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‘Team effort’ leads to Devils’ victory over Happy Valley

Playoff hopes are still alive for the Blue Nation.
The Unicoi County High School football team rebounded from adversity in a big way on Friday night and rode behind Phillip Franklin’s game winning 46-yard rushing touchdown to defeat Happy Valley, 14-7, in Three Rivers Conference action on top of Warrior Hill.
The win for the Blue Devils (3-2, 1-1) marks the first win for head coach Jerad Huskins in the series against the Warriors.
“Larry (Shively) is a great guy and one of the best coaches in the conference,” Huskins said. “It was an exciting game tonight. We had a lot of kids step up when they needed to and really get the job done out there for us.”
Franklin (11 carries, 88 yards, TD) was one of three Unicoi backs increased their carries Friday night. Luke Fronckoski and Jacob Sawyer also saw time in the backfield. The trio saw their workload increase after senior tailback, Hunter Abbott, suffered a leg injury on a fourth-down screen pass with time winding down in the second quarter. Up to that point, Abbott was closing in on the 100-yard total with 80 yards on 11 carries.
The game was deadlocked with less than three minutes on the clock in the fourth quarter until Franklin kicked it to the outside and avoided a pair of tackles to the Blue Devils’ game-winning score.
“Our line did a good job on maintaining the blocks,” Franklin said. “It’s just a huge win for us going forward through the rest of the season.”
Happy Valley struck first of the board to open the game, needing only two plays in the first quarter, to take the lead.
Warrior quarterback Colton Haun tossed a pass over the middle to Tyler Marlowe and Marlowe took advantage of a Blue Devil defender slipping on the ground and raced to pay dirt. James Hartley’s extra point was good, putting Happy Valley up 7-0 with 8:43 left in the first.
The teams traded possessions in the first quarter until the Blue Devils got their first big play of the night.
Happy Valley took over in their own territory with time winding down in the first quarter. It was on this possession that Keith Arrowood took advantage of Haun’s erratic pass and put the Blue Devils on the board with a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“Our defense did a great job the entire night,” said Arrowood. “The interception helped, but it was an entire team effort on defense tonight.”
Happy Valley would make three trips to the red zone after halftime, only to be denied thanks to sacks from Franklin, Jordan Berry, Cody Harris and Hunter Burnett on ensuing drive.
“Our defense had a bend, don’t break attitude,” said Huskins.
Franklin led the team with eight tackles and two sacks. Berry chipped in five tackles with a sack while Harris, Burnett, Ty Adkins, Matthew Johnson and Justin Nelson all caused havoc in the backfield during the night.
“We just kept trying to keep their offense in check and stop their running game,” said Harris, who ended Happy Valley’s last drive with a six-yard sack.
Cody Jack Rogers finished with 56 yards in the air for the Blue Devils, while completing seven of his passes.
“The kids did a good job of not panicking,” Huskins said. “We got down early, but our kids never panicked. It got wild out there, but our guys just came back and we played our style of football.”
The Blue Devils will travel this week to face Gatlinburg Pittman (2-2) in non-conference action. The Highlanders come into the game following a win over Knox Gibbs.
“They’re a big, tough team,” Huskins said of Gatlinburg-Pittman. “The second half of our schedule is tough, but we’re going to be getting some of kids back from injuries and we’re just going to continue getting better. Our goals haven’t changed.”
Kickoff for Friday’s game is set for 7:30 p.m.