Rice: Football team passes test during scrimmage with Hampton

Quarterback Brock Thompson carries the ball for the Blue Devils during a recent scrimmage. (File photo)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School football team faced a tough preseason test, one that head coach Drew Rice believes will prepare them for the upcoming 2018 season.

“I was pleased with how physical we played, especially with our first group of guys,” Rice said about the scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 3. Hampton is a very good football team, and I thought we had a good showing against them. … We knew it was going to be a test of our physicality and toughness, and we feel like we passed that test. Hampton is known for a very physical style of play, maybe more physical than anyone on our schedule, and that’s why we wanted to scrimmage them.”

The Blue Devils had success throwing the ball against the Bulldogs.

“I think our passing game really looked good,” Rice said. “We tried to spread the ball around a little more and get some other guys involved and it worked out well.”

With just over a week to go before the season begins, the Blue Devils have a different practice schedule and will be preparing physically for the games – and the weather – ahead.

“Our priority is to take this week to heal up a little bit from the grind and toll of our camp, and also continue to get ourselves into the best physical condition possible,” Rice said. “We will ramp up our running these two weeks to try and prepare for the heat that everyone has to deal with the first couple games. We also want to continue to fine tune our offense and ensure our defensive guys know exactly where they are supposed to be and what their individual assignments are.

“We will get on an afternoon practice schedule beginning this week. It’s always a challenge the first week practicing in the hottest part of the day. We will have to mentally overcome that and continue to prep for South Greene. We have to have two great weeks of practice in our final preparation for the opener at home.”

The season opener will be held at Gentry Stadium against South Greene on Friday, Aug. 17. Blue Devil fans can purchase season tickets in the office at UCHS from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

UCHS golfers begin 2018 season

By Keeli Parkey

Even before they sat down for their first classes of a new school year, the members of the Unicoi County High School golf teams competed in their first match of the 2018 season.

The Blue Devils and Lady Devils faced off with golfers from both Dobyns-Bennett and Volunteer high schools at Cattails at Meadowview Golf Club on July 30.

“Hopefully, it was a learning experience that we can build off of for next week and moving on,” head coach Gene Renfro told The Erwin Record.

The Blue Devils came in third place in the team competition, posting a total score of 223. Dobyns-Bennett posted a 165 and Volunteer shot 191.

Shooting the lowest score for UCHS was Brett Lingerfelt with a 46.

“Brett started playing in the spring and now he’s breaking 50,” Renfro said. “I am proud of him and for everyone for competing hard.”

Other Blue Devils scores were: Caleb Adkins, 57; Nicholas Hensley, 57; Andy Cole, 63; and Nicholas Bender, 63.

“I am proud of the boys team,” Renfro said. “We played well and were without two of our top five guys. We want to keep improving day by day.”

Katlyn Higgins was the lone participant for the Lady Devil squad at the match. She shot a 55.

“It was good for Katlyn to get out and play in a match like that,” Renfro said. “This was one of her better rounds. As we get into the swing of things, hopefully she can keep improving the rest of the season.”

• • •

The UCHS golfers are scheduled to compete against Sullivan East at Tri-Cities Golf Club on Wednesday, Aug. 8. The teams will again face off with Volunteer on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at Bays Mountain Golf Course.

The golfers also held a fundraiser over the weekend at the Erwin Elks Club.

“We would like to thank the Erwin Elks for hosting our fundraiser on Saturday,” Renfro said.

The teams’ fundraising efforts will continue on Saturday, Aug. 11, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Unicoi Walmart. Also, on Monday, Aug. 13, at Johnson City Petro’s on State of Franklin from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. a portion of the sales will be donated to the UCHS golf program. Participants will need to mention UCHS golf at the time of their meal purchase.

Blue Devil football team scrimmages Volunteer

Brett Strother goes up over two Volunteer defenders to catch a pass. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

A focused and physical Unicoi County High School football team took to the field in the first scrimmage of the preseason for head coach Drew Rice and his coaching staff.

“I thought we played well,” Rice said. “We saw some things we have to clear up, but overall I was pleased with it. I think our guys really flew around on both sides of the ball and that was great to see.”

The Blue Devils took to the field at the UCHS track against Volunteer on Friday, July 27.

“I liked how focused and locked in we were,” Rice said. “I thought our approach to it was businesslike and that’s something we always preach. We got a lot of guys a lot of quality reps. I thought we had some guys really make the best of their opportunities Friday.”

Their work in the weight room during the offseason showed on the field, according to the head coach.

“I thought we were as physical as we have been since I have been the head coach here,” Rice said. “It was great to see our work in the weight room from the offseason really show up on the field. Coach (Mark) Peterson, our strength and conditioning coordinator, has done a fantastic job with our team and has these guys ready to roll.”

As the first game of the 2018 season nears, the team’s strengths and weaknesses are becoming more clear.

“I think our greatest strengths are our defensive line, our skill guys on the offensive side of the ball and our linebackers,” Rice said. “We are really talented in these positions. I would say the two places we have some room for improvement are our secondary and our offensive line. Even though they both had good showings Friday night against a 5A football team.”

Practice continues this week for the Blue Devils. They will travel to Hampton to scrimmage the Bulldogs on Friday, Aug. 3, beginning at 6 p.m. Following more days of practice, the Blue Devils will host Cosby for a scrimmage on Thursday, Aug. 9.

The season opener will be held at Gentry Stadium against South Greene on Friday, Aug. 17. Blue Devil fans can purchase season tickets in the office at UCHS from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

UCHS golf team finds new home at Erwin Elks Lodge

To thank the Erwin Elks Lodge for allowing them to practice there, the members of the Unicoi County High School golf team painted tee boxes at the club. (Photo contributed by Gene Renfro)

By Keeli Parkey

When the coach of the Unicoi County High School golf team went searching for a place to practice, the Erwin Elks Lodge welcomed him and his players with open arms.

“Since Buffalo Valley closed and has not reopened, we needed somewhere to go and the Elks Lodge was gracious to have the team there,” head coach Gene Renfro said. “We can’t thank the Elks enough for having us there.”

