Lady Devil basketball team wins tournament games

Junior Ashtan Vance takes aim at a free throw during the Lady Devil basketball team’s game with Unaka last week. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Unicoi County High School Lady Devil basketball team (4-1) kicked off the 2018 Triten Insurance Thanksgiving Tournament at Sullivan East with a 62-42 victory over the Hampton Lady Bulldogs on Monday, Nov 19.

The Lady Devils were led by senior guard Chloe Powers, who went off for 23 points including 5 three-pointers. Powers was all over the court as she finished with 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 4 assists.

Junior Ashton Vance scored 11 points, while senior guard Kaylee Hendrickson scored 7. Junior guard Kaylia Street scored 6 points and sophomore guard Tenley Holt scored 4. They were followed by senior post Allee Griffith, sophomore guard Leah Edney, and freshman guard Abigail Rush who all scored 3 points each. Sophomore guard Caroline Podvin scored 2 points.

Griffith finished with 6 rebounds and 3 steals and Podvin finished with 2 rebounds, 4 steals and 4 assists.

The Lady Devils continued to be solid at the free throw line, going 10-13 against Hampton for 76 percent.

Coach Kerri King and her staff have the Lady Devils on a roll.

“We communicated well on defense and offensively we had better movement with the ball,” King told The Erwin Record.

King can already see growth in this new look Lady Devils team.

“The girls took adjustments we made from the last game and applied them to tonight’s game,” King said.

• • •

Tournament play continued for the UCHS Lady Devils as they took on the Dobyns Bennett Lady Indians on Wednesday, Nov. 21, at Sullivan East.

Despite taking the lead early and leading at halftime, the Lady Devils fell to the Lady Indians 71-58. The loss was the first of the season for the Lady Devils.

Powers led the Lady Devils with 14 points, followed by Hendrickson with 11 points. Vance followed with 10 points. Podvin had 8 points and Griffith had 7 points. Holt had 6 points and Street had 2.

Unfortunately for the Lady Devils, they did not have an answer for tournament MVP Courtney Whitson, who finished with 33 points.

Griffith finished with 3 of the teams total 12 assists and 8 rebounds. The Lady Devils continued to shine from outside the three-point line, shooting 52 percent.

The Lady Devils, who jumped out to an 18-9 lead in the first quarter and a 34-32 lead at half time ran into depth issues in the second half.

“We played seven and they went 12 deep and outsized us at every position, and late in the game our legs weren’t there,” King said.

Despite the loss, King was impressed with what she saw out of her team.

“We battled so hard, I was pleased with their fight,” King said of her team.

• • •

The Lady Devils bounced back in the 2018 Triten Insurance Thanksgiving Tournament at Sullivan East on Friday, Nov. 23, with a solid win over Stateline Rush.

The Lady Devils beat Rush 65-49. The Lady Devils led each quarter thanks to a strong output of offense from several players.

Podvin had a breakout night, completing a double-double and finishing with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists.

Leading the Lady Devils in scoring was Powers with 17 points. Also scoring double digits was Hendrickson with 10 points. Hendrickson also managed to get 4 rebounds and 4 assists in the victory.

Vance scored 8 points, while Griffith had 7 points. Griffith also tied Holt with 8 rebounds each to lead the way for the Lady Devils. Like Griffith, Holt finished with 7 points. Street finished with 2 points.

The Lady Devils continued to connect outside of the three-point line, going 10-22 against Stateline Rush for 45 percent. The Lady Devils also continued to be almost automatic from the free throw line, going 15-18 for 83 percent.

• • •

On Saturday, Nov. 24, the Lady Devils wrapped up the 2018 Triten Insurance Thanksgiving Tournament at Sullivan East with a 58-38 victory over the Unaka Lady Rangers.

The victory put the Lady Devils at 4-1 on the season, and 3-1 during the tournament.

Hendrickson erupted by leading the team with 16 points and dishing out 8 of the team’s 16 total assists. Powers followed up with 13 points, while Podvin scored 11. The Lady Devils continued to find success from multiple shooters. Griffith and Vance each had 6 points, while junior guard Street had 4 points. Holt scored 2 points to round out the scoring for the Lady Devils.

The Lady Devils continue to spread the ball around and play solid on both sides of the ball. “This team distributes the ball and really buys into setting each other up, I’m so proud of that,” King said.

• • •

The Lady Devils will travel to Happy Valley on Friday, Nov. 30, to take on the Happy Valley Lady Warriors at 6:30 p.m.

The Lady Devils will return home on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 6:30 p.m. to face off with the Sullivan South Lady Rebels.

Blue Devil basketball team plays in Hardee’s Classic

Gavin Casey goes up for a shot against South Doyle on Saturday, Nov. 24, at the Hardee’s Classic. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

From Staff Reports

The 2018 Hardee’s Classis resulted in one victory and two losses for the Unicoi County High School Blue Devil basketball team (2-3).

“I like playing in the Hardee’s tournament because there is always good competition,” head coach Michael Smith said. “Every team has a chance to win it and you get to play three tough opponents. It’s a great chance for us to get three quality games in early in the season before we start conference play.”

The team opened the annual tournament against University High on Tuesday, Nov. 20. Struggles offensively in the second half doomed the Blue Devils against the Jr. Bucs. After trailing by only three points at halftime, Smith’s team just couldn’t put the ball in the goal in the second half. At the same time, the Jr. Bucs shot the ball very well.

“We did a good job in the first half defensively and taking care of the ball,” Smith said. “But, we went on a long stretch in the second half and didn’t score. They shot the ball very well in the second half.”

University High won the game, 81-63.

Sophomore Brock Thompson led the Blue Devils in scoring with 20 points (3 three-pointers) and 6 rebounds. Senior Gavin Casey scored 14 (2 three-pointers) and had 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Senior Ty Thelen scored 6. Junior Caleb Adkins scored 4 and senior Austin O’Dell scored 2.

• • •

What Smith described as his team’s best overall performance of the season came against Claiborne in the Hardee’s tournament losers’ bracket on Friday, Nov. 23.

“We did a good job of moving the ball, sharing the ball and setting other people up for shots,” Smith said. “We also did a better job of taking care of the ball.”

Of the team’s 26 made field goals, 20 were assisted. The Blue Devils also owned the paint, scoring 36 points in that area. They were also solid from the free throw line, making 22-29.

The Blue Devils also had five players scored in double figures in the 80-74 victory.

“We had seven guys score between 7 and 13 points,” Smith said. “It is very important that our offense was so evenly dispersed.”

Junior Brett Lingerfelt (1 three-pointer and 7 assists), junior Nicholas Hensley (3 three-pointers) and O’Dell (6 rebounds) all scored 13 points in the win.

Casey scored 12 points and had 5 rebounds. Senior Danny Lowery scored 11 and had 8 rebounds. Junior Phoenix Holt scored 9 (1 three-pointer). Thelen scored 7 (1 three-pointer). Adkins scored 2.

• • •

Turnovers proved costly for UCHS in the final game of the Hardee’s Classic on Saturday, Nov. 24. Facing South Doyle, the Blue Devils went into halftime leading 28-27; however, a disastrous third quarter gave South Doyle the cushion needed to earn the win.

“We got outscored by 14 in the third quarter,” Smith said. “We missed some shots and they did a good job of limiting us to one shot.”

The Blue Devils didn’t go down without a fight. Trailing 52-39, the team went on a 13-1 run to get within 1 point, 53-52, late in the game. However, turnovers proved to be the difference as the Blue Devils turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions, allowing South Doyle to hold on for the 64-55 victory.

Lingerfelt led the team in scoring with 14 points (3 three-pointers). Casey had 10 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Thelen scored 9 and had 4 assists. Lowery scored 9 and had 6 rebounds and 3 assists. O’Dell scored 8. Holt scored 3. Adkins scored 3.

• • •

The Blue Devils will open the Three Rivers Conference season on the road at Happy Valley on Friday, Nov. 30.

“I expect it to be a tough game,” Smith said of the matchup with the rival Warriors. “Every game in our league will be tough. Each night any team can beat any other. We have to come ready to play and get off on the right foot in the conference.”

The Blue Devils will host Sullivan South in conference play on Tuesday, Dec. 4.

The junior varsity team is set to play each day at 5 p.m., with the varsity to follow at 8 p.m.

Blue Devil football players receive region honors

By Keeli Parkey

The 2018 Unicoi County High School football team had the program’s most successful season in recent memory.

Under the direction of head coach Drew Rice, the Blue Devils finished with a 9-3 overall record, finished second in Region 1-AAA with a 4-1 league record and won a playoff game. The team was eliminated from the playoffs by a loss at Alcoa earlier this month.

