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Blue Devils still seeking first win

Happy Valley used four touchdown scores from senior running back Phillip Garland to stymie any chance of a Blue Devil upset on Friday, Oct. 17, on Warrior Hill in Carter County.
The Warriors (1-7) went ahead 13-0 at halftime and continued on toward a 29-12 win over the Unicoi County High School football team (0-8) to snap a seven-game skid. The previous meeting between both squads saw the Blue Devils win 33-30.
“Coach (Glenn) White is a class act and he is doing things the right way in Unicoi County,” Warrior head coach Larry Shively said. “I told him after the game I was proud of him. He’s a great guy and a great coach. They’re lucky to have him.
“This is a longtime rivalry. Our players have had a rough season and we needed this tonight.”
Happy Valley got on the board in the first half with two scores from Garland (23 carries, 168 yards). The Blue Devils showed their backbone near the goal line, but were unable to contain freshman quarterback Brayden Sams (10-10, 78 yards), who entered the game after missing that past two weeks due to injury.
There were some bright spots during the game for the Blue Nation: Senior Luke Fronckoski (eight carries, 52 yards) added a long kickoff return near the end of the second quarter; however, a couple of Warrior stops and a few mishandled center-quarterback exchanges, kept the Blue Devils off the board.
“I thought in the first half we did some good things,” White said. “Hunter (Hensley) was running the option well and Luke had some big runs. We had some uncharacteristic snap problems that through us off and we had to adjust.”
Fronckoski also missed the second half of play with headaches, a precautionary measure by the staff.
“He was having headaches,” White added. “We thought he may have a concussion, so we kept him out. We’re going to play it by ear and he’ll be questionable for next week.”
While the Warriors kept the scoring up in the second half, the Blue Devils did not quit, White said.
Sophomore Nick Fender, who missed the game against Johnson County due to injury, showed his wheels on special teams with his third kickoff return for a score. Fender scored from 90 yards out after a handoff from freshman Owen Nicholson in the third.
Another underclassmen, Cameron Higgins, added the Blue Devils’ other score in the fourth – taking the ball in from nine yards out after a turnover by the Warriors offense.
“I know it doesn’t show by the record but we’re starting to get something built here,” White, who is in his fourth game as head coach, said. “Our kids didn’t quit. I’m telling you, I wouldn’t trade these kids for any other group of kids in America and I wouldn’t trade this job for another in the country. This has been a job I’ve wanted since I was 16 years old and we’re going to get things going here.
“I’m not going to make excuses. But heading into next year we’ll have 21 juniors that’ll be seniors and once I get a full year with them, we can get things going. I’m proud of the effort they’ve given this year with the things that have happened.”
Senior Erik Arnett paced the defense with a game-high 14 stops. Junior Warren Shelton also brought a mean stick from the linebacker position with 12-1/2 tackles. Justin Nelson, Chris Johnson, Tyler Whitson and Derek Berry also accounted for tackles. Will Shelton, Brandon Caldwell, Jacob Smith and Nicholson also added key plays on the defensive side of the ball.
Sophomore Kendrick Williams also orchestrated the offense in the fourth quarter with Berry, Hunter Duncan and Shaddon Peavyhouse seeing time on the field.
The Blue Devils will be back in action this week within the friendly confines of Gentry Stadium with a Three Rivers Conference contest against Elizabethton for Pink Out night on Friday, Oct. 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
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UCHS and the Warriors competed in a junior varsity contest on Monday, Oct. 20, in Carter County after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.