For many years, the UCHS golf program practiced and played its home matches at Buffalo Valley Golf Course; however, with the course now closed, Renfro’s squad needed a new place to practice. Thanks to the willingness of the Elks Lodge to make its course available, the Blue Devils have had a place to prepare for their 2018 campaign.

“We have practiced there during the previous two weeks and scrimmaged with David Crockett there,” Renfro said. … “Practice is going well. … We have worked a lot on our short game and hitting to targets. Hopefully, once matches begin we can translate that to the course.”

The Blue Devils recently paid the Elks Lodge back for its generosity. Renfro said during a practice last week, his squad took a break from swinging their clubs to paint the tee boxes at the Erwin course.

“We integrated that into practice,” he added.

The Blue Devils will open the 2018 season at Cattails Golf Course on Monday, July 30, against Dobyns-Bennett and Volunteer. The season will continue through September. The Erwin Record will print its annual golf preview story in an upcoming issue.

• • •

Renfro and his players will be having fundraisers in the coming weeks, including the 2018 Unicoi County Blue Devil Golf Classic on Saturday, Aug. 4. This event will be held at the Erwin Elks Club Golf Course beginning at 9 a.m. and will be an 18-hole select shot format with three-person teams.

The cost to participate in the tournament is $25 for individual players or $75 for a team of three. Hole sponsorships are $75 each; lunch sponsorships are $300; and title sponsorships are available for $500.

The event will include goody bags for every player, a postround meal, prizes and contest, silent auction items and mulligans. All proceeds will go to the Unicoi County High School golf program. For more information, contact Renfro at 335-2076 or renfrog@unicoischools.com.

The team will also have a fundraiser at Petro’s on Aug. 13.

Blue Devil football team continues preseason work

Austin O’Dell catches a pass during an offensive series when the Blue Devils competed at Elizabethton in 7-on-7 competition. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

With just over four weeks remaining until the 2018 high school football season kicks off, the Unicoi County High School football team is ramping up its preparations.

Last week, the Blue Devils, under the direction of head coach Drew Rice, competed in two 7-on-7 passing competitions – one at Sullivan North and one at Elizabethton.

“On July 10, we competed with Sullivan South, Sullivan North, Daniel Boone, Trinity Christian and Unaka,” Rice said. “On July 12, we competed with Dobyns Bennett, Elizabethton, David Crockett, Volunteer and Happy Valley.”

As with all preseason preparations, last week showed Rice and his coaching staff where the Blue Devils need to improve.

“At Sullivan North on Tuesday I think we identified some things we needed to get ironed out in our secondary,” Rice said. “We had a couple things that we didn’t like coverage wise and also some guys we were evaluating at different positions. I thought we still showed glimpses of what we can do on both sides of the ball.”

Last week also put the Blue Devils’ strengths on display.

“At Elizabethton on Thursday I thought we looked much better against tougher competition,” Rice said. “So, we really felt good about our showing there. I thought our safeties did a better job of keeping everything in front of them and I thought our offense really started clicking. (Quarterback) Brock Thompson really threw it well Thursday night and so did Robbie O’Dell who we just moved to quarterback this spring. Brett Strother and Austin O’Dell raked in a bunch of catches in just an hour and a half of work.”

Beginning Monday, the Blue Devils were able to put on shoulder pads for the first time.

“We will practice in helmets and shoulder pads all week,” Rice said. “We will really start to focus on our run game this week with our offensive and defensive lines. The following week, we will put on full pads and scrimmage Volunteer on Friday, July 27, at the track. The season is coming in a hurry and we are very excited about the opportunity we have.”

Local all-star teams compete in tournaments

11-12 Year-Old Baseball All-Stars – Pictured from left, back row, coach Paul Green, coach Daniel Engle and coach Jonathan Tipton; middle row, Nicky Satterly, Chris Chavez, Ty Engle, Alex Green, Logan Groom, Chris Rice and Gavin Tipton; front row, Dylan Cerezo, Keilet Rodriguez, Jordan Grindstaff, Matthew Whitson and Eli Tipton; not pictured, Gage Casey. (Contributed photo)

By Keeli Parkey

Three Unicoi County teams represented their community in all-star tournaments last week.

The 11-12 year-old softball all-stars opened their tournament at Daniel Boone on July 2 with an 18-8 victory over Bristol.

The team dropped into the losers’ bracket with a 15-0 loss to the host squad on July 4. They were eliminated from the tournament on July 5 with a 14-4 loss to Bluff City, according to coach Jessica Banner.

• • •

The 11-12 year-old baseball all-stars won their opening game in Bristol with an 8-4 victory over Johnson County on July 7.

These Blue Devils found themselves on the losing end of a close 4-1 game with Johnson City American on July 9, according to coach Paul Green. This loss sent them to the losers’ bracket where they played Bristol on Tuesday, July 10, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.

• • •

The 6-8 year-old softball all-star team defeated Jonesborough, 10-8, in Bristol on July 7.

The Lady Devils lost to Bristol, 12-4, on July 9. They were also playing in the losers’ bracket on Tuesday, after the press deadline for this issue.

• • •

Unicoi County’s other all-star teams – 8-10 year-old baseball and softball and the 6-8 year-old baseball squads – were previously eliminated from tournament play.

Unicoi County flag football league hosting tryouts July 28

From Staff Reports

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

“It is an exciting time for Unicoi County football,” head coach Drew Rice said. “We are entering the second year of our flag football league backed by the National Football League’s Flag Football program.”

Rice said tryouts will be held on Saturday, July 28, at 11 a.m. at Gentry Stadium. Practice will begin on Aug. 2 and the first games will be played on Aug. 16.

“Teams will play at least five games and have a playoff leading up to the Blue Devil Bowl to be played on Sept. 27,” 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 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.