While the disappointment of the loss to Alcoa was certainly felt by the UCHS players and coaches, that doesn’t diminish the quality of the 2018 season by the team.

In addition to having the first winning season for the program since 1996, the Blue Devils won nine games for the first time since 1985, hosted the first playoff game at Gentry Stadium since 1991, earned the program’s first playoff victory since 1985 and made it to the Sweet 16 for TSSAA.

“Overall, I think it was a great year for us,” Rice previously told The Erwin Record. “We obviously would have liked for a few things to turn out differently, but we were certainly blessed to have the year we had. It says a lot about our guys and their commitment to each other.”

With the season over, several Blue Devils have been recognized for their performances on the field, including junior Kody Lewis who has been named at the Region 1-AAA Offensive Player of the Year. Lewis finished the season with 24 touchdowns and 2,025 total yards, setting school records for both rushing yards and touchdowns in one season. He averaged just over 10 yards per carry.

“Kody breaking the single-season rushing record for both yards and touchdowns in a single season, is huge for him and our program moving forward,” Rice previously said.

Senior kicker Martin Porras was named as the region’s Specialist of the Year. Porras converted 44-52 extra point attempts this season.

Sophomore quarterback Brock Thompson was named as the Underclassmen of the Year for Region 1-AAA. Thompson completed 70 passes for 1,213 yards and threw for 15 touchdowns.

Named to the Region 1-AAA First Team were Blue Devils: Ike Edwards, Roby Lemmon, Danny Lowery, Austin O’Dell, Brett Strother, Tanner VanHoy, Noah White and Drew Williams.

Named to the Region 1-AAA Second Team were Blue Devils: Nick Farnor, Michael Harrington, LJ Mitchell, Justin Pike and Jacob Schreck.

Zeb Tipton was named to the all-academic team.

Johnson County’s Nathan Lane was named the league’s Player of the Year.

UCHS football season ends with loss at Alcoa

Kody Lewis rushes for a few of his 104 yards during the Unicoi County High School football team’s playoff loss to Alcoa. The junior finished the season with 2,025 yards. He also set the single-season record for touchdowns with 24. (Contributed photo by Scott Keller/The Daily Times)

By Keeli Parkey

One of the best seasons in recent memory for a Unicoi County High School football team has come to an end. The Blue Devils (9-3) lost to the three-time defending state champion Alcoa Tornadoes, 56-0, on the road on Friday, Nov. 9, in the second round of the playoffs.

“It was a rough outing, but we knew what we were up against,” head coach Drew Rice said of the loss. “They are going to win their fourth straight state championship in December. If you are gonna get put out of the playoffs, losing to the eventual state champion isn’t the worst way to be put out.”

Alcoa (12-0) jumped on the Blue Devils from kickoff, taking a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 42-0 lead at halftime.

“They are just so talented, and there were no weak links to take advantage of,” Rice said. “That’s the strongest team we have ran into in my time coaching. We have made great strides in the weight room in that last two years, but it shows we still aren’t where we want to be.”

A bright spot in the loss was the performance of junior Kody Lewis, who rushed for 104 yards, bringing his season total to 2,025 yards. He also scored 24 touchdowns this season, which set the UCHS record for a single season, all without one fumble.

“I thought Kody rushing for over 100 yards against the best team in the state was pretty impressive,” Rice said. “He also passed the 2,000-yard mark for the season which is just incredible. Brett Strother really laid it all on the line. He played like a senior is supposed to in their last game. He proved he belonged on that level and I believe he will be playing on Saturdays come next fall.”

Against Alcoa, the UCHS offense had only 125 yards. Alcoa’s offense went for 382 yards. The Tornadoes advanced to face Austin-East in the 3A playoffs quarterfinal game on Friday, Nov. 16.

Playing against the best in the state was a learning experience, which will be beneficial for the players returning next season.

“I think it’s a great reminder that you are never as good as you think you may be, and that there is always someone out there who is better,” Rice said. “So you have to use that to motivate yourself to always get better.”

While the disappointment of the loss to Alcoa is certainly felt by the UCHS players and coaches, that doesn’t diminish the quality of the 2018 season by the team. In addition to having the first winning season for the program since 1996, the Blue Devils won nine games for the first time since 1985, hosted the first playoff game at Gentry Stadium since 1991, earned the program’s first playoff victory since 1985 and made it to the Sweet 16 for TSSAA.

“Overall, I think it was a great year for us,” Rice said. “We obviously would have liked for a few things to turn out differently, but we were certainly blessed to have the year we had. It says a lot about our guys and their commitment to each other.”

Playing a major role in the team’s success this season was its ground game, according to the head coach.

“I think the biggest difference was our ability to run the football effectively,” Rice said. “Kody rushed for over 2,000 yards and we had over 4,300 yards of total offense for the year which is just incredible. Kody breaking the single-season rushing record for both yards and touchdowns in a single season, is huge for him and our program moving forward.”

The loss to Alcoa was the final game for the team’s seniors–  Shane Armstrong, Brady Deyton, Easton Edwards, Ikey Edwards, Jordan Hensley, Drew Keasling, Gavin Keasling, Danny Lowery, Austin O’Dell, Justin Pike, Martin Porras, Garrett Shelton, Strother, Ty Thelen, Zeb Tipton, Noah White and Drew Williams.

“I can’t say enough about them,” Rice said of the seniors. “They were the first group in school history to make the playoffs all four years, which is tremendous to think about.

“Noah White has been playing on a torn ACL since the West Greene game. That sort of commitment, and want to from an 18-year-old kid, is why we were successful this year. He has been a rock for this program for the last two years and I hope our young guys can learn a lot from the example he and the other seniors set.

“We had a lot of guys play through some nagging injuries all year and it just speaks volumes about their commitment to their teammates and our football program. They laid a tremendous foundation for future success.”

Blue Devil football team wins first playoff game since 1985

Assistant coach Brandon Adams high-fives junior Kody Lewis after he scored one of his three touchdowns in the game. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The 2018 Unicoi County High School football team (9-2) ended the program’s playoff winless streak on a chilly, rainy night last week. Playing Kingston (4-7) at Gentry Stadium in Erwin on Friday, Nov. 2, the Blue Devils overcame a late deficit to win the program’s first postseason game since 1985. The game was also the first time the Blue Devils hosted a playoff game since 1991.

“I am extremely proud of our guys,” head coach Drew Rice said. “They fought for that win and definitely deserved to experience a special win like that.”

The Blue Devils scored first in Friday’s game on a 7-yard run by Kody Lewis. Martin Porras converted the extra point and UCHS led 7-0 with just over 2 minutes to play in the first quarter.

Kingston responded with a touchdown around the 10-minute mark of the second quarter on a 26-yard touchdown pass by Bo Baker for a 7-6 score. The teams kept one another out of the end zone for the remainder of the half.

“I felt good about it,” Rice said of the game as he headed to the locker room for halftime. “We made some big stops on defense in the first half, so that was a boost going into halftime. We had to correct some minor things, but I thought we came out and cleared a lot of those things up in the second half.”

Kingston got on the scoreboard first in the third quarter thanks to an 8-yard touchdown run by Brad Keathley. The 2-point conversion failed and the Yellowjackets led 12-7 with just under 2 minutes to play in the third quarter.

The Blue Devils weren’t going down without a fight.

“I think they just made the decision that we were not going to lose that game,” Rice said of his players. “That’s what leadership looks like. Guys like Brett Strother and Noah White willed us into that win. I am so proud of our seniors and how they played their last game at Gentry Stadium.”

It was Strother who put the Blue Devils back in the lead. The senior snagged a pass from quarterback Brock Thompson and raced downfield for a 61-yard touchdown. Porras was successful again and UCHS lead 14-12 with less than a minute to play in the third quarter.

A motivated UCHS defense forced Kingston to punt on the Yellowjackets’ first fourth quarter possession; however, a penalty against the Blue Devils gave their opponent the ball back. Kingston didn’t waste the opportunity, scoring a touchdown and successfully completing a 2-point conversion. The Yellowjackets held a 20-14 lead with 6:17 to play.

Losing the lead didn’t deflate the Blue Devils. Instead, the team put together a quick scoring drive. On second down, Thompson handed the ball off to Lewis who broke free for an 83-yard run to tie the game, 20-20.

“I felt like we had enough time to put a drive together,” Rice said. “It only took two plays, but it was a huge possession. Our guys believed we were going to win and that was what helped us get it done.”

With the pressure on, Porras then stepped up and nailed another extra point, putting UCHS in the lead for good.

“He’s been great,” Rice said of Porras. “He has gone 44-52 on the year, which is tremendous, especially when there was a time here when making one extra point in a game was a challenge. Our soccer program has been a huge help to us there. The last three years our kicker has been a member of the soccer team and it’s really been beneficial to us.”

