Brett Strother goes up over two Volunteer defenders to catch a pass. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

A focused and physical Unicoi County High School football team took to the field in the first scrimmage of the preseason for head coach Drew Rice and his coaching staff.

“I thought we played well,” Rice said. “We saw some things we have to clear up, but overall I was pleased with it. I think our guys really flew around on both sides of the ball and that was great to see.”

The Blue Devils took to the field at the UCHS track against Volunteer on Friday, July 27.

“I liked how focused and locked in we were,” Rice said. “I thought our approach to it was businesslike and that’s something we always preach. We got a lot of guys a lot of quality reps. I thought we had some guys really make the best of their opportunities Friday.”

Their work in the weight room during the offseason showed on the field, according to the head coach.

“I thought we were as physical as we have been since I have been the head coach here,” Rice said. “It was great to see our work in the weight room from the offseason really show up on the field. Coach (Mark) Peterson, our strength and conditioning coordinator, has done a fantastic job with our team and has these guys ready to roll.”

As the first game of the 2018 season nears, the team’s strengths and weaknesses are becoming more clear.

“I think our greatest strengths are our defensive line, our skill guys on the offensive side of the ball and our linebackers,” Rice said. “We are really talented in these positions. I would say the two places we have some room for improvement are our secondary and our offensive line. Even though they both had good showings Friday night against a 5A football team.”

Practice continues this week for the Blue Devils. They will travel to Hampton to scrimmage the Bulldogs on Friday, Aug. 3, beginning at 6 p.m. Following more days of practice, the Blue Devils will host Cosby for a scrimmage on Thursday, Aug. 9.

The season opener will be held at Gentry Stadium against South Greene on Friday, Aug. 17. Blue Devil fans can purchase season tickets in the office at UCHS from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.