County all-star teams compete in summer tournaments

6-8 Year-Old Baseball All-Stars – Pictured from left, back row, coach Allen Patten, coach Ryan Masters, coach Seth Whitson and coach Aaron Toney; middle row, Braden Honeycutt, Noah English, Michael Hampton, Mason Higgins, Ty Toney and Owen Masters; front row, Mason Blackburn, Reed Carroll, Blake Bennett, Mason Wright, Draven River and Gabe Patten. (Contributed photo)

From Staff Reports

With the heat of summer comes all-star tournament play for the teams of the Unicoi County Little League. Below is information about each team.

6-8 Year-Old Baseball

This squad is coached by Seth Whitson, Allen Patten, Ryan Masters and Aaron Toney.

Their tournament play included a loss to Jonesborough in Johnson County on June 23.

6-8 Year-Old Softball

This team, coached by Lisa Baxter, will play its first game on Saturday, July 7, against Jonesborough. The game is scheduled to begn at 12:30 p.m. at Bristol Western Little League.

8-10 Year-Old Baseball

This squad was coached by Chris Bogart, Ben Evely and Chris Hatcher.

Following their 13-0 victory over Bluff City on June 16 at Bristol Little League, these Blue Devils lost to Johnson City National Little League, 17-7, on June 18.

This loss sent them to the losers’ bracket where they were defeated by Johnson City American Little League, 11-0, and eliminated from tournament play.

8-10 Year-Old Softball

Coached by Terry Higgins, Shane Hummer, Daniel Engle, Aaron Toney and Tanya Chavez, these Lady Devils defeated Bluff City, 17-1, in their first tournament game at Daniel Boone.

A 15-6 loss to Boone sent the team to the losers’ bracket. There, they defeated Bluff City, 15-0, and Jonesborough, 11-0, to make it to the championship round.

In that round, the Lady Devils were defeated by Boone again, this time 11-1. This loss eliminated the team from tournament play.

11-12 Year-Old Baseball

This squad, coached by Paul Green, will open its tournament on Saturday, July 7, at 7:30 p.m. at Holston View Elementary near King College in Bristol.

11-12 Year-Old 

Softball

Led by coach Jessica Banner, this team defeated Bristol, 18-8, on Monday, July 2.

Their next game will be on Wednesday, July 4, at 6 p.m.

Unicoi County Family YMCA hosts triathlon

Participants in the June 16 triathlon held at the Unicoi County Family YMCA gather for a photo after the competition. The race included a swim in the YMCA pool, a bicycle ride and 2.1-mile run. (Contributed photo)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County Family YMCA wants the people in the community it serves to be active. In order to promote this mission, the Erwin facility hosts a variety of events – the most recent being a triathlon held on Saturday, June 16.

The race, which was the fourth of its kind hosted by the local YMCA, combined swimming, bicycling and running into one event.

“I have always wanted to have some triathlons in Erwin, so when I became the CEO of the YMCA I felt like it was a good time to start them here,” Frank Cooke told The Erwin Record. “I organized several in South Carolina when I lived there and everybody that participated in them enjoyed them.”

The competitors began the race with a quarter-mile swim in the YMCA pool. Once that segment of the race was completed, racers jumped on their bicycles for an 8.2-mile ride. Cooke said the course for the bicycle ride traveled down Ohio Avenue to Sandy Bottom, traveled around Sandy Bottom, across Temple Hill Road and down to Chestoa Bridge. The bike ride continued up Chestoa Pike to Jackson-Love, Mohawk Drive and Gay Street before returning to their starting point at the YMCA.

The final leg of the race was a 2.1-mile run that took the competitors down Love Street and through downtown Erwin on Main Street before circling back to the YMCA via Elm Avenue and Gay Street.

“The run and the bike distances were based on what we could do here in Erwin, without making it very confusing,” Cooke said.

A total of 24 competitors have competed in the four races hosted by the Unicoi County Family YMCA.

“Many have run in multiple races,” Cooke said. “We need more competitors for future events since the Town of Erwin has passed a requirement that we have at least 30 people in each event.”

Hosting the triathlon is just one way the YMCA hopes to inspire locals to workout and be healthy.

“Our goal with the triathlons, as well as everything we do, is to get people active,” Cooke said. “We try to give children and adults options of fun things to do to help motivate them to get in shape. We also want to bring in people from outside Unicoi County so they can see the beautiful place that we live in and hopefully get them to spend some money in the county.”

One of the people drawn to Erwin for Saturday’s race was Chad Green, a Bristol resident who has participated in all four races hosted by the local YMCA and was the winner of Saturday’s men’s race. The women’s winner was Kelly Mitchell.

“This is a well-organized race,” Green said. “You can tell Frank Cooke takes a lot of pride in the race. He does a great job of getting a group of volunteers for it, making sure everything is laid out clearly and that everyone understands the basics of the course. They do a really good job at that Y.”

Green said he hopes more people will participate in the events hosted by the Unicoi County Family YMCA.

“It is such a well-organized and planned out event that I think people would really enjoy it,” he added. “I hope we can spread the word about it to get more involvement. You can tell Frank and the Y have put a lot into this and it shows.”

• • •

The Unicoi County Family YMCA will host another triathlon on Aug. 11 beginning at 8 a.m. A children’s triathlon will also be held on that day beginning at 10 a.m. Children who are entering first grade through fifth grade are invited to compete in the triathlon.

Also on Aug. 11, the YMCA will host a “mommy or daddy and me” event for younger children.

“The event will be a swim across the shallow end of the pool and back, ride a bike for one mile from the Y to the hospital and back and then run two laps on our track (0.4 miles),” Cooke said. “The ‘mommy or daddy and me’ event will have a parent or guardian with the child at all times.”

For more information, call the YMCA at 743-3361.

Madison Harris signs with Milligan

Family, friends and coaches celebrated with Madison Harris, seated second from left, as she signed with the Milligan College cheerleading squad. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

From Staff Reports

For her college career, a Unicoi County High School cheerleader will be trading her blue and white for orange and black.

Madison Harris, who graduated from UCHS last month, signed with the Milligan College Buffaloes cheerleading squad during a ceremony on Thursday, June 14.

“I am extremely excited to be a part of this program,” Harris told The Erwin Record. “It has always been a dream to cheer in college and I am finally here.”

