey

Thanks to their performances at the sectional meet held in Chattanooga on Wednesday, May 17, three Unicoi County High School track and field athletes – seniors Stephanie Wisse and Andrew Bowen and sophomore Halie Hawkins – will be representing their school at the TSSAA state track and field meet this week.

To qualify for state, athletes had to finish in the top four, or earn one of four at-large bids. The state meet is being held at Middle Tennessee State University.

Wisse, who had already qualified for the state pentathlon competition which will also be held this week, advanced to the state meet in the 100-meter dash, 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles. She also competed in the high jump at the sectional meet, finishing in sixth place.

The highlight of Wisse’s day was a first-place finish in the 100-meter dash. Wisse was ranked ninth in the event at the sectional meet.

“We really didn’t anticipate Stephanie making it to state in the 100-meter dash,” Davis said. “It’s an event she loves, but during meets it unfortunately comes right after she runs the 100-meter hurdles so she runs it tired.”

Tired or not, Wisse blew away the competition last week with a career best 12.47 in the 100-meter dash. She will be ranked third at the state meet in the event.

Wisse also ran career bests in both the 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles, winning second place in each event.

“Stephanie rose to the challenge during the sectional meet,” Davis said.

Wisse will compete Thursday afternoon in the individual events. She competed in the pentathlon after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.

Bowen qualified for the state pole vault competition with his second-place finish at sectionals.

“Early in the season, with what he was jumping, we knew Andrew would make it to sectionals,” Davis said. “It was about getting him to compete at a level that would get him to state. Two weeks prior to sectionals coach (Thad) Higgins started changing how Andrew jumps and vaults. There were a lot of changes we asked him to make. That’s not easy to do late in the season and in his career, but he took on the challenge and did everything we asked him to.”

Bowen’s hard work paid off at sectionals, in addition to taking second place he also increased his personal best by 2 feet with a vault of 12’-6”.

Davis said Bowen is ranked fourth in the state meet. He will compete on Friday, May 26, at MTSU.

Hawkins, who pulled double-duty this spring by competing in track and as a member of the Lady Devil softball team, also advanced to state in the pole vault. Hawkins won the event last week with a personal best vault of 8’-6”.

“Halie came into the event ranked second, increased her personal best by 6 inches and won the event,” Davis said. “She competed very well.”

Hawkins, who will be ranked third at state, will compete on Thursday morning at MTSU.

• • •

Six other UCHS athletes competed at the sectional, but did not advance to the state meet.

Senior Cameron Higgins, a Milligan College signee, threw in both the shot put and discus competitions.

“Cameron faced a lot of good competition at sectionals,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, he did not have one of his better days. He didn’t throw as well as he wanted to and didn’t go out the way he wanted to. But, it’s not the end of track for him. He’s in good hands going to Milligan.”

The Lady Devils’ 4×800-meter relay team, which is made up of Megan Todd, Jillian Taylor, Cheyenne Wilson and Kaitlyn Tilson, also competed last week.

“They ran a really good time and faced some very tough competition,” Davis said. “All of them will return next year and we are excited about what they can do with more experience.”

Todd also competed in the 800-meter and 1-mile events at the meet.

“We are pleased with how Megan competed at sectional and what she will bring to the team next season,” Davis said.

Alex Carter represented the Lady Devils in the pole vault last week, missing out on a state berth by one spot, according to her head coach.

“Alex competed well,” Davis added. “She has come on for us late in the season and is really figuring it out. She cleared 7 feet at sectional, which is a personal best for her. We are excited to see what she can do for us next year.”

Track athletes conclude regular season

Halie Hawkins runs to a vault during the TriCitiesSports.com Relays on Monday, May 8. Hawkins set a personal record during the event. (Photo contributed by Daniela Martinez)

By Keeli Parkey

The final two meets of the regular season for the Unicoi County High School track and field teams were all about preparation for the postseason.

Last week’s inclement weather led to the postponement of the TriCitiesSports.Com Relays – an invitation-only meet held at Science Hill High School in Johnson City – and the last scheduled regular season meet for UCHS. The meet was originally set for Friday, May 5, but rain and cold temperatures led event coordinators to move the meet to Monday, May 8.

Unfortunately for the UCHS athletes invited to the meet, the makeup date was the day before their important subsectional meet on Tuesday, May 9. This forced the UCHS coaching staff to make tough decisions regarding what events their athletes would participate in.

“The nature of our sport sometimes forces us to make difficult decisions regarding athlete participation in meets,” UCHS head coach Megan Davis said. “It is unfortunate for our athletes that the TriCitiesSports.com Relays had to be moved to the day before our subsectional meet. The subsectional meet is our first step in qualifying for the sectional meet, and ultimately, the state meet. We want our athletes to be as fresh as possible for the subsectional.”

