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.”