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Devils look to 'control destiny' during second half of season

It is all about controlling your own destiny, according to Unicoi County High School head football coach Glenn White.
The Blue Devils sit at 2-­3 on the season and 1-­1 in the Mountain 8 Conference and had the opportunity to rest up during their bye last week to prepare for the second half of the season.“This was a very important week for us,” White said during an interview with The Erwin Record on Thursday, Sept. 24. “We have some nicks and bruises, couple of our guys were out with sickness, we have some small fractures … we’re bruised up, so this couldn’t have come at a better time. We’re spending the week polishing things up and hitting the weight room before we get back to game week preparation for Chuckey­Doak. Basically, at this time of the year, you know who is going to start. Our goal is to keep polishing the product, continue to get better, hit the weights and achieve our goals that we set at the beginning of the season.”
UCHS travels to Afton to face the Black Knights in conference action with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2. Chuckey-­Doak enters the contest after absorbing their first loss of the year in an overtime non­conference thriller against Sullivan North, 20­-19, on Friday, Sept. 25. “I know coach (Ben) Murphy,” White said. “He does a great job with the program, he was there before, stepped away, and came back a couple of years ago. They have some good athletes and from last year, they ran a solid Wing-­T formation.”
While the Blue Devils look to snap the Black Knights’ 2-­0 record in the league, there’s a bit of momentum on the Blue Nation’s side, White said.
“I fully expect us Friday night to be in a position to win the ball game,” he added. “This is a new season for us. We feel like if we play up to the best of our abilities, we can finish the rest of the season with a winning record and have a chance of making it to the playoffs.
“We’re in a position to control our own destiny, and that’s what I like, especially coming off last season. Experiencing some early success this year wipes away those negative thoughts and it gives our boys something to go for as a goal in life. You want the kids to go for individual success but working as a team to accomplish a goal and to achieve it is a life lesson for these kids and that’s what I, and the rest of our coaches, what to instill in these boys.”
The Blue Devils are coming off a 35-­0 loss to Elizabethton two weeks ago. UCHS saw signs of improvement against a revamped Cyclone crew and White said the team is using the experience as a learning curve moving forward.
“I’m proud of the effort our boys had last Friday,” he added. “Our boys put up a hard­-nosed fight against a very talented Elizabethton ball club. After the game, I had people come up to me and say they liked what they saw out of our guys and that means a lot, because our team is hearing it, too. They know their hard work is being seen on the field.”
UCHS outgunned the Cyclones on the rushing total 102 to 96. The defense has shown their worth during the season with new faces filling in the line, White added.
“We lost Kyle Edwards and Justin Nelson due to injury,” he said. “But we’ve had guys step up at the varsity level, including Dawson Hensley on the defensive side of the ball and Brett Lemmon on the offensive line. Then we have guys like Logan Lance, John Burnett, and Will Collins stepping up and Cameron Higgins, Jacob Smith and Brandon Spencer helping at defensive end. Our linebackers are playing well and I’m proud of our secondary.”
Higgins has also been a force on the offensive side of the ball with seven touchdowns on the year. Junior Nick Fender leads the team with over 300 yards rushing while senior quarterback Hunter Hensley operates the offensive and has four touchdown throws on the year. While the varsity has stayed busy, the junior varsity has also showed their worth, White said.
The underclassmen have helped set up a depth for the upcoming years and currently sports 29 athletes on the squad, with Brett Strother, Kendrick Williams and Owen Nicholson getting additional reps from the varsity team.