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.”

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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.