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.