Kingston took possession again with 5 minutes to play, but the Blue Devil defense did its job and forced a punt.

“They played lights out. I can’t say enough about them,” Rice said about his defense. “Coach (Jason) Hensley, coach (Devin) Whitehead, coach (Malcolm) Foreman and coach (Brandon) Adams had those guys ready to go. Danny Lowery and Drew Williams were all over the place all night.”

The Blue Devils took possession with just over 4 minutes to play. A few plays into the drive, Lewis broke free again – this time for a 46-yard touchdown – and UCHS led 27-20.

“Our offensive line was able to create some running lanes and all Kody needs is a crease and he is gone,” Rice said. “He’s a special talent. He is knocking on the door of 2,000 yards rushing and missed one game, and didn’t play in the fourth quarter of half of our games.”

Kingston took possession with 2 minutes to play. Once again, the UCHS stuffed the Yellowjackets and the Blue Devils won the game, 27-20.

“It’s huge for our program,” Rice said of the playoff victory. “To get to nine wins and win a game like that, at home, it’s just huge. I hope this is a huge catapult for us for the rest of this season and even into next year. The success we have had this year is a credit to these young men and their dedication to this program and each other.”

• • •

Lewis rushed for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns in the win. The junior has 24 touchdowns and 1,921 total yards this season.

Thompson completed 6-9 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. Strother had 4 catches for 124 yards and 1 touchdown.

Noah White and Roby Lemmon led the UCHS defense with 7 and 5 tackles, respectively. Each also had a sack.

Lewis had 4 tackles. Strother, Rodrigo Castellon and Isaiah Edwards had 3 tackles each. Castellon also had a sack. Tanner VanHoy had an interception.

• • •

The victory over Kingston sends UCHS to Alcoa to face the three-time defending state champion Tornadoes (11-0) on Friday, Nov. 9, in the second round of the playoffs.

Alcoa defeated Claiborne, 56-0, in the first round on Nov. 2.

According to the TSSAA website, Alcoa has won 16 state titles since 1977. The Blue Devils faced Alcoa in the first round of the playoffs in 2016 and lost 49-13.

“They are a tremendous team and program – maybe even the best in the state, regardless of classification,” Rice said. “We know what we have on our plate, but we are going to prepare this week like we have all year and have a great week of practice.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Blue Devil football team falls to Longhorns in region title game

Ty Wilson carries the ball for the Blue Devils during the loss to Johnson County on Friday, Oct. 26. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

A stingy performance by the Johnson County (9-1, 5-0) defense kept the Unicoi County High School football team (8-2, 4-1) from a region championship.

Playing in a matchup of league unbeaten teams on senior night at Gentry Stadium in Erwin on Friday, Oct. 26, the Longhorns held the high-scoring Blue Devils to their lowest point total of the season en route to a 35-12 victory. The win gave Johnson County the region crown and dropped UCHS to second place.

“We are all disappointed in the outcome,” Blue Devil head coach Drew Rice said. “Johnson County is a very good football team. I did think our guys fought and battled.”

The Longhorns got on the scoreboard first on Friday, scoring with around 4 minutes to play in the first quarter on an 18-yard run by Nathan Lane. Johnson County then took a 14-0 lead in the opening minute of the second quarter, this time on a 39-yard run by Lane.

“It took us a while to get going offensively,” Rice said. “Nathan Lane is a very good football player. We allowed him to get loose a few times and he made us pay.”

The Blue Devils fought their way back into the game in the second quarter. Quarterback Brock Thompson hit Brett Strother on a 54-yard pass to put UCHS in scoring position. Three handoffs to Kody Lewis later and he was in the end zone. Johnson County led 14-6 with 8 minutes to play in the half.

UCHS then forced Johnson County to punt and put together another scoring drive that culminated in another score by Lewis. The Blue Devils went into halftime trailing only 14-12.

“Once we settled in, I thought we played much better in the second quarter,” Rice said. “Going in at halftime, I felt really good about where we were.”

In the third, the teams traded possessions for most of the quarter. With around 7 minutes to play, the Blue Devils found themselves with the ball deep in their own territory. On third-and-14, Lane intercepted Thompson’s pass and ran it back into the end zone for a 21-12 Longhorn lead.

“It certainly deflated us,” Rice said of the score. “A play like that, in a game like that, can be devastating. Sometimes it comes down to who makes the first big mistake and that was us. That play is on me though, it wasn’t a good play call.”

The Blue Devil offense was held in check the rest of the way as Johnson County’s pressure defense kept them out of the end zone. The Longhorns added two more scores in the fourth quarter, both by Lane, for the final score of 35-12.

“I will just give credit where it’s due – they just have a tremendous defense,” Rice said. “Probably the best defense we have seen in the last three years in the regular season. They are very aggressive and put a lot of pressure on offenses.”

That defense held UCHS to just 3-11 on third down attempts, while the Longhorns converted 6-10.

“We certainly struggled to move the ball, except for in the second quarter,” Rice said. “Not being able to get stops on third down defensively is usually not a recipe for success.”

UCHS had only 190 total yards of offense, which is the lowest of the season. Of that 102 yards came in the air, while 88 came on the ground. Johnson County had 308 total yards – 45 passing and 263 rushing.

Thompson threw for 102 yards. Lewis had 23 carries for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns. Strother had 3 catches for 89 yards.

Lewis, Noah White, Danny Lowery and Tanner VanHoy had 3 tackles each for the UCHS defense. Lowery also had a sack.

• • •

The second place finish in Region 1-3A by the Blue Devils set up a first round playoff contest with Kingston (4-6, 3-3), the third seed from Region 2-3A. The game will be played in Erwin on Friday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m.

“They are a very good football team,” Rice said of Kingston. “You don’t get in the playoffs in that region and not be one. We will have our hands full. They are going to try and run the football the majority of the time and we are going to have to stop it. This is the first home playoff game in 27 years, so it’s something we are a very proud of. We hope to have a good showing Friday night.”

Putting the Johnson County loss behind them will be key for the Blue Devils as they face Kingston.

“We have talked a lot about this being a new season,” Rice said. “We are very fortunate to still be playing. Over half the teams in the state are already finished. We put together a good enough year to earn a home playoff, which is a huge deal for our program. We have to refocus and get back to work.”

Johnson County will host Gatlinburg-Pittman (6-4, 3-3) on Friday.

Blue Devil football team to play for region title

UCHS football head coach Drew Rice stands with sophomore quarterback Brock Thompson during a game earlier this season. Rice will lead the Blue Devils into a game with Johnson County for the Region 1-3A title on Friday, Oct. 26. (File photo)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School football team (8-1, 4-0) is one win away from a Region 1-3A championship. Standing in the way of that goal are the Johnson County Longhorns (8-1, 4-0). The two rivals will battle for the region crown at Gentry Stadium in Erwin on Friday, Oct. 26.

“Our support all year home and away has been tremendous,” Blue Devil head coach Drew Rice told The Erwin Record. “We would just like to thank everyone for that and ask the community to come and support these young men as we try and win a region championship for the first time in 27 years. It’s senior night and we are also going to have a ‘Blue Out’ and encourage all of our fans to wear blue for such a big game.”

Senior night will begin at 7 p.m. with kickoff to follow at 7:30 p.m.

Both the Blue Devils and the Longhorns come into Friday’s game undefeated in region play.

“They have a lights-out defense,” Rice said of the Longhorns. “They bring a lot of pressure, so we are going to have to make ball security our top priority. They are 8-1 just like us, so it should be an exciting game.”

The Blue Devils go into Friday night having had the benefit of their bye week coming on Oct. 19. While Johnson County battled with Cloudland to a 14-8 win that night, UCHS began preparing for the region championship battle.

“We spent the bye week trying to keep our legs fresh, while still beginning preparations for Johnson County,” Rice said. “We have to have the best week of practice we have had all year this week.”

Key to defeating the Longhorns, according to the head coach, will be fundamentals of football.

“We have to take care of the ball and control the line of scrimmage,” Rice said. “Our offensive and defensive lines have come up huge for us all year – we are going to rely on them more than ever Friday night.”

The Blue Devils are ready to perform under the pressure of such a big game, Rice said.

“I think we are all anxious,” he added. “We have talked about this game for a long time, and now that it’s here, with all that’s at stake, it’s huge for all of us. We are going to lean on our preparations and all the little things we have done each week to get us to this point. I have a lot of confidence in our leadership from these juniors and seniors.”

•••

Win or lose to Johnson County, the Blue Devils will play in the first round of the 3A playoffs at Gentry Stadium on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. The Longhorns will also host a playoff game regardless of the outcome of Friday’s game.

