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Blue Devils defeat old rival

Top photo, Matthew Sellars contains the run of a Happy Valley Warrior. Above, Evan Huff makes a catch in the middle of the field during the Blue Devils’ win in Carter County on Friday, Sept. 11. (Erwin Record Staff Photos by Keeli Parkey)

By Trey Williams

Unicoi County senior quarterback Brock Thompson was no worse for wear after taking a week off to rest his ailing non-throwing shoulder.

After missing the final three quarters of a loss at Hampton and the entirety of a Region 1-3A victory against North Greene, Thompson returned to pass for some 300 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-14 victory at Happy Valley on Friday, Sept. 11.

Thompson passed for touchdowns of 43 and 13 yards to senior Evan Huff and a 59-yarder to sophomore tight end Lucas Slagle to help the Blue Devils improve to 2-2 on the season.

“I thought Brock played really well,” Unicoi County coach Drew Rice said. “He made some really big throws when plays kind of broke down a little bit. He and Evan had it going on. They were on the same page, for sure. Evan wore it out.

“It was, by far, those two’s best game ever statistically. They both had really good outings. … We really spread the ball out pretty well.”

It’s beginning to look like Slagle could be high-level college propsect in football, baseball and basketball.

“He’s a talented kid,” Rice said. “He’s played great defensively, too. He’s gonna be a lot to handle in the next two and a half years. He’s 6-5, probably pushing 6-6, and I think he’s like 205 pounds right now. You can tell by looking at him, with his frame he could probably hold 30-40 pounds easy. He probably won’t get there in high school because he’s so active all the time. But the sky’s the limit for him, for sure.”

Happy Valley, almost always aggressive on defense, had stuffed a running play prior to Slagle’s 59-yard TD reception. So the Blue Devils countered with a play-action pass.

“We just kind of dumped him behind the ‘backers there, and he caught it in stride,” Rice said. “Brock threw a great ball and Lucas took off. I think when he outran the safety and the corner. It was impressive, especially with him just being a sophomore, too. Him taking off and accelerating like that, you’d think their corner and their free safety are probably a couple of the fastest guys on their defense.”

Slagle was also a weapon on the defensive front, as was defensive tackle Gabe Tipton.

“Lucas played really well on defense,” Rice said. “He was really destructive. And Gabe Tipton at defensive tackle was just unreal. Gabe’s like 160 pounds and plays defensive tackle. But I bet he had five or six tackles for losses. He was just unblockable. Last year was the first year he ever played football.

“To be a 160-pound defensive tackle, you better have something going for you. And his motor is just always going. He’s a fun kid to watch play.”

The Blue Devils also got a lift from the return of Rodrigo Castellon, who missed two games due to injury.

“Getting Rodrigo back was huge,” Rice said. “He’s such an anchor for us on both sides (of scrimmage).”

The Devils were coming off a 35-0 win against Happy Valley last season, but played as if they were avenging a loss.

“They’re always well-coached and they do a really good job,” Rice said. “So I thought our guys really played well. I think that’s the most motivated we’ve played in a long time. So that was really good to see.”

Unicoi County’s scores against Happy Valley included Nehemiah Edwards’ 1-yard TD and Miguel Vasquez’s 36-yard field goal.

Rice said injured center Dawson Hampton is still on pace to return for the home game against Chuckey-Doak on October 2.

The Blue Devils will make the two-hour drive to Claiborne (1-0, 3-0) on Friday, Sept. 18, in a key Region 1-3A matchup. Former Mars Hill quarterback Nathan Medlin’s Bulldogs have an experienced quarterback in senior Eli Stone and a productive running back in Jimmy Del Ervin.

“They’ve got the quarterback that’s been starting all four years just like Brock has,” Rice said. “And he’s pretty good. He’s tough. And they’ve got a running back that’s also really tough.

“They’re undefeated and it’s a long haul down there. We’re gonna have to be ready.”