Davis said approximately 75 percent of UCHS track athletes were invited to compete in the TriCitiesSports.Com Relays.

“It says a lot about our athletes that so many were going to be able to participate in this meet,” Davis said. “To be one of the best athletes in your event in the area is no joke.”

Only five UCHS athletes competed on Monday. Among them was Stephanie Wisse. Davis said Wisse was invited to compete in seven events, but in order to have her ready for Tuesday’s subsectional, Wisse, who excels at running events, only participated in the high jump. Davis said Wisse participated in this event as part of her preparation for the state pentathlon meet.

“This was a good meet for her to get prepared to compete at state,” Davis said. “It’s unfortunate that she couldn’t compete in all the events she was invited to. She had won the meet’s most valuable runner award the last two years. I think she would have won that again this year.”

Cameron Higgins participated in the discus throw on Monday. Also, pole vaulters Andrew Bowen, Alex Carter and Halie Hawkins competed at the TriCitiesSports.Com Relays.

“It says a lot about the job coach (Thad) Higgins is doing with our vaulters that they were invited to compete,” Davis said. “It was good for them to compete just before subsectionals.”

Hawkins set a personal best on Monday, turning in a personal best vault of 8 feet, Davis reported.

The UCHS pole vaulters showed their progress during a meet held at Science Hill on Tuesday, May 2.

“Alex cleared a vault for the first time,” Davis said. “This was a big step for her as a beginning vaulter. She was able to clear three different heights.”

Carter reached 6’-6” on May 2.

“That makes her competitive in the postseason,” Davis added.

Hawkins set a personal best of 7’-6”, which she improved on during the TriCitiesSports.Com Relays, on May 2.

“We are very excited about that,” Davis said. “It makes her very competitive at sectional and subsectional levels and it puts us at a point where we can start thinking about state competition.”

Bowen cleared 10’-6” last week.

“Andrew is becoming a more advanced vaulter,” Davis said. “We are excited to see what he can do in the postseason.”

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Blue Devils and Lady Devils competed in the subsectionals in Greeneville on Tuesday, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue. Those athletes who qualify will advance to the sectional meet set for Wednesday, May 17, at Chattanooga Christian School.

“We fully plan to see several of our athletes move on to sectionals,” Davis said.

Softball team advances in district tournament

Third baseman Savannah Lafever fields a ground ball during the Lady Devils victory over Sullivan South in the opening round of the District 1-AA tournament on Monday, May 8. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

Despite a slow start, the Unicoi County High School softball team survived to play another day thanks to a 10-4 victory over Sullivan South in the District-1AA tournament.

Playing in Erwin on Monday, May 8, the Lady Devils (30-10) found themselves trailing 1-0 after the first inning thanks to an RBI by South’s Laura Dade. UCHS then went quietly in the bottom half of the first inning, giving the Lady Rebels hope that they could pull a major upset.

This hope started to dwindle in the bottom half of the second inning when Lady Devil Keelie Hall hit an RBI-double scoring Neelee Griffith from second base. UCHS added another run in the inning when pitcher Halie Padgett helped her own cause with an RBI groundout that scored courtesy runner Greta Raby. The Lady Devils held a 2-1 run after two innings.

Griffith knocked in the first of 4 RBIs in the home half of the third inning, smacking a line drive to left field that scored Halie Hawkins. Griffith later scored, thanks to Hall’s second RBI of the day for a 4-1 UCHS lead.

The Lady Devils took total control of the game in the bottom of the fifth. They took a 5-1 lead on an RBI-single by Tanya Chavez that scored Hawkins. Griffith then tallied RBIs two, three and four on an inside-the-park home run for an 8-1 lead.

UCHS then added two more runs off the bat of Ashley Edwards, who had returned to the lineup following a leg injury. Edwards knocked an RBI-double to left field to score Jaime Edwards and Kate Hollenbeck, giving UCHS a 10-1 lead.

South scored three runs in the top of the seventh and final inning, but that was it as UCHS won the game 10-4 and advanced in the tournament.

Padgett earned the win in the circle, throwing just over 5 innings. Padgett threw 6 strikeouts, while giving up 1 hit and 1 earned run. Hannah Bowen threw just over 1 inning in relief.

Griffith was 3-for-4 at the plate with the inside-the-park home run and 4 RBIs. Hall was 3-for-3 with 2 RBIs. Bowen was 2-for-3. Chavez (1 RBI), Rylee Stiltner, Allee Griffith (2 RBIs) and Hawkins had 1 hit each in the victory.

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The Lady Devils were scheduled to face Elizabethton on Tuesday, May 9, in the district semifinals following The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.

With a win over the Lady Cyclones, UCHS advanced to the championship round, which is set for Thursday, May 11, at 5:30 p.m. at Lady Devil Diamond. A win in this game will give the Lady Devils the District 1-AA crown. If they lose this game, they will play an if necessary game immediately after.