By Curtis Carden
For sophomore Cody Jack Rogers, the timing for a breakout performance was just right.
The Unicoi County High School Blue Devils (1-0) opened their football season on a high note by taking down the South Greene Rebels (0-1) in a 41-10 rout at Rebel Hill on Friday night, a feat that hasnt been accomplished since 1991.
The Blue Devils saw Rogers make his first start during his high school career after starting quarterback Lucas Hensley suffered a finger injury during practice two days prior to the trip to Greene County.
Anytime you lose a starter two days before your season opener, its rough, but our guys really rallied behind Cody Jack, head coach Jeard Huskins said. He came in, really shook off the nerves early and was able to come to Rebel Hill and get the job done.
In the first quarter Friday night, offense came at a premium.
Following a touchback on the opening kickoff from UCHS kicker, Hunter Burnett, the Rebels pitched a three and out and on the punt attempt on fourth down a botched snap to the punter resulted in Burnett wrapping up the Rebels kicker in the endzone to give Unicoi a quick 2-0 lead.
South Greene was able to recover a fumble after the safety kickoff, but the Devils defense held strong and kept SGHS in their own territory.
A South Greene punt pinned the Devils back in their own 2-yard line, and early jitters from the Unicoi offense allowed the Rebels to get on the board with a safety by tackling tailback Hunter Abbott in Devils endzone.
A couple of back and forth efforts between each team had the squads knotted up 2-2 going into the second quarter.
Early in the game, I was nervous, Rogers said. My teammates really rallied behind me and helped me out during the game.
The first of three sacks on defense for senior Caleb Segars had the Devils in striking distance almost seven minutes to go in the second quarter.
It really felt great to open up with a win, Segars said. Our defense really did great keeping them in check. We have been working hard during practice and its good to see it starting to pay off.
A 14-yard punt return by Thomas Tipton had the Devils set up in South Greene territory to set up Unicois first scoring drive. The Devils went 15 yards on six plays. This possession was capped off by Rogers picking up a fumble on the goalline and running in from one yard out for the his first varsity touchdown with five minutes to go in the second quarter. Tipton then scurried in for a two-point conversion to put the Devils on top 10-2.
The third safety of the first half would go in favor of Unicoi with Phillip Franklin causing havoc in the backfield. The Devils led 12-2 with just over a minute to play before halftime.
Our defense really showed up, Huskins said. Coach (Chris Brown) does a great job with our defense and our linebackers really led the way.
The linebackers accounted for over 10 tackles for the Devils, with Franklin leading all tacklers with seven. Cody Harris hauled in four tackles, Jordan Berry chalked up 3-½ including a sack while Zach Beard rounded out the linebackers with 1-½. Tommy Frazier led the tackle category for the line with four during the game.
Rogers, who finished the contest through the air going 5-8 for 75 yards, led the two-minute offense from the 50-yard line. Rogers connected with Hunter Abbott on a 26-yard screen pass to move the Devils near the red zone.
Abbott (11 carries, 78 yards, TD) capped off the drive with a 7-yard scamper to the end zone. Following Tiptons second two-point conversion, the Devils led 20-2 going into halftime.
It didnt take long for UCHS to tack on their third touchdown of the game after Jacob Sawyer returned the second half kickoff 35 yards to set the Devils in Rebel territory.
The Devils needed two plays with their two back system, seeing Abbott rush for 28 yards and Franklin wrapping up the duties from 12 yards out to give UCHS a 27-2 lead following Abbotts extra point kick. The scoring drive only took 43 seconds off the clock.
South Greene would make it out of their own territory for the second time only to see Sawyer pick off from the Rebel quarