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Betsy defeats Blue Devils

The Unicoi County High School football team kept it interesting early against the league-leading Cyclones.
Elizabethton (8-1, 6-0) only held a touchdown advantage halfway through the second quarter, but scored two touchdowns in the first five minutes of the third en route to a 43-7 triumph over the Blue Devils on Friday, Oct. 24, at Gentry Stadium.
It was all Ethan Thomas for the Cyclones. The senior tailback accounted for 211 yards on the ground on 16 carries with all six Elizabethton scores.
Thomas was held to 77 yards at the half, including two scores – one from inside the Blue Devil 5-yard line, the other on the opening three-play drive that ended with a run from 26 yards out to paydirt.
Trailing 15-0 in the first quarter, the Blue Devils went on a methodical 17-play, 60-yard time-consuming drive that started with under six minutes left in the first and spilled over into the second period. The drive included three fourth down conversions and was capped off by Luke Fronckoski’s 1-yard plunge on fourth down.
Sam Murillo’s point-after attempt moved the score to 15-7 with 6:49 left in the half.
“We got off to a sluggish start,” Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten said. “We overcame obstacles. We had got out of position, not breaking down on the football, not sticking with blocks … we were able to play through it. We know we have a tough team mentally and physically. We have to defend our title next Thursday.”
Witten also gave credit to the Blue Devils.
“Their kids showed a lot of fight,” he said. “They’ve had a discouraging season, but they came out and played. That’s what you expect. You can tell they’ve gotten a lot better and their future is bright. They gave us a challenge. They moved the ball, had a few first downs on that 17-play drive. We were forced into situations and as a coach for them, you have to be proud of their effort tonight.”
With the score 22-7 at half, the Cyclones were able to get three more scores out of Thomas, who eclipsed 30 scores on the year and went over the 6,000-yard career rushing mark, in the second half.
“Our goal was to not quit,” UCHS head coach Glenn White said. “I couldn’t ask for a better effort. We all know what Elizabethton is, but we are going to build a program here to compete with them for a championship. We’re going to do it and that’s a good mark to go for. We have the finest group of boys anybody would want to coach.”
Fronckoski finished with over 150 all-purpose yards, including 61 yards on 21 carries and a 20-yard pass to sophomore Nick Fender on a fake punt during the Blue Devils’ scoring drive.
The Cyclones got pressure of quarterback Hunter Hensley, but the junior was able to navigate the offense without any misplayed snaps from behind center and completed a 19-yard pass to senior Davis Web and nearly had a pair of big passes to tight end Brett Lemmon.
Sophomore Jacob Smith paced the defense with six stops, including a pair of tackles for losses. Warren Shelton, Ty Whitson, Dylan Lewis and Justin Nelson finished right behind with five tackles each.
The Blue Devils will look to break a nine-game losing skid, and White will look to secure his first win in his sixth game coaching, as the team welcomes Sullivan Central on Thursday, Oct. 30, for senior night. The game was originally scheduled for Friday, Oct. 31, but was rescheduled due to Halloween.
“We’re turning our eyes toward Sullivan Central,” White said. “And we’re going to do everything we can to get our first win and end this season on a bright note.”
Elizabethton will square off against Sullivan South, who is coming off a win against Johnson County, with a first-place finish and league title on the line on Thursday.
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UCHS squared off against Happy Valley’s underclassmen in a junior varsity contest on Warrior Hill on Oct. 20. With things scoreless at halftime, the Warriors were able to take advantage of a pair of fumbles to score a 13-0 win.