By Gene Renfro
The Unicoi County football team started a new campaign on Friday, Sept. 16, with new head coach Drew Rice and saw it begin with a never quit 49-18 decision at No. 8 Elizabethton.
“We did some OK things,” Rice said. “We preached all week not to quit and play all four quarters and that last drive we didn’t quit. We have a lot of things we have to fix. They’re (Elizabethton) a heck of a football team. That’s where we want to be one day, we’re a long way from it, but we’re working toward it.”
That never quit mindset saw the Blue Devils score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Kody Lewis punched in a two-yard touchdown run 54 seconds into the final quarter that capped a six-play drive that covered 65 yards.
The Cyclones, now 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the conference, scored, but Unicoi County answered. Brett Strother hauled in a Kendrick Williams’ pass with just over a minute left for the game’s final score.
Williams finished the game 13-for-25 passing that covered 185 yards. Strother was on the other end of four catches for 57 yards and he was 1-for-2 passing out of the wildcat formations where he had 26 yards on six runs.
Michael Howell reeled in four passes for 52 yards and Dylan Lewis caught three balls for a team-high 59 yards.
Unicoi County went to 2-3 on the season reaching the midpoint of the slate. The Blue Devils’ league record slipped to 1-1. Next on the schedule will be a home contest against Chuckey-Doak to start a five-week span of conference slates on Friday, Sept. 30, in Erwin.
“We’ve got to get some guys healthy,” Rice said about his team’s bye week plans. “We’ve got a couple of big keys coming back, we’re going to try to use the bye week to heal up and try to fix some small things to make a run to the playoffs.”
The never quit attitude also saw the Blue Devils’ offense answer. Elizabethton raced out to a 14-0 lead before the first quarter was half over.
Owen Nicholson ended a 14-play drive with a three-yard touchdown run six seconds into the second. The point after was blocked making the score 14-6.
Elizabethton scored the next 28 points before the fourth quarter scoring. The Cyclones accounted for 413 yards with 300 coming in the first half.
The Blue Devils held onto the ball as the ball was in their possession for 30:32 even though the Cyclones ran two more plays than Unicoi County.
The Cyclones’ Corey Russell accounted for 76 rushing yards, 27 receiving yards on five catches, 79 return yards on punts and kickoffs and also punted once for 31 yards.