Teresa Parkey, head cheer coach at UCHS, extended her congratulations to Harris.

“I am very happy for Madison,” Parkey said. “She worked hard as a high school cheerleader and she is a great addition to Milligan’s program. They are very lucky to have her.”

Her road to Milligan began about a month ago when she spoke with Milligan cheer coach Chelsea Woodacre.

“She showed much interest in my skills and later informed me she was eager to give me a tryout and hopefully, later on, an offer,” Harris said.

Harris said she decided to attend Milligan College for several reasons.

“I looked at a few schools before Milligan,” she added. “It started off with Clemson, next UT, and then ETSU. Lastly, I chose Milligan. It really stood out to me in ways that no other school did. Milligan showed such interest in me, made sure I knew I would be known as myself and not just a number, and made me feel like my presence at their school was greatly appreciated. That is why I set my heart on Milligan.”

Harris said she is excited for her freshman year with the Buffaloes.

“I believe I am bringing the program a passion for cheer and a drive that will always push me to be the best I can always be,” she added. “I believe I will make my team and school very proud. … I am looking forward to spending my first cheer season in college getting closer to the other cheerleaders and dancers on my team, cheering on the buffs and praising our King while I do so.”

Harris gave credit to her coaches and family for their help on her way to college.

“I would like to thank all of my coaches I have had from EJAA all through high school and especially my family for making me set goals and pushing me to limits that helped make this signing possible,” she said.

Madison is the daughter of Frankie and Teresa Harris.

Wilson, Simpson on top of league list

By Keeli Parkey

With the 2018 season in the books, the Unicoi County High School baseball team saw several of its members receive honors for their performances on the diamond.

Two Blue Devil seniors – Caleb Wilson and Clay Simpson – took top honors from the Three Rivers Conference. Wilson was named Player of the Year, while Simpson was named Pitcher of the Year.

Making the all-conference team were seniors Owen Nicholson, Hunter Higgins and Troy Podvin, and junior Brett Strother.

Making the District 1-AA all-tournament team were Wilson, Higgins and junior Keaton Casey.

The Blue Devils posted a 20-15 record in the 2018 season and won the Three Rivers Conference regular season championship. The team took second place in the District 1-AA tournament before being eliminated from postseason play by a loss to Greeneville.

Head coach Chad Gillis previously told The Erwin Record that he felt that the 2018 season was a successful one for his program.

“I feel like we had a good season,” he said. “We won 20 games and beat some really good teams along the way.”

Members of Lady Devil softball team receive honors

By Keeli Parkey

Members of the Unicoi County High School softball team received hardware for their efforts in the 2018 season.

According to head coach Grady Lingerfelt, Lady Devil seniors Riley Stiltner, Halie Padgett and Sydney Miller, and juniors Chloe Powers and Allie Griffith, were chosen for the Three Rivers All-Conference team.

Receiving all-conference honorable mention honors were seniors Greta Raby and Grace Ann Clark.

Making the District 1-AA all-tournament team were Padgett, Stiltner, senior Tanya Chavez and junior Halie Hawkins.

The Lady Devils also played in the Tiny Day Tournament in Greeneville during April and won the silver bracket portion of the competition. Sophomore Ashtan Vance received MVP honors, while Padgett, Chavez, Stiltner and Clark were named to the all-tournament team.

Lingerfelt’s team finished the 2018 season with a 38-10 record. They took second play in the conference regular season and district tournament before winning the Region 1-AA tournament. The season came to an end for the Lady Devils with a loss to Kingston in the substate round.

“The whole team was a great team to coach,” Lingerfelt previously said.

Parents, coaches urged to protect youth athletes from heat

From Staff Reports

Have your fun in the sun, but take steps to protect yourself and your family against heat-related illness. The Tennessee Department of Health is encouraging parents and youth sports leagues to prevent heat-related injuries this summer as part of the observance of National Heat Awareness Day May 25.

“Both heat and humidity play a role in the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature and should be taken into consideration when planning outdoor activities,” said TDH Assistant Commissioner for Family Health and Wellness Morgan McDonald, MD. “High body temperatures can lead to serious damage to the brain and other organs, so it’s important to pay attention to your body’s signals.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 9,000 cases of heat-related illness among high school athletes in the U.S. every year. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is unable to cool down due to prolonged exposure to extreme heat or increased physical activity.

Signs of heat exhaustion include: Heavy sweating; Cold, pale and clammy skin; Fast, weak pulse; Nausea or vomiting; Muscle cramps; Tiredness or weakness; Dizziness; Headache; Fainting (passing out).

Sports teams can do their part in preventing heat-related injuries by including heat policies in their emergency action plans. Some simple policies to adopt are: Changing games and practice times to avoid the hottest times of day; Taking off pads and other equipment; Providing more breaks on hot days; Maintaining proper hydration; Becoming acclimatized to heat; Monitoring the heat index every 30 minutes and stopping all practice or play when it reaches 104 degrees (Heat index is a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with actual air temperature.)

Community sports leagues can earn recognition for their work to prevent heat-related illness and other injuries by participating in the Safe Stars Initiative. Safe Stars is a free rating system recognizing youth sports leagues throughout Tennessee for providing the highest level of safety for their young athletes. Safe Stars consists of three levels:  gold, silver and bronze, and involves implementation of life-saving policies around many injury prevention topics including weather safety.

Learn more about the Safe Stars Initiative and apply today at www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/fhw/vipp/safe-stars-initiative.html.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at www.tn.gov/health.

Loss to Kingston ends UCHS softball team’s season

Lady Devil catcher Halie Hawkins tags out a Kingston player at home plate during the sectional game played in Erwin on Saturday, May 19. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

Playing Kingston (25-6) in the sectional round with a state tournament berth on the line, the Unicoi County High School softball team (38-10) managed only three hits in a 4-1 season-ending loss on Saturday, May 19, in Erwin.

