By Trey Williams
The Unicoi County football team experienced Hampton adding insult to injury on Friday, Aug. 28, at J.C. Campbell Stadium.
The injury-riddled Blue Devils fell to 0-2 on the season with a 32-7 loss to the Bulldogs (1-0). The game was called with 10-plus minutes remaining in the third quarter after a lightning delay.
The week began ominously enough. Rodrigo Castellon, arguably the Blue Devils’ top lineman, got hurt in practice on Tuesday, Aug. 25, as did starting center Dawson Hampton. The injury bug continued Friday when quarterback Brock Thompson left the game in the first quarter.
“Last week seemed to be Murphy’s Law personified,” Unicoi County coach Drew Rice said. “If it could have gone wrong, it went wrong. We knew Hampton was going to be tough, but we sure didn’t help ourselves out any.
“We had Rodrigo Castellon and Dawson Hampton both get hurt in practice Tuesday, and then for Brock to go down in first five minutes of the game was really just about as bad of a scenario as you can draw up. It’s our hope that we will get those guys back in the coming weeks.”
Thompson said the injury involved the AC joint in his non-throwing (left) shoulder. He was still uncertain about a potential timetable for a return at the beginning of the week. Being without Castellon and Hampton already had Thompson in a mindset of uncertainty.
“It was tough not having your starting and backup center and they also both started on the line,” Thompson said. “Not the start we were looking for at the start of the season, but some things you just can’t control.”
Compounding matters for Unicoi County was the fact that the Bulldogs are deep on the offensive line. And the hot, humid night was tailor-made for a depth disparity.
Hampton, which rushed for 300 yards, opened the game with 25 straight points.
Unicoi County got on the board with 36 seconds left in the second quarter when Caleb Pelaez returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown after taking a handoff to reverse direction.
Yards were hard to come by for the Blue Devils without Thompson at the wheel. Pelaez’s 12-yard run was one of the few other highlights. Bryson Peterson was 3-for-5 passing.
“I thought Bryson Peterson really did well getting thrown into the fire like that at quarterback,” Rice said. “We had some drives that stalled out, but I’m really proud of him. Caleb Pelaez had a really impressive kickoff return for a touchdown that gave us a spark in the second quarter.”
The Blue Devils will host North Greene (0-1) on Friday, Sept. 4, in each team’s Region 1-3A opener.
“We have to fix some things on both sides of the ball, and fix them in a hurry,” Rice said. “We are playing a lot of young guys, and they are going to get better each week. I told them after the game that we are 0-0 in the region and that’s all that matters right now. That’s going to be our focus throughout this week.”