“We will play at home the first round of the playoffs, no matter what,” Rice said. “Obviously, we want to get the number one seed so we would be playing a number four seed instead of the number three seed. If we win, we will probably see Northview Academy. If we lose, we would more than likely see Gatlinburg Pittman.”

UCHS officials are reminding those who plan to attend the playoff game on Nov. 2 that season tickets and conference passes will not be accepted.  All school system employees will also have to purchase a ticket.

Blue Devil football team survives test at West Greene

By Keeli Parkey

For the Unicoi County High School football team, last week’s game at West Greene was a tale of two halves. And, fortunately for the Blue Devils (8-1, 4-0), that tale had a happy ending.

Kody Lewis rushes for some of his 396 yards against West Greene. The junior also scored 4 touchdowns in the 41-2 victory by the Blue Devils over the Region 1-3A opponent. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Kody Lewis)

“I thought we were very sluggish in the first half, but I thought we came out and really showed some grit and determination in the second half when we needed it the most,” head coach Drew Rice told The Erwin Record.

Facing the Buffaloes (2-6, 1-3) on the road on Friday, Oct. 12, Rice’s team found itself in a Region 1-3A battle with its undefeated record on the line. The teams traded blows throughout the first half of a very physical game and went into halftime with the Blue Devils holding a very narrow 14-13 lead. Scoring for UCHS in the first half were Brett Strother and Kody Lewis – both on 10-yard runs. Martin Porras converted the point-after attempt after both scores.

Halftime allowed the Blue Devils to regroup, make adjustments and rally around one another – and it showed in the second half.

“We have played so well for the last five or six weeks, I feel like maybe we were due for a slight lull at some point,” Rice said. “The thing that I liked to see was our guys responded to us challenging them at halftime to come out and play like we knew we were capable of playing. We just talked about small things that were having a big impact on the game. I felt like we cleaned up a lot of those mistakes in the second half.”

The Blue Devils took control of the game in the third quarter.

On the first possession of the second half, UCHS made a point to run the ball – and run it they did on every play. The drive ended with a 7-yard touchdown run by Lewis. Porras again converted the PAT and UCHS took a 21-13 lead.

UCHS forced West Greene into a turnover on downs before putting together another scoring drive by running the football on every play. Despite three penalties against the Blue Devil offense, Rice’s team managed to score on a 22-yard run by Lewis. Another successful PAT by Porras gave UCHS a 28-13 lead with just under 2 minutes to play in the third.

On the first play of the Buffaloes’ next drive, Tanner VanHoy snagged the first of his two interceptions in the game.

“I thought Tanner’s two interceptions were huge,” Rice said. “We have been waiting for him to have a game like that. He’s very capable, and I was very happy for him.”

The Blue Devils didn’t waste the opportunity to add another score. Again running the ball on every play, the drive culminated in Strother’s 4-yard touchdown run. UCHS took a 34-13 lead into the final quarter. 

“We just decided until they stopped us running it, we were going to keep doing it,” Rice said. “(Quarterback) Brock (Thompson) did a great job of running our offense. He had a couple tough breaks on some interceptions, but that’s just part of the game. It happens at every level.”

West Greene scored in the fourth quarter with 10 minutes to play in the game, but the Blue Devils quickly responded thanks to Lewis’ 15-yard touchdown run as UCHS came away with a 41-20 victory.

Rice said he was very pleased with how his team bounced back in the second half to secure the win.

“It was good to see,” he added. “Our leadership from some of our older guys was tremendous. Great teams are player driven, not coach driven. I credit a whole lot of our success this year on the leadership from some of these seniors and juniors.”

The UCHS offense had 575 total yards – 536 rushing and 39 passing. Of those rushing yards, Lewis totaled 396 for another standout performance by the junior. Lewis also scored 4 touchdowns bringing his season total to 19.

“Kody was tremendous,” Rice said. “His stats right now are incredible. That’s a credit to our offensive line for the work they are doing up front. They really had their way Friday night with West Greene’s defensive line and that makes calling plays easy when they are winning their individual battles like that.”

Lewis and the players who work hard to block for him are a real asset to the Blue Devils.

“Kody can score anytime the ball is in his hands,” Rice said. “He just needs enough space to get to the second level and he is gone. It’s an unbelievable weapon. Our offensive line, tight end Austin O’Dell, and H-backs Noah White, LJ Mitchell and Lane Garland are workhorses who don’t get enough credit for the job they do opening up holes for our backs.”

Strother scored 2 TDs and had 11 carries for 76 yards.

“I thought Brett’s leadership was about as much as you could ask out of a high school kid,” Rice said. “He had a couple catches, ran the ball extremely well for us and was a force on defense. I can’t say enough about his maturity and leadership.”

Ty Wilson had 4 carries for 54 yards. Gavin Keasling had 1 catch for 16 yards. Peyton Whitson had 1 catch for 10 yards.

The Blue Devil defense held West Greene to 206 total yards. Lewis led the defense with 9 tackles. Noah White had 7 tackles, Strother had 5 and Jacob Schreck had 4. VanHoy had 2 tackles and 2 interceptions.

• • •

The win over West Greene kept the Blue Devils undefeated in Region 1-3A play and in a tie for first place with the Johnson County Longhorns (7-1, 4-0). The Blue Devils and Longhorns will play for a region championship in Erwin on Friday, Oct. 26.

“I think myself, the staff and these guys just want to achieve our goal of a region championship,” Rice said. “We have talked about it since last December and now we are just a week and a couple of days away. It’s surreal in a way. I cannot explain how bad I want us to find a way to get it done for these young men. They deserve the success.”

The win over the Buffaloes also sealed a home playoff game for UCHS, which will be played on Nov. 2 at Gentry Stadium in Erwin. Likely opponents will be Region 2-3A teams Northview Academy or Gatlinburg-Pittman, depending on the results of the final game of the season.

This week is a bye week for the Blue Devils.

“We are going to keep our lifting and running schedule the same to keep our strength and conditioning where we want it, but we will probably back off a little bit this week in practice and try to really work on our fundamentals and heal up a little bit,” Rice said. “I don’t think focus will be a problem this week. Our guys have worked all year to get to this point. It’s exciting for us and the community.”

Season ends for Lady Devil soccer team

By Keeli Parkey

The 2018 season soccer season came to an end for Unicoi County High School last week.

Playing in the first round of the District 1-AA tournament, the Lady Devils (2-13) lost to Sullivan Central in a do-or-die game. The final score was 9-0.

“The season as a whole was a learning experience for the team,” head coach Bettina Chirica told The Erwin Record. “The majority of the girls have never played soccer before, so they learned how to play the game, but even more importantly, they built lifelong skills of teamwork, commitment, and discipline. The girls created friendships that will last a lifetime.”

A group of six seniors led the team this season.

“The seniors were the glue that held the team together,” Chirica said. “Two of them, Katherine Altemose and Andrea Lopez have been with the team since the first year that it started four years ago. Other seniors included Halie Hawkins, Juana Ponce, Spencer Garant and Carly Kinsler. The legacy they leave are the foundation for future generations to come. I’m so thankful for the leadership and commitment of the seniors. They will be dearly missed.”

Chirica said that Garant, who is a student a Cloudland High School and co-oped to UCHS to play soccer, will be signing with the soccer team at Lees-McRae College in the near future.

Offseason work for next season’s Lady Devils will begin later this month on an indoor field, Chirica also said.

Blue Devil football team defeats Unaka Rangers

By Keeli Parkey

Brock Thompson throws one of his 11 completions at Unaka during the Blue Devil football team’s 42-0 victory on Friday, Oct. 5. Thompson threw for 201 yards in the game. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Another week, another win.

The Unicoi County High School football team trounced the Unaka Rangers in Carter County on Friday, Oct. 5.

“I was pleased with how we showed up and took care of business,” head coach Drew Rice told The Erwin Record.

The 42-0 victory over the rangers was the seventh of the season for the Blue Devils (7-1, 3-0). It’s the first time a UCHS football team has reached that win total since 1989 when the team won 8 games.

“We have talked about it some, but we have said all season that we will reflect on what we have done once it’s all over,” Rice said of his team reaching win milestones. “In the meantime, we are just trying to go 1-0 each week and continue to work and prepare each week with that being the task at hand.

“We have a group of great young men who do anything and everything we ask of them. I have said before, that the level of commitment we ask them for is truly uncommon in today’s day and age. Our success is a credit to their willingness to show up and work, every single day.”

The Blue Devils took control of Friday’s game from kickoff, pinning Unaka deep into their own territory and forcing a punt. Taking over on their own 49-yard line, the Blue Devils needed only four plays to score the first touchdown of the game – a 17-yard run by Kody Lewis. Martin Porras converted the extra point and UCHS held a 7-0 lead.