“Their pitcher (Emily Workman) was jamming us inside,” Lady Devil head coach Grady Lingerfelt said. “It was just one of those days. Some days you just don’t hit. She had some pretty good speed. She’s a good pitcher. We could never get anything going.”

Kingston got on the scoreboard first when Lexi Lawson hit an RBI-single with two outs to score Casey Gaines and give the Yellow Jackets a 1-0 lead after their first at-bat of the game.

The Lady Devils answered on their first at-bat. With two outs, senior Sydney Miller singled on a fly ball to second. Senior Tanya Chavez then hit an RBI-double to center, scoring Miller, and tying the game, 1-1.

The teams held one another scoreless in the second inning. It appeared the Yellow Jackets would go quietly in the top of the third, but put together a two-out rally that would prove to be the difference in the game.

Following two strikeouts by senior Lady Devil Halie Padgett, Kingston got a runner on base when Lenna Robinson singled to left field. Gaines then doubled to left, which brought up Lexi Lawson. Lawson didn’t waste the opportunity – hitting a three-run home run over the center field fence for a 4-1 Yellow Jacket lead.

“We had two outs before they got anyone on base,” Lingerfelt said. “I thought we were going to be able to get out of the inning.”

The Lady Devils’ best chance to score came in the bottom of the sixth inning.

“It was the perfect time in the lineup,” Lingerfelt said. “If we were going to do anything, that was the time.”

Junior Halie Hawkins walked, then senior Rylee Stiltner reached on a fielder’s choice. Unfortunately, UCHS couldn’t get a much-needed hit.

The Lady Devils also couldn’t get a runner on base in the seventh inning as Kingston held on for the win and advanced to the state tournament.

Miller, Chavez (1 RBI) and Padgett each had one hit in the game. Padgett pitched four innings and had 5 strikeouts. Junior Allee Griffith pitched for three innings with 1 strikeout.

Six seniors – Grace Ann Clark, Greta Raby, Chavez, Padgett, Miller and Stiltner – will graduate from the program.

“They are a great group,” Lingerfelt said of the seniors. “They provided valuable leadership for the team. The whole team was a great team to coach.”

• • •

The Lady Devils avenged their loss to Elizabethton in the District 1-AA championship with a 5-2 victory for the Region 1-AA crown on Wednesday, May 16.

“I thought we were more focused and we played really well that game,” Lingerfelt said. “We hit a good pitcher.”

This was Lingerfelt’s ninth region title in his 14 years as the Lady Devils’ head coach.

The Lady Devils started the title game on a high note with Miller’s two-run home run. Miller had her third RBI of the game in the top of the third when she hit a triple to right field, scoring Stiltner. UCHS then took a 4-0 lead when Miller scored on an RBI-single by Chavez.

Elizabethton scored their only runs of the game in the bottom of the sixth. The Lady Devils added an insurance run in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice bunt by Hawkins that scored Chloe Powers.

Miller was 3-4 with 3 RBIs in the game. Hawkins (1 RBI), Chavez, Griffith, Clark and Powers each had 1 hit in the game. Griffith earned the win in the circle and had 3 strikeouts.

The region championship gave UCHS the home sectional game against Kingston. Elizabethton lost to Knox Gibbs, 8-3, on the road in the sectional round on May 18.

UCHS track and field athletes compete at sectional

These athletes represented Unicoi County High School at the sectional meet recently held at Science Hill. They are, pictured from left, Megan Todd, Natalia Mendoza, Kenny Perciful, Kody Lewis, Halie Hawkins, Rachel Altemose and Alexis Harvey. (Contributed photo)

By Keeli Parkey

The Blue Devils and Lady Devils gave it their all, but they fell short of earning berths in this week’s Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association Spring Fling in Murfreesboro.

On May 11, Unicoi County High School track and field athletes competed in the Section 1 Large School meet held at Science Hill High School. This was the first sectional meet for UCHS athletes since the school moved into the large classification and for the first time since 2014, no Blue Devils or Lady Devils qualified for the state meet.

“The change in classification is very difficult for our program, but more so for our athletes,” UCHS head coach Megan Davis told The Erwin Record. “We do hold our kids to a very high standard and that standard has not been lowered at all. We are pushing our kids more than we ever have. But, we do have disadvantages going into a sectional meet because we are one of the smallest schools in this new classification. A lot of the schools who moved up and previously had multiple state competitors are now sending one or two, or not getting that chance.”

Blue Devil sprinter Kody Lewis competed in both the 100- and 200-meter races on May 11, finishing in ninth and 14th places, respectively.

“Kody ran personal bests in both events at sectional,” Davis said. “He has done that almost every meet. He is where we need him to be as a sophomore. He faced a lot of tough competition and we are proud of what he did.”

Also representing the Blue Devils was sophomore Kenny Perciful, who recently joined the team after moving to Unicoi County from North Carolina.

“Coming into a new school and making sectionals in the shot put was big for him,” Davis said. “We are excited to see what he can do for us next year.”

Junior Halie Hawkins, who earned a tie for fourth place in the state pole vault competition in 2017, missed out on another state berth by one place. Hawkins turned in a jump of 9’-6” at the sectional.

“We were disappointed by the results, but at the same time we are very proud of how Halie jumped all year,” Davis said. “She broke the school record this season. She has really put herself on a whole new level of vaulting with this year’s success.”

Also vaulting at sectional were senior Alexis Harvey and freshman Rachel Altemose.

“Making it to sectionals was a big step for both of them,” Davis said. “It was a good way for Alexis to end her UCHS career. For Rachel, competing against larger schools is a huge success for her and shows we are going in a good direction with our vaulting program.”

Senior Megan Todd raced for the Lady Devils in the 1-mile and 2-mile events.

“Megan ran well against some really good competition,” Davis said. “We were proud to watch her run. She ran a very good race in the mile on a very hot day. She finished her career out in a strong way.”

Junior Natalia Mendoza competed for UCHS in discus.

“Natalia threw well,” Davis said. “Again, with the new classification, she didn’t end with a high ranking, but the throws she had were successful for her. It was good to see her throwing at a high level after missing last season because of an injury. We are excited to see what she can do in her senior season.”

