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.