After forcing another punt by Unaka, the Blue Devils put together another scoring drive – this one ending with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Brock Thompson to Peyton Whitson. Porras was successful again on the point-after attempt and UCHS held a 14-0 lead.

The second quarter belonged to the Blue Devils as Thompson led the offense to three passing touchdowns – a 26-yard pass to Brett Strother, a 21-yard pass to Gavin Keasling and a 30-yard pass to Lewis. Porras stayed perfect on the night and UCHS took a 35-0 lead into halftime.

“I thought Brock really executed well and ran the offense like a senior, it’s easy to forget sometimes that he is still just a sophomore,” Rice said. “He’s a special young man, and I am just glad he is on our team.”

Noah White scored the final touchdown of the game on a 9-yard run. Porras converted his sixth extra point on six tries for the final score of 42-0.

It was another game where the Blue Devils controlled the line on both sides of the ball.

“Offensively, our three seniors that play a lot are Ike Edwards, Justin Pike and Drew Keasling. They all do a whole lot for us,” Rice said. “Our juniors, who all started as sophomores last year, Roby Lemmon, Michael Harrington and Nick Farnor, have been tremendous. Our success offensively is a credit to all of them.

“Defensively, Drew Williams, Danny Lowery, Shane Armstrong, Austin O’Dell and LJ Mitchell have all been a force to deal with. Coach (Brandon) Adams, our defensive line coach, has done a great job working those guys.”

The Blue Devil defense held Unaka to 108 total yards on Friday – 109 in the air and -1 on the ground. Rice credits his team’s preparation for the Rangers’ hurry-up offense for the defensive effort.

“We tried to give our guys a hurry up look all week in practice,” Rice said. “Our young guys did a great job of giving us a good look on our scout teams all week. It really showed up on Friday night. … Our defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. We have told them all year that they have the ability to take over games, they are tough to block when they play like they did Friday.”

Balance was the name of the game for the UCHS offense at Unaka. The team had a total of 422 yards – 208 passing and 214 rushing.

“We wanted to work on a variety of things Friday night, and were able to do that and that was the product of us trying to spread the ball around to a lot of different guys,” Rice said.

Thompson completed 11-15 passes for 201 yards and 4 touchdowns. Lewis had 6 carries for 64 yards and 1 touchdown and 1 catch for 30 yards and 1 touchdown. White had 5 carries for 75 yards and 1 touchdown and 1 catch for 20 yards. Strother had 3 catches for 78 yards and 1 touchdown. Whitson had 3 catches for 39 yards and 1 touchdown. Keasling had 1 catch for 21 yards and 1 touchdown. Ty Wilson had 3 carries for 24 yards. Porras was 6-6 on extra point attempts.

LJ Mitchell had 3 tackles, Lewis, Drew Williams and Tanner VanHoy had 2 tackles each. Austin O’Dell had a sack. Shane Armstrong and Robbie O’Dell each had a fumble recovery.

• • •

The will Blue Devils return to Region 3-A play on Friday, Oct. 12, when they travel to West Greene (2-5, 1-2) to face the Buffaloes.

“They are a good team,” Rice said. “We are going to have to have a great week of preparation and go execute come Friday.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

A win over West Greene will keep UCHS undefeated in region play at 4-0. If Johnson County (6-1, 3-0) defeats North Greene on Friday, the Blue Devil and the Longhorns will each be unbeaten and will battle for the region title on Friday, Oct. 26, in Erwin.

“We both control our own destiny,” Rice said of the Blue Devils and the Longhorns. “It’s exciting to look ahead, but right now we can’t. I don’t think our guys will look past them, mainly because they slipped up on us last year and I think these guys will be very motivated to go take care of this one.”

Blue Devil football team still unbeaten in region

Peyton Whitson gains yards in the red zone following a catch on Friday, Sept. 28. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The Big Blue train continues to roll.

With a 49-17 victory over Chuckey-Doak at Erwin’s Gentry Stadium on Friday, Sept. 28, the Unicoi County High School football team did something no Blue Devil team has done in decades – win six games in a season. The last time that happened, which was in 1996, even the oldest members of the 2018 Blue Devil team had not even been born.

“It just speaks to their commitment to each other,” head coach Drew Rice said of his team’s success this season. “They don’t want to let each other down and that’s what great teammates do. They have bought in to what we are asking of them, which is a whole lot, and they’ve done it with a smile on their face. It’s been fun to watch.”

The Blue Devils (6-1, 3-0) scored first on Friday, thanks to an 83-yard run by Kody Lewis; it was the first of his four touchdowns on the night.

“Kody had one of the best statistical games we have had here in a long time,” Rice said.

In addition to the four TDs, Lewis also had 325 yards on 18 carries.

A successful extra point by Martin Porras gave the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead. The Black Knights responded on their ensuing drive with a field goal before Lewis scored and Porras was successful again for a 14-3 UCHS lead.

“I was pleased with how we came out and executed against a good football team,” Rice said. “That was as big of a game as we have had this year and our guys really rose to the occasion.”

Chuckey-Doak would score again in the first quarter, but a 32-yard run by Lewis gave the Blue Devils momentum, and a 21-10 lead, going into the second frame.

The only touchdown of the second quarter came on a 9-yard pass by Blue Devil quarterback Brock Thompson to Noah White. Porras was good again and UCHS took a 28-10 lead into halftime.

“I thought Noah did a lot of things for us. Things that don’t always show up on a stat sheet,” Rice said. “He and the offensive line deserve a lot of credit for the success we have had offensively.”

The Blue Devils took control of the game in the third quarter. While keeping the Black Knights out of the end zone, UCHS scored twice – on an 8-yard run by White and on an 84-yard run by Lewis – for a 42-10 score going into the fourth.

Chuckey-Doak scored on a 36-yard run by Chris Cutshaw in the final frame. Blue Devil Brett Strother also scored in the fourth on a 1-yard run for the final score of 49-17.

Once again, the UCHS football team was able to control a game en route to a victory.

“We take a lot of pride in how we prepare each week,” Rice said. “Our emphasis each week is the same, to go 1-0. We have a Sunday through Friday routine that we stick to very diligently. We believe the game is usually won before it’s ever played.”

The UCHS offense posted 474 total yards – 90 in the air and 384 on the ground – on Friday.

The game was another solid performance by Thompson. He was 6-9 passing for 90 yards and a touchdown. 

“Brock has been great,” Rice said of his sophomore quarterback’s performance this season. “The reason we have been so successful is because we have a guy who can run our offense extremely well.

“He hasn’t had to throw it as much because we are averaging over 250 yards a game rushing. Teams have tried to take away our passing attack because they are so afraid of Brock and Brett (Strother), so we have just tried to make them pay by keeping it on the ground. Brock has a chance to be one of the greatest to ever play here by the time he is a senior.”

Strother had 5 carries for 47 yards and 1 touchdown. He also had 1 catch for 49 yards. White had 3 carries for 17 yards and 1 touchdown. White also had 3 catches for 24 yards and 1 touchdown.

On the defensive side of the ball, White and Preston Woodby had 3 tackles each. Strother, LJ Mitchell and Lane Garland had 2 tackles each. Danny Lowery had 1 tackle and 1 sack.

• • •

The win over Chuckey-Doak kept the Blue Devils unbeaten in Region 3-A play and at the top of the standing with the also undefeated Johnson County Longhorns (5-1, 3-0).

Rounding out the Region 3-A standings are: Chuckey-Doak (3-4,1-2); Claiborne (1-6, 1-2); West Greene (2-4, 1-2); and North Greene (0-6, 0-3).

Remaining league games for the Blue Devils include a trip to West Greene on Oct. 12 and playing host to Johnson County on Oct. 26 in the final game of the regular season.

“We are trying to take it one week at a time, but yes we very much are looking forward to the possibilities for the rest of the season,” Rice said.

Before returning to region play, the Blue Devils will face the Unaka Rangers on the road in Carter County on Friday, Oct. 5.

“They have a really good quarterback who can throw it very well,” Rice said. “They do some good things offensively. We have to have another good week of preparation and get ready to go take care of business.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Season ends for UCHS volleyball team

Shelby Miller goes up for a kill against Sullivan East. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The 2018 season has come to an end for the Unicoi County High School volleyball team.

The Lady Devils (4-8, 7-16) were eliminated from postseason play by a loss to Sullivan East in the opening round of the District 1-AA tournament played at East on Monday, Oct. 1. The Lady Patriots bested UCHS in three sets (18-25, 21-25, 13-25).

