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.
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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.”