By Keeli Parkey
The Unicoi County High School football team stayed undefeated on the season with a 53-8 trouncing of Region 1-3A opponent North Greene at Gentry Stadium in Erwin on Friday, Aug. 31.
“I thought we came out and took care of business,” head coach Drew Rice said. “I am very proud of how our guys approached last Friday and how we executed.”
In addition to keeping the Blue Devils (3-0, 1-0) on the right track in league play, the win also marked a milestone – the first 3-0 start by a UCHS team since 1995. According to The Erwin Record’s archives, that season the team, led by head coach Zane Vance, defeated Cloudland (14-0), Sullivan East (13-6) and Chuckey-Doak (34-0) in its first three games of the season. The previous time a Blue Devil started 3-0 was 1989.
For Rice, the undefeated start is a credit to the work and dedication of his players.
“It sure beats being 1-2 or 0-3, but we try to take everything one week at a time,” the head coach said. “Our emphasis is to go 1-0 every week – the hope is this keeps us focused on the task at hand, not dwelling on past successes or failures, as well as not looking too far ahead either.
“With that being said,” Rice continued, “I think these young men should be commended for the start we have had. They have worked like Trojans since we started in the weight room last December. It’s nice to see such commitment being rewarded because the type of commitment they have exhibited is rare in today’s society. We just want to create a culture and a program that this community can be proud of. Hopefully, we can continue the success we have had so far.”
Against North Greene on Friday, the Blue Devils took total control of the game from kickoff and held a 39-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Senior Brett Strother put on a show in the quarter, scoring three touchdowns. Also scoring for the Blue Devils were Gavin Keasling, Austin O’Dell and Noah White.
“We made it a goal of ours for the week to have a great start,” Rice said. “In the first two games, we did not come out of the gates at our best. So we made it a focus last week to have a great start and try and prevent digging ourselves into a hole early.”
Senior Ty Wilson scored for the Blue Devils in the second quarter and UCHS took a 46-0 lead into halftime.
Due to the significant lead, the third and fourth quarters were cut from 12 minutes to 8 minutes each, and the clock ran almost continuously in the second half. The Huskies got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter and the last UCHS score came on a 55-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Smith.
In the second half, Rice and his coaching staff gave many players who do not often see varsity action time on the field.
“It was great to get a lot of guys their first varsity action,” Rice said. “I thought they went in and ran our offense and defense very well. Isaiah Smith had a great run for a touchdown. It was a very impressive play for a freshman, he is going to be a great player for us like (brothers) Jacob and Michael were.”
The Blue Devil offense totaled 453 yards against the Huskies – 267 passing and 186 rushing. Sophomore quarterback Brock Thompson passed for 250 yards and 5 touchdowns. Strother had 4 catches for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns. Keasling had 1 catch for 23 yards and touchdown. O’Dell had 1 catch for 20 yards and a touchdown. White rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown. Smith rushed for 55 yards and a touchdown. Wilson rushed for 8 yards and a touchdown. Richie Laughren had 3 carries for 25 yards. Easton Edwards had 1 carry for 20 yards.
The Blue Devil defense held North Greene to 171 yards – 79 in the air and 92 on the ground. Smith had 4 tackles for UCHS. Tanner VanHoy had an interception and a fumble recovery in the win. Garrett Shelton had 3 tackles. Jacob Schreck also had a fumble recovery.
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Standing in the way of a 4-0 start for the Blue Devils will be the Happy Valley Warriors. The old rivals will face off in Carter County on Friday, Sept. 7.
“It’s a program that has had a lot of success recently,” Rice said of Happy Valley. “They have won 19 games the last two years, which is really tremendous to think about. Their coaching staff does a great job, and they have some talented kids. It’s going to take a tremendous focus and effort to go get a win Friday night.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.