UCHS finished in fifth place in the conference this season, which set up the opening round game against East, the fourth seed. The conference standings at the end of the regular season were as follows: 1 – Sullivan South; 2 – Elizabethton; 3 – Sullivan Central; 4 – Sullivan East; 5 – Unicoi County; 6 – Johnson County; 7 – Chuckey-Doak.

Freshman Shelby Miller had 9 kills and 4 blocks in the loss to East in the district. Senior Sarah Grace Larkey had 6 kills and 9 assists. Seniors Chloe Powers and Sydney Rogers each had 7 digs. Junior Blake Hall had 9 assists.

“Obviously, this isn’t how I wanted our season to end,” Lady Devil head coach LeAnn Lane said. “Going into this season, our team had high hopes and expectations; being that we had six seniors, Sarah Grace Larkey committed to playing at the next level and two returning junior starters and with the help of freshman Shelby Miller in the lineup.

“it should have been a top-three finish season. We were definitely capable of that,” Lane continued. However, we didn’t have many games where all the girls were connecting. Volleyball is one of those sports that everyone on the floor has to play their part and be ‘on.’ We would have games where two or three girls were on and it would help us compete, but not deal the win.”

Looking ahead to the 2019 season, Lane is expecting younger players to have to step in.

“Next season will be a rebuilding year with the 13 freshmen from this year, finding some of them to step into varsity roles as sophomores,” she said. “We have just a couple of sophomores that will also have to step up as juniors to compete at the varsity level for the first time.”

• • •

During the last week of the regular season, the Lady Devils earned a victory over Cherokee, non-conference opponent, but fell to conference foes East and Sullivan Central.

UCHS went on the road and defeated Cherokee in four sets (17-25, 25-20, 27-25, 25-11) on Sept. 24.

Miller had 11 kills and 2 blocks in the win. Larkey and Senior Emma Kelly had 7 kills each. Hall had 20 assists, 11 digs, 3 kills and 3 aces. Powers had 22 digs. Hallee Casey, who had recently returned to the lineup after an injury, had 11 assists and 8 digs.

On Sept. 25, the Lady Devils hosted Sullivan East, but fell in four sets (18-25, 11-25, 25-21, 20-25). Prior to the match, the program honored its senior members – Karrie Clayton, Kelly, Larkey, Powers and Rogers.

Hall had 22 assists and 15 digs in the loss. Powers had 27 digs. Larkey had 11 kills. Miller had 10 kills and 5 blocks. Rogers had 4 aces and 12 digs.

On Sept. 27, the Lady Devils lost on the road to Sullivan Central in three sets (19-25, 14-25, 15-25). Junior Ashtan Vance had 23 digs in the match. Powers and Rogers contributed 11 digs each. Miller had 7 kills.

• • •

The Lady Devil junior varsity squad wrapped up the 2018 season in the JV tournament on Saturday, Sept. 29. The team lost to Sullivan South in two sets (14-25, 17-25).

Freshman Raquel Torres had 8 digs. Freshman Caitlin Wilson had 2 kills and 1 block. Freshman Makenzie Casey had 2 kills. Freshman Hannah Shelton had 5 digs.

“I’m proud of our younger kids,” Lane said. “The JV is mostly made up of freshman and they’ve competed and got better all season by playing teams better than them. We split during the season with Elizabethton, who has juniors on their JV. I look to this group to help us in the coming seasons.”

Blue Devil football team goes to 5-1 on season

LJ Mitchell puts pressure on Central’s quarterback. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

On a milestone night for the Unicoi County High School football program, this 2018 group of Blue Devils helped make the night even more memorable.

Not only was the Friday, Sept. 21, game in Erwin the annual homecoming game, it also marked the 1,000th football game in the history of UCHS – and the Blue Devils rose to the occasion before one of the largest crowds at Gentry Stadium in recent memory. Led by head coach Drew Rice, the Blue Devils (5-1, 2-0) trounced Sullivan Central (0-5), 42-0, in a non-region game.

“I was very pleased with our execution and our effort,” Rice told The Erwin Record. “I think it was a great win for us.”

Participating in the 1,000th game in school history was significant, particularly for the coaching staff.

“We talked about it, and they were certainly aware of it,” Rice said of his players going into the milestone game. “I think as 16- and 17-year-old kids they might not have fully understood the magnitude of it, which may have been a good thing. Regardless, I thought they played fantastic and am super proud of them. Me personally, as someone who played here, it was certainly special. My grandfather, Keith Lyle, played here in the 1950s, so to have those sort of connections made it an awesome experience.”

After trading possessions with the Cougars on Friday, the Blue Devils got their first score of the night with less than 2 minutes to play in the first quarter when Kody Lewis broke loose for a 68-yard touchdown run. Martin Porras converted the extra point and UCHS led, 7-0.

The Blue Devils took complete control of the game in the second quarter, during which they played some of their best football of the season. Brett Strother scored two touchdowns, Lewis scored one and Austin O’Dell scored one to give UCHS a 35-0 lead at the half. O’Dell’s touchdown came after the Blue Devils forced and recovered a fumble just before halftime.

“Our execution was really strong, and I thought defensively we started to be really disruptive and it created some favorable situations for us,” Rice said.

The final score of the game came early in the third quarter when Strother took a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. As he did all game, Porras was good on the extra point for the final score of 42-0.

“Martin has been great this season,” Rice said. “He is one of our soccer recruits, and he has been tremendous for us. Our kicking has been pretty solid over the last couple years thanks to soccer guys who have been willing to come out and kick for us on Friday nights. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The Blue Devil defense held the Cougars to only 77 total yards, the lowest for a UCHS opponent this season.

“I am very proud of them,” Rice said of the defense. “Our kids did a great job of preparing for them and our coaching staff did a great job of putting our guys in good positions. If we can continue to play that aggressive, and execute that well, we will continue to be successful.”

The play on the line was also a bright spot for the Blue Devils and several individuals shone in the win last week. 

“Our offensive and defensive lines really played well,” Rice said. “I thought they both controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Kody had another huge game and really ran hard. I thought (quarterback) Brock (Thompson) did a great job on managing the offense. Brett had one of his better games with a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown. I really thought it was a team effort.”

Against Central, the Blue Devils showed the enthusiasm that is becoming a trademark of the program. This, according to the head coach, shows how much the players are dedicated to the program and the sport.

“I think it shows that they love the game,” Rice said. “We talk a lot about how football is too hard not to have fun doing it. I think our guys have really taken that to heart and it shows in how they approach the game. I hope it means we are heading in the right direction.

“I hope that our young guys see the successes of the older players and it motivates them to want to be doing the same thing in a couple years. The same thing goes for our middle school players and our youth league guys. We are trying to create a culture and a program that people want to be a part of.”

The UCHS offense had 311 total yards – 58 in the air and 253 on the ground.

Thompson was 6-9 passing for 54 yards and 2 touchdowns. Lewis had 8 carries for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns. Strother had 5 carries for 39 yards and a touchdown, 3 catches for 1 touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown. O’Dell had 1 catch for a touchdown. Easton Edwards had 5 carries for 18 yards.

For the Blue Devil defense, Ty Wilson, O’Dell and Tanner VanHoy all had fumble recoveries.

• • •

The Blue Devils will try to go 3-0 in Region 3-A play when they host Chuckey-Doak (3-3, 1-1) at Gentry Stadium on Friday, Sept. 28.

“They are a good football program,” Rice said of the Black Knights. “Coach (Ben) Murphy and his staff do a great job. We are going to have to be ready to get to work all this week in our preparation and get ready to go and get after it again Friday night.”

Not only will a win on Friday keep UCHS perfect in region play, it will also be the first time a Blue Devils has won six games since 1996. That year, UCHS finished the season 6-4.

“We have talked about it,” Rice said. “It’s certainly a goal of ours to have a winning season, but most importantly to remain unbeaten in the league.

“There’s a fine line there, I think, but we always talk about how we have to find confidence in our preparation – if you have done all the things leading up to that point to be successful, then the game should take care of itself. I think our older guys have done a great job of leading this team and ensuring we are ready each week.”

Kickoff on Friday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

UCHS cross country athletes run ‘well’ at meet

By Keeli Parkey

The Fender’s Farm Carnival run held on Sept. 15 was a successful one for the members of the Unicoi County High School cross country program.

“Our athletes ran exceptionally well,” head coach Thad Higgins told The Erwin Record.

The top finisher for the program was freshman Marissa Soulier who finished in 11th place overall.

“Marissa ran a 20:55 which is a huge improvement,” Higgins said. “She’d been striving to break 21 minutes for the last couple races, so that was a huge milestone for her.”

Cheyenne Wilson completed the race in 23:54 for the Lady Devils.

