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Blue Devil football team still unbeaten in region

Peyton Whitson gains yards in the red zone following a catch on Friday, Sept. 28. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The Big Blue train continues to roll.

With a 49-17 victory over Chuckey-Doak at Erwin’s Gentry Stadium on Friday, Sept. 28, the Unicoi County High School football team did something no Blue Devil team has done in decades – win six games in a season. The last time that happened, which was in 1996, even the oldest members of the 2018 Blue Devil team had not even been born.

“It just speaks to their commitment to each other,” head coach Drew Rice said of his team’s success this season. “They don’t want to let each other down and that’s what great teammates do. They have bought in to what we are asking of them, which is a whole lot, and they’ve done it with a smile on their face. It’s been fun to watch.”

The Blue Devils (6-1, 3-0) scored first on Friday, thanks to an 83-yard run by Kody Lewis; it was the first of his four touchdowns on the night.

“Kody had one of the best statistical games we have had here in a long time,” Rice said.

In addition to the four TDs, Lewis also had 325 yards on 18 carries.

A successful extra point by Martin Porras gave the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead. The Black Knights responded on their ensuing drive with a field goal before Lewis scored and Porras was successful again for a 14-3 UCHS lead.

“I was pleased with how we came out and executed against a good football team,” Rice said. “That was as big of a game as we have had this year and our guys really rose to the occasion.”

Chuckey-Doak would score again in the first quarter, but a 32-yard run by Lewis gave the Blue Devils momentum, and a 21-10 lead, going into the second frame.

The only touchdown of the second quarter came on a 9-yard pass by Blue Devil quarterback Brock Thompson to Noah White. Porras was good again and UCHS took a 28-10 lead into halftime.

“I thought Noah did a lot of things for us. Things that don’t always show up on a stat sheet,” Rice said. “He and the offensive line deserve a lot of credit for the success we have had offensively.”

The Blue Devils took control of the game in the third quarter. While keeping the Black Knights out of the end zone, UCHS scored twice – on an 8-yard run by White and on an 84-yard run by Lewis – for a 42-10 score going into the fourth.

Chuckey-Doak scored on a 36-yard run by Chris Cutshaw in the final frame. Blue Devil Brett Strother also scored in the fourth on a 1-yard run for the final score of 49-17.

Once again, the UCHS football team was able to control a game en route to a victory.

“We take a lot of pride in how we prepare each week,” Rice said. “Our emphasis each week is the same, to go 1-0. We have a Sunday through Friday routine that we stick to very diligently. We believe the game is usually won before it’s ever played.”

The UCHS offense posted 474 total yards – 90 in the air and 384 on the ground – on Friday.

The game was another solid performance by Thompson. He was 6-9 passing for 90 yards and a touchdown. 

“Brock has been great,” Rice said of his sophomore quarterback’s performance this season. “The reason we have been so successful is because we have a guy who can run our offense extremely well.

“He hasn’t had to throw it as much because we are averaging over 250 yards a game rushing. Teams have tried to take away our passing attack because they are so afraid of Brock and Brett (Strother), so we have just tried to make them pay by keeping it on the ground. Brock has a chance to be one of the greatest to ever play here by the time he is a senior.”

Strother had 5 carries for 47 yards and 1 touchdown. He also had 1 catch for 49 yards. White had 3 carries for 17 yards and 1 touchdown. White also had 3 catches for 24 yards and 1 touchdown.

On the defensive side of the ball, White and Preston Woodby had 3 tackles each. Strother, LJ Mitchell and Lane Garland had 2 tackles each. Danny Lowery had 1 tackle and 1 sack.

• • •

The win over Chuckey-Doak kept the Blue Devils unbeaten in Region 3-A play and at the top of the standing with the also undefeated Johnson County Longhorns (5-1, 3-0).

Rounding out the Region 3-A standings are: Chuckey-Doak (3-4,1-2); Claiborne (1-6, 1-2); West Greene (2-4, 1-2); and North Greene (0-6, 0-3).

Remaining league games for the Blue Devils include a trip to West Greene on Oct. 12 and playing host to Johnson County on Oct. 26 in the final game of the regular season.

“We are trying to take it one week at a time, but yes we very much are looking forward to the possibilities for the rest of the season,” Rice said.

Before returning to region play, the Blue Devils will face the Unaka Rangers on the road in Carter County on Friday, Oct. 5.

“They have a really good quarterback who can throw it very well,” Rice said. “They do some good things offensively. We have to have another good week of preparation and get ready to go take care of business.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.