Despite the frustrations of the change in classification, Davis is hopeful about the future of UCHS track and field.

“It is unfortunate for our athletes and for a lot of programs who have moved up,” she said. “But, it is something we want to rise to the challenge of. Our goal, although we aren’t getting to state this year, will continue to be making it to Murfreesboro.”

Following the conclusion of the season, the Blue Devils and Lady Devils presented three athletes with team awards.

Jillian Taylor was the program’s 2018 Blue Devil Award recipient. Kody Lewis was chosen 2018 Blue Devil MVP. Megan Todd was chosen 2018 Lady Devil MVP.

Lady Devil softball team advances to region championship

Ashtan Vance races around the bases during the District 1-AA tournament. Vance’s home run in the opening game of the Region 1-AA tournament helped the Lady Devil softball team defeat Greeneville and advance to the tournament’s title game. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The Lady Devils were almost down for the count, but a late-inning comeback kept their postseason alive.

After trailing Greeneville High School, the District 2-AA champions, the entire game, the Unicoi County High School softball team (36-9) rallied to score eight runs in their final two at-bats to win a do-or-die game in the semifinal round of the Region 1-AA tournament in Greeneville on Monday, May 14.

The Lady Green Devils got off to a very good start on Monday, scoring three runs in the home-half of the first inning. Greeneville later added one run in the second inning and another in the fifth.

With two outs in the sixth inning, the Lady Devils started to rally. Grace Ann Clark and Ashtan Vance both singled, then Chloe Powers hit a 2-RBI double for a 5-2 score.

After holding Greeneville scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, the Lady Devils came up to bat with their final three outs of the game. Rylee Stiltner singled, then Tayna Chavez reached on an error. Stiltner then scored on a single by Halie Padgett. Samantha Chavez then came to the plate with two outs. The pressure didn’t bother the freshman one bit as she doubled on a hard ground ball to center field, scoring her sister, Tanya, and Abbie Grindstaff who was running for Padgett to tie the game, 5-5.

The Lady Devils then took the lead, 7-5, when Vance hit a 2-run home run. Powers followed Vance’s home run with one of her own. UCHS went into the bottom of the seventh with an 8-5 lead.

Greeneville managed to get one run across the plate in the seventh, but that was all the damage they could do. UCHS held on for the 8-6 comeback victory.

Powers was 2-4 with 3 RBIs. Vance was 2-3 with 2 RBIs. S. Chavez was 1-1 with 2 RBIs. Padgett was 1-3 with 1 RBI. Clark was 2-3.

Thanks to the victory over Greeneville, the Lady Devils will play for the region title on Wednesday, May 16, against a familiar foe – the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones. UCHS will travel to ‘Betsy for the game, which is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Elizabethton, the District 1-AA champions, defeated Grainger, 9-5, on Monday to advance to the championship game.

Win or lose on Wednesday, the Lady Devils will play in a sectional game on Friday, May 18, with a berth in the TSSAA Spring Fling on the line. A region title gives UCHS a home substate game; a loss on Wednesday will send the ladies on the road for the sectional game. Knox Gibbs and Kingston are playing for the Region 2-AA championship. The Lady Devils will play one of those two teams on Friday depending on the results of both title games.

The ladies must win the sectional game to advance to the next week’s state tournament in Murfreesboro. A loss on Friday will bring their season to an end.

• • •

The Lady Devils went into the District 1-AA championship having not lost in the tournament. To win the title, they had to defeat Elizabethton one time and for most of two games on May 9, it looked like they would do just that.

In the first of what turned out to be a double-header in ‘Betsy, the Lady Devils held a 2-0 lead for a few innings before the Lady Cyclones rallied to win 9-2.

This forced the if-necessary game and, once again, UCHS took an early 2-0 lead just to see it disappear. This time, the Lady Cyclones tied the game in the bottom of the fifth, then took the lead for good in the sixth. Elizabethton went on to win the game, 3-2, and the district title.

UCHS tennis teams wrap up 2018 season

The Blue Devil tennis team, pictured above, ended the 2018 season in the District 1-AA tournament. (Contributed photo)

The members of the UCHS Lady Devil tennis team, pictured at left, recently completed the 2018 season in the District 1-AA tournament. (Contributed photo)

By Keeli Parkey

The 2018 season is in the books for the Unicoi County High School tennis program.

The regular season ended for the Blue Devils and Lady Devils during the first week of May with matches against Sullivan North, Johnson County, Elizabethton and Sullivan South.

The Lady Devils defeated Sullivan North in team competition, 5-4. Winning their singles matches were Brandolyn Thomas (9-8), Katyln Higgins (8-4), Katherine Altemose (8-3). Thomas joined forces with Winter Day-Honeycutt to win a doubles match (8-4). Higgins and Carson Moore also teamed up to win their doubles match (8-1).

“The girls did a great job during this match, playing tough and coming up with the win,” head coach Karla Keesecker said. “The boys lost to Sullivan North, but Ben Hensley and Chase Erwin played close matches just coming up short.”

Against Johnson County, UCHS won three singles matches. Taylor Thomas won (6-2) for the Lady Devils while Ben Hensley (6-3) and Matthew Sutphin (7-5) won their matches.

“Both teams lost to Elizabethon, but both Aaron Manzanares and Winter Day-Honeycutt played great close singles matches, both losing 6-8,” Keesecker said. “The team finished the season playing Sullivan South and took away two wins. Singles winners were Ben Hensley (8-4) and Natalia Hernandez (9-7).”

• • •

Blue Devil and Lady Devil players ended the season in the District 1-AA tournament held May 7-8 at Science Hill High School in Johnson City.

“Boys singles players were Matthew Sutphin and Aaron Manzanres,” Keesecker said. “Matthew played a fantastic first round match, but lost 4-6, 7-5. Aaron had a tough loss to Elizabethton’s Luke Carrser, but fought hard.”

Representing the Lady Devils in singles competition at the district were Altemose and Taylor Thomas.

“Katherine lost a tough one to Sullivan Central’s Natalie Scott,” Keesecker said. “Taylor Thomas played a great match, fought hard and had a great comeback against Elizabethton’s Reagan Armstrong. Taylor faced some really tough challenges during this match. I was very proud of the way she handled herself and how she battled during the match.”

Representing the Blue Devils in doubles competition at the district were the teams of Trey Hatcher/Noah Starnes and Hensley/Erwin.

“Hatcher/Starnes lost a tough match to Tennessee High,” Keesecker said. “Hensley/Erwin won their first round match, defeating Volunteer. 6-3; 6-2.  They had a very tough second round losing to the number one seeds from Tennessee High.”

The doubles teams of Brandolyn Thomas/Day-Honeycutt and Moore/Higgins competed for UCHS in the district tournament.

“Thomas/Day-Honeycutt had a tough first round match playing Dobyns-Bennett,” Keesecker said. “They played hard and did their best. Moore/Higgins played a long three-setter against Volunteer, coming out on top 6-2 in the last set. They lost their second round match against the number one seeds from Dobyns-Bennett, but tried hard and did their best.”

• • •

The UCHS tennis program celebrated the 2018 season with an awards banquet on May 9. Receiving honors from the team were:

• Ben Hensley and Brandolyn Thomas – Blue Devil Award;

• Chase Erwin and Katherine Altemose – Best Singles Player;

• Ben Hensley/Chase Erwin and Carson Moore/Katlyn Higgins – Best Doubles Team;

• Taylor Thomas and Matthew Sutphin – Most Improved Player;

• Winter Day-Honeycutt, Carson Moore, Trey Hatcher and Noah Starnes – District 1 All-Conference.

Blue Devil baseball season ends with loss at Greeneville

By Keeli Parkey

A loss in first round of the Region 1-AA tournament brought the 2018 season to a close for the Unicoi County High School baseball team (20-15).

Their second-place finish in the District 1-AA tournament last week sent a Blue Devils to Greeneville where they faced the District 2-AA champion Green Devils in the region tournament on Monday, May 14. In the do-or-die game, UCHS struggled at the plate and failed to score a single run as Greeneville won the game, 5-0.

“We didn’t have enough players make the necessary adjustments at the plate to give us a chance,” Blue Devil head coach Chad Gillis said. “We struggled to hit the ball solid against their pitcher and our approach never changed.”

Senior pitcher Clay Simpson (4-3) kept the Blue Devils in the game for several innings.

“Clay pitched well today,” Gillis said. “He dominated in the first 4 innings, but had a few walks that put runs across the plate.”

Senior Raben Reed and junior Garrett Manuel each had two hits in the game. Seniors Owen Nicholson and Caleb Wilson and junior Caleb Crain had one hit each.

• • •

The Blue Devils staved off elimination from the postseason with a 9-3 victory over Sullivan East in the losers’ bracket of the District 1-AA tournament on May 8 at Cardinal Park in Johnson City.

It was evident that his team wasn’t ready for the season to end from the first pitch of the game.

“I thought we came out ready to play in the game,” Gillis said. “Keaton (Casey) gave us five good innings and Ramon Avila came in and closed the game out. Both pitchers did all they could do to get us a win in game one. We came out hitting the ball well also. Nicholson led off the game with an inside the park home run and this gave us a spark to start the game. This would have been an easy game to come out and play lousy after getting beat up the night before. I thought the guys responded well as a whole.”

Casey (3-2), a junior, earned the win on the mound.

At the plate, senior Hunter Higgins was 3-4 with 4 RBIs. Sophomore Peyton Whitson was 2-3. Nicholson and Crain were both 1-2 in the win.

The win over East qualified the Blue Devils to the region tournament and sent them to play Elizabethton – a team they lost to 11-0 in the district on May 7 – for the district title. To win the district, UCHS had to defeat ‘Betsy twice.

The Blue Devils had a chance to defeat Elizabethton after they defeated East on May 8, but could not get the win over a Cyclone team that is playing its best baseball at the right time. ‘Betsy defeated UCHS, 7-1.

Avila (1-3), a sophomore pitcher for the Blue Devils, took the loss.

“Ramon came back out and started the second game against a hot Elizabethton team,” Gillis said. “He shut them down for three innings to protect our 1-0 lead. We made a couple mistakes and they got a couple base hits to put them up. I thought we fought hard for seven innings.  Ramon and Peyton Whitson kept their bats quiet until the late innings and that’s all you can ask for. Offensively, we had multiple opportunities to get runners across, but just couldn’t execute.”

• • •

Overall, Gillis said he felt that the 2018 season was a successful one for his program.

“I feel like we had a good season,” he said. “We won 20 games and beat some really good teams along the way.”

Unfortunately, the Blue Devils weren’t as solid on offense as they needed to be.

“I don’t think we ever found our rhythm at the plate all season, but we did pitch well the majority of the season,” Gillis said.

The 2018 season saw inexperienced players step up and provide valuable innings for the team.

“Some younger guys stepped up and filled some spots where we had injuries,” Gilli said. “I am very proud of how those guys prepared day in and day out to be ready when called on. This group won our second consecutive conference championship and earned a regional game and they should be proud of what they accomplished.”

Graduating from the program will be seniors Hunter Higgins, Owen Nicholson, Troy Podvin, Raben Reed, Clay Simpson and Caleb Wilson.

“We will definitely miss those seniors,” Gillis said. “They were the group that came in with me as head coach and they mean a lot to me and the program. All of those seniors will be successful in their baseball and education at the collegiate level.”

Defending state champions oust UCHS soccer team from postseason

By Keeli Parkey

A loss to the defending state champions brought the 2018 season to an end for the Unicoi County High School soccer team (6-5-1).

Playing at Greeneville, the Blue Devils fell 7-0 in the district semifinals on May 8.

“We knew we were facing an almost impossible task,” head coach Justin Ciralsky said of the game against the Green Devils. “We had the goal of going out and playing our game. … We started out very grown. Greeneville got an accidental goal early in the game and that kind of deflated us. Out of all the games that you don’t want a fluke goal to happen is against a team that doesn’t need much help scoring.”

Despite the early disappoint and the end result, Ciralsky said the Blue Devils never gave up.

“They played well,” he added. “They finished the game out well. They have good character and they never quit.”

• • •

The 2018 season is one to be remembered, especially because of the rainy weather.

“This spring was crazy weather-wise and that affected, not just us, but many teams,” Ciralsky said. “We didn’t get to play as many games as we wanted. We had six games get canceled and we didn’t get to practice outside near as much as we would have like to. I think you could definitely tell because there were some things that we were lacking – more touches on the ball would have helped drastically.”

The Blue Devils will graduate four seniors – Jakob Carver, Chris Andrade, Leroy Valdez and Kevin Alvarado – from the 2018 team.

“They have been an awesome group,” Ciralsky said. “They have been consistent throughout their careers.”

Unicoi County track and field athletes win conference events

For the fourth consecutive season, the Lady Devils’ 4×800-meter relay team won the Three Rivers Conference title. The 2018 team includes, pictured from left, Megan Todd, Jillian Taylor, Kaitlyn Tilson and Valeria Ponce. (Photo contributed by Daniela Martinez)

By Keeli Parkey

They ran. They threw. They jumped. They had success.

Several Unicoi County High School track and field athletes won or placed in their respective events during the 2018 Three Rivers Conference meet held at Elizabethton High School on Monday, May 7.

“This meet is a very important day for us, not only to try to claim conference bragging rights, but also to have a final opportunity for our athletes to qualify for the Large Schools Sectionals,” head coach Megan Davis told The Erwin Record.

Among the notable results was a first-place finish by the Lady Devils’ 4×800-meter relay team. This was the fourth consecutive year that a UCHS team has won this event at the conference meet. Running in the event on Monday were Valeria Ponce, Kaitlyn Tilson, Jillian Taylor and Megan Todd.

“I am so incredibly proud of our 4×800 team,” Davis said. “They have worked many years to get to where they are. Their leadership has been seen throughout the entire team and has helped pass the reins over to Valeria, the lone freshman on the relay.”

Blue Devil Kody Lewis turned in a first-place finish in the 200-meter and a second-place finish in the 100-meter.

“Kody stood out big tonight,” Davis said. “He made a name for himself as a new runner in the conference.”

Lady Devil Halie Hawkins took first place in the pole vault.

“Halie is really vaulting well,” Davis said.

Other notable results for the UCHS program at the conference meet included: Kenny Perciful, second in shot put, fourth in discus; Roby Lemmon, sixth in shot put; Megan Todd, second in 3200-meter, third in 1600-meter; Cheyenne Wilson, sixth in 1600-meter; John Campbell, sixth in 1600-meter; Jillian Taylor, sixth in 400-meter; Alexis Harvey and Alex Carter, tied for second place in pole vault; Rachel Altemose, fourth in pole vault; Jadyn Peterson, sixth in pole vault; Sabrina Todd third in 3200-meter; and Kayla Hicks, sixth in 200-meter.

“I couldn’t be more proud of all the performances tonight,” Davis said on Monday. “For many it was their last meet of the season and for some of our seniors this was their last meet for their high school career and they gave it their all. Others knew they still had sectionals on Friday (May 11), yet their performances still left everything out there. They all had one goal in mind and that showed in the results tonight.”

• • •

The Blue Devils and Lady Devils wrapped up the regular season last week with a meet at Science Hill on May 1 and an invitational meet at Dobyns-Bennett on May 4.

Results on May 1 included: Perciful, first place in discus and shot; Lemmon, second place in discus and shot; Lewis, first in 100-meter and 200-meter; Campbell, second place in steeplechase; Natalia Mendoza, second in discus; M. Todd, third in 1600-meter; and Taylor, fourth in 400-meter.

On Friday, May 4, Lewis and Hawkins represented UCHS at the Ballad Health Tri-Cities Relays (formerly the Times News/Tri-Cities Relays) in Kingsport.

“A few UCHS athletes were invited to compete in this prestigious ‘area best’ meet at Dobyns-Bennett,” Davis said. “In order to compete in this meet, athletes must be one of the top 9 competitors in the Tri-Cities area in their event. This not only allows athletes another opportunity to qualify for sectionals, but it’s also a night of bragging rights.”

Hawkins took second place in the pole vault at the event while jumping 10 feet – a personal best and a new school record.

“This was a big night for her to get to feel a whole new level of vaulting,” Davis said. “We are excited to see where this carries her for sectionals.”

Lewis earned fifth place in the 100-meter and ran a new personal best of 11.42.

“Kody has been running very well for us and we are still seeing significant drops in his time as we are just now hitting his optimal training level,” Davis said. “The competition Kody and Halie saw today is the competition they will see on May 12. This night was great for their own successes and good for us coaches to see what we need to prepare for next week.”

The girls 4x800m relay (Ponce, Tilson, Taylor and M. Todd) was invited to this meet, but didn’t compete due to injuries. Lewis was also invited for the 200-meter, but did not compete in this event due to his training schedule.

• • •

Blue Devils and Lady Devils who have qualified will compete in the sectional meet on Saturday, May 12, at Science Hill.

“This year has been a year of change for UCHS track and field,” Davis said. “The changes to the TSSAA track and field system placed Unicoi County in the larger school classification. Despite these changes, our goal at UCHS track and field has not changed – Blue Devil representation at the state meet in Murfreesboro. Part of that new journey for our athletes has been qualifying for the sectional track meet.

The following athletes will compete at sectionals on May 12: Hawkins in pole vault; Harvey in pole vault; Altemose in pole vault; Mendoza in discus; Shane Armstrong in shot put; Perciful in shot put; Lewis in the 100-meter and 200-meter; and M. Todd in the 1600-meter and 3200-meter.

“This is an incredible accomplishment for each of these athletes and a testament to their hard work this season,” Davis said. “We could not be more proud of the way all of our athletes perform each and every day and are excited to see what these qualifiers do as they attempt to qualify for the state meet.”