Darren Soulier led the way for the Blue Devil team, with a season best time of 19:33. Teammate John Campbell finished the race in a time of 20:38. Wyatt Miller finished in a time of 22:41.

“We have been spending a lot of time on the paces that each athlete would run,” Higgins said. “I think that focus began to pay off in this race. However, we still have a lot of room to improve as individuals and as a team.”

The next meet for the UCHS runners will be the Trailblazer Invitational at Daniel Boone High School on Oct. 13.

“Fortunately, we have some time before our next race,” Higgins said. “This will really give us time to work with some different strategies and paces, and will even give us an opportunity to take recovery time so that our athletes feel as fresh as possible for their next race.”

Blue Devils race past Claiborne Bulldogs

Kody Lewis avoids a tackle during the Blue Devils’ 42-13 road victory at Claiborne on Sept. 14. Lewis scored three touchdowns in the game and rushed for 228 yards. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

An explosive third quarter carried the Unicoi County High School football team (4-1, 2-0) to a 42-13 victory at Claiborne on Friday, Sept. 14.

“I think it was the most complete game we have played,” head coach Drew Rice said. “I thought we went in and executed very well.”

Falling behind early in games has been an issue for UCHS this season. However, this was not the case on Friday as the Blue Devils got off to a solid start on Friday and took a 13-7 lead in the opening quarter thanks to touchdowns by Kody Lewis and Brett Strother.

“We made it a focus not to have the slow start,” Rice said. “I think it just shows how bought in these guys are, they are a tremendous bunch of young men. We have to have a great week of practice and be ready to go execute again.”

Despite forcing turnovers in the second quarter, the Blue Devils only scored one TD – on a 36-yard run by Lewis. Strother carried the ball into the end zone to complete the 2-point conversion and UCHS took a 21-7 lead into the break.

The Blue Devils took complete control of the game in the third quarter, scoring three touchdowns – one each by Lewis, Noah White and Richie Laughren. Rice attributes the team’s second half success on Friday to their off-field preparations.

“I think our weight room work and our conditioning really took over,” he said. “We started busting holes open and our offensive and defensive lines really started moving people around. It’s great to see all our work in the off-season showing up when it matters.”

The Bulldogs added a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but this didn’t put a damper on how well the UCHS defense performed against Claiborne’s crafty offense.

“It’s always a challenge preparing for an offense that you don’t see much,” Rice said. “They ran a triple option offense where you have to play disciplined and assignment football. The only big play they had was the touchdown pass in the first quarter and when you look at the film, it was actually incomplete. We were in the right position; it’s just one of those things you have to take and go on.”

The Blue Devils forced three interceptions – two snagged by Strother and one by Gavin Keasling.

“The turnover battle is such a huge part of the game,” Rice said. “If we can continue to be on the right side of that, we will continue to be successful. Brett made two great plays on both his interceptions. Gavin Keasling played very well at corner for us as well.”

UCHS had 68 passing yards and 361 rushing yards for a total of 429 yards in the game. Lewis scored 3 TDs and had 228 yards.

“Kody’s a special player,” Rice said. “All he needs is a crease and he is gone. I don’t know if I have ever seen a kid score as many times as he does without ever being physically touched by a defender. He has really devoted himself to getting bigger and more explosive, his success is a credit to how hard both he and his teammates have worked.”

Quarterback Brock Thompson was  6-11 for 68 yards. Strother had 3 catches for 12 yards and rushed for 54 yards and 1 TD. Austin O’Dell (27 yards), LJ Mitchell (21 yards) and Peyton Whitson (8 yards) each had 1 catch. Laughren had 4 carries for 25 yards and a TD. Isaiah Smith had 3 carries for 27 yards.

White had 5 tackles for the UCHS defense and 1 sack in the win. Mitchell and Danny Lowery had 4 tackles each.

• • •

Friday’s victory kept UCHS perfect in Region 3-A play

“It’s huge,” Rice said of going to 2-0 in league play. “Any road win is big, but a road region win is even bigger. We have two down, and three more to go to achieve our goal of a region championship. They understood the importance of that game and their play reflected that.”

Remaining region games include Chuckey-Doak in Erwin on Sept. 28, West Greene on the road on Oct. 12 and Johnson County at home on Oct. 26.

With the season now half over, Rice is pleased with where his team stands.

“I think we all wish we could have the Happy Valley game back,” he said. “But at the same time, we are sitting here at 4-1 and undefeated in the region. I think we have to feel pretty good about that. We knew we had a chance to be tough, but we still have plenty of football left to play.”

In the weeks ahead, limiting mistakes will be key to the team’s success, according to the head coach.

“I think taking care of the football is always going to be a focus,” Rice said. “We have shown over the last two years that when we do that, we are successful. We have to stay healthy and continue to try and go 1-0 each individual week. We are pretty healthy for the most part. You will always have bumps and bruises in this game, but we have been blessed so far with being able to stay healthy.”

• • •

If you’re a Blue Devil fan, Gentry Stadium will be the place to be on Friday, Sept. 21. Not only will Rice’s team host Sullivan Central (0-4), the school will also celebrate Homecoming 2018 and the 1,000th game in the history of Blue Devil football.

“(Sullivan Central) is a good football team,” Rice said. “Their record doesn’t show what type of team they are. We are going to have a to come out ready and execute and play disciplined football.

“This Friday is the 1,000th game in program history, as well as homecoming,” Rice continued. “We would like to invite everyone in the community to come out and support what these young men are trying to accomplish. We hope to see a big crowd Friday night.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Lady Devil soccer team wins on senior night

Classmates turned out – and painted up – to cheer for the Lady Devil soccer team as they faced West Greene in Erwin on Thursday, Sept. 13. UCHS won the senior night game, 3-2. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School girls soccer team gave its senior members a memorable senior night last week.

Playing West Greene at home in Erwin on Thursday, Sept. 13, the Lady Devils (2-8) scored two goals in the second half on their way to a 3-2 victory.

“It was our senior night, and it was amazing just because our student body pulled together to cheer the girls on,” head coach Bettina Chirica said. “It felt like we were all one family, which really represented the #1bluenation. The atmosphere of support was really felt. It helped inspire our girls to play hard.”

Juana Ponce, Spencer Garant and Valeria Ponce each scored a goal in the victory.

The Lady Devils opened last week with a 4-0 loss to Sullivan Central on Sept. 11.

• • •

UCHS is scheduled to host Greeneville in Erwin on Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m. They will also play Elizabethton at home on Tuesday, Sept. 25.

UCHS volleyball team gets league win

By Keeli Parkey

With the season winding down, the Unicoi County High School volleyball (8-12, 4-5) team is battling for position in the Three Rivers Conference. And head coach LeAnn Lane hopes her squad can play its best at the right time.

Last week, the Lady Devils bested Providence (25-4, 25-16, 25-10) in non-conference action in Erwin on Monday, Sept. 10.

Shelby Miller led the team with 7 kills and 2 aces. Chloe Powers had 6 kills, 14 digs and 2 aces. Sarah Grace Larkey had 5 kills, 3 aces, 9 assists and 5 digs. Ashtan Vance had 4 aces and 7 digs. Emma Kelly had 5 kills.

UCHS added a needed win to its conference standings on Tuesday, Sept. 11, when the ladies defeated Chuckey-Doak (25-13, 25-14, 25-13).

Miller and Larkey each contributed 7 kills. Miller also had 4 blocks. Powers had 6 kills. Kelly had 3 kills. Blake Hall had 6 aces, while Vance added 2 aces and 9 digs. Sydney Rogers had 6 digs.

The Lady Devil junior varsity team also defeated Chuckey-Doak (25-12, 25-14). Caitlin Wilson had 5 kills and 8 aces in the win. Alex Withers had 4 kills. Dora Benton, Hannah Shelton and Makenzie Casey had 3 kills each. Natilee Clouse had 4 digs.

The varsity team’s victory over Chuckey-Doak brought the team’s conference record to 4-4 ahead of a matchup at Sullivan South on Thursday, Sept. 13.

“Now it’s a race to land higher than fifth place,” Lane said after the Chuckey-Doak victory.

At South, the Lady Devils lost in three sets (25-10, 25-18 and 25-20).

Remaining conference games for UCHS include matchups with Elizabethon on Sept. 19, Sullivan East on Sept. 25 and Sullivan Central and Sept. 27.

• • •

The Lady Devils faced Daniel Boone in non-conference play on Monday, Sept. 17, at KACHEA on Tuesday, Sept. 18, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.

Their next scheduled match will be in Erwin against Elizabethton on Wednesday, Sept. 19. They are also scheduled to play at Cherokee on Monday, Sept. 24, and face Sullivan East in Erwin on senior night on Tuesday, Sept. 25. Matches are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.

UCHS golf season ends at district

By Keeli Parkey

The 2018 golf season came to an end for the Unicoi County High School golfers at the larger schools District 1 golf tournament held at the Johnson City Country Club on Sept. 10.

Although they did not qualify for the region tournament, head coach Gene Renfro saw his Blue Devil golfers improve on their performances from last season.

“The team score at the district was 20 shots better than last year,” Renfro said. “I am proud of the guys for the improvement from last year and throughout the season. With that though, the course was tougher this year at the Johnson City County Club, but I believe the guys know shots were left out there or the score could have been lower even close enough to have placed ahead of David Crockett.”

Science Hill won the team competition with a score of 293. Other team scores were: Tennessee High – 320; Dobyns-Bennett – 321; Daniel Boone – 337; Sullivan South – 364; Elizabethton – 365; Sullivan East – 366; Sullivan Central – 367; Volunteer – 392; David Crockett – 467.

The Blue Devils posted a team score of 506. According to Renfro, individual scores were: Brett Lingerfelt – 102; Caleb Adkins – 148; Jordan Hensley – 117; and Nicholas Hensley – 139.

“I am proud of how the team came together this year with two players who had not played golf before stepping up to compete in our top three spots with Brett Lingerfelt and Jordan Hensley,” Renfro said. “With Lingerfelt along with Caleb Adkins, Nicholas Hensley, Nicholas Bender, Andy Cole, and Nicholas Lynch and Katlyn Higgins able to return for next season, things should continue to improve on the course.”

• • •

The Unicoi County golf program is raising funds by selling Dr. Enuf.

The team is selling cases of longneck glass bottles of regular, diet, herbal and diet herbal.

The cost is $21 for a case and the order will be placed Monday, Sept. 24, then delivered Thursday, Sept. 27.

For more information, email Renfro at renfrog@unicoischools.com.

Warriors hand Blue Devil football team first loss of season

Blue Devil Noah White carries the ball for UCHS during his team’s loss at Happy Valley on Friday, Sept. 7, in Carter County. The loss was the first of the season for the Blue Devils. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

A slow start doomed the Unicoi County High School football team against an old rival last week.

Playing at Happy Valley in a non-region game on Friday, Sept. 7, the Blue Devils (3-1, 1-0) fell behind 13-0 in the first quarter of a game that could have given the program its first 4-0 start to a season since 1984.

“We took one on the chin for sure,” head coach Drew Rice told The Erwin Record. “It was very disappointing, to say the least.”

The Blue Devils fell behind in the first quarter against South Greene and Sullivan East earlier this season, but they were able to overcome those deficits and win the games. That was the not case at Warrior Hill last week.

“It definitely was the difference in the game,” Rice said of the slow start. “We have said that if we continue to dig ourselves in a hole early, it would come back to bite us and that’s exactly what happened.”

The Blue Devils put together their first scoring drive of the game with around 5 minutes to play in the second quarter. Carries by Kody Lewis and a completed pass from quarterback Brock Thompson to Noah White brought UCHS near the goal line. On fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard-line, Thompson found Austin O’Dell in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Martin Porras converted the point-after attempt and the Blue Devils had momentum going into the second half.

UCHS took the lead in the third quarter on a 6-minute drive that culminated in a 4-yard rush by Lewis into the end zone. Porras again converted the extra point for a 14-13 Blue Devil lead.

On the Warriors’ ensuing possession, a penalty against Happy Valley forced them into a first-and-23 and it appeared the Blue Devil defense would be able to stop the drive. However, miscommunication by UCHS led to a play that changed the tide of the game. With 11 minutes to play, Dakota Cochran scored on a 40-yard touchdown pass. The Warriors successfully went for a 2-point conversion and took a 21-14 lead.

“Our secondary play was not great at any point Friday night,” Rice said. “We gave up some big plays at some very inopportune times. The seam route they hit on us to take the lead back really hurt. We were misaligned to it, which makes it even more frustrating.”

Lewis returned the next kickoff to midfield and the Blue Devils began a solid possession until mistakes, including a turnover, gave the Warriors possession with 9:30 to play in the game. The three UCHS turnovers on Friday were the first of the season for the squad.

“As happy as we were to not turn the ball over any in the first three games, we also knew that turnovers are a part of the game,” Rice said. “So, we probably were due for some breaks to not go our way. … Regardless, it doesn’t matter now and we have to move on, get better and focus on this week.”

Happy Valley put the game out of reach when they scored on the following possession. This time, on a 1-yard run by Cochran. The extra point missed, but the 27-14 lead was too much for UCHS to overcome and the Warriors held on for the victory.

“Thankfully, it wasn’t a region game,” Rice said of the loss. “We told our guys after that all our goals for the season are still staring us right in the face. A region championship, a home playoff game and a winning season are all still on the table for us. We cannot let one game dictate the rest of our season. We were 1-3 this time last year and made a pretty good run down the stretch, so we feel confident we can do that being 3-1.”

Friday’s game was the first time the UCHS offense had been outgained by an opponent this season. Happy Valley had 251 yards of total offense, while the Blue Devils had 232.

“Playing from behind basically the entire game really limited us to a degree as far as what we wanted to do offensively,” Rice said. “They brought a lot of pressure, like we knew they would, and they really disrupted our rhythm. Once we got down in the fourth quarter and they knew we had to pass it, it became very very difficult for us and that led to some bad turnovers.”

Thompson had 105 yards on 8-19 passing, with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. He also carried the ball 6 times for 32 yards.

“Those all aren’t Brock,” Rice said of the interceptions. “Probably only one of the three were. Our protection was not what we expect of our guys and we felt like it was a pass interference on the one to Brett (Strother) that didn’t get called in the first half.”

Strother had 4 catches for 44 yards. Peyton Whitson had 2 catches for 25 yards. White had 1 catch for 26 yards and 5 carries for 22 yards. O’Dell had 1 catch for 10 yards and a touchdown. Lewis had 13 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown.

White paced the Blue Devil defense with 3 tackles, 7 assists and a sack. Strother had 3 tackles and 5 assists.

• • •

Region 1-3A opponent Claiborne County (1-3, 1-0) awaits the Blue Devils on Friday, Sept. 14. Their only win of the season came on Aug. 30 at West Greene.

UCHS defeated Claiborne 21-0 in Erwin last season and 35-22 at Claiborne in 2016; however, Rice expects the Bulldogs to be a tough opponent.

“They run a tough offense to defend and they always give people trouble with it,” he added. “They have some good looking kids on film. It’s a long trip down there, so we are going to have to have a great focus all week, including Friday.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Coach: Lady Devil soccer team plays with heart

Lady Devil Katherine Altemose wins possession of the ball from a Sullivan South player during girls soccer action. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The wins haven’t come in recent weeks, but the effort has been there for the Unicoi County High School girls soccer team. Despite losing their last six games, the Lady Devils (1-7) continue to represent their school with pride, according to their head coach.

“The girls play with heart and give 100 percent effort,” Bettina Chirica said. “As a coach that’s all you can ask for. I am really proud of the girls for giving it their all.”

On Aug. 23, the team lost to Daniel Boone, 5-0, in Erwin.

“We played well during the Boone game,” Chirica said. “We had our opportunities. We let one goal slip away and we somewhat had a harder time staying mentally in the game. For the upcoming matches we will work on maintaining our positions better on the field and staying mentally focused.”

Juana Ponce, Halie Hawkins and goalie Carly Kinsler stood out in the loss.

The team dropped a 6-0 loss to Volunteer at home on Aug. 28 and a 5-1 loss at Daniel Boone on Aug. 30. The lone goal in those two games was scored by Spencer Garant.

In both games against Boone and Volunteer, Juana Ponce was exceptional,” Chirica said. “I moved her from playing forward to defense, and she did really well. Lana Deshner, Halie Hawkins and Andrea Lopez fought hard in the Volunteer game. In the Boone game, Katherine Altemose and Rachel Altemose played well.

“We have seen improvement as a team,” Chirica continued. “We need to work on the dynamics of finding each other on the field to make plays and continue keeping our game fitness up.”

Last week saw the Lady Devils fall to Sullivan South, 6-2, in Erwin on Sept. 4, at Volunteer, 9-0, on Sept. 5 and at home to David Crockett, 3-0, on Sept. 6.

Overall, from the Volunteer to the Crockett game we have seen improvement,” Chirica said.

• • •

UCHS played host to Sullivan Central on Tuesday, Sept. 11, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.

They are scheduled to host Hampton on Thursday, Sept. 13, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The team will also honor its senior members that evening. They are also scheduled to travel to Sullivan South on Tuesday, Sept. 18, for a game beginning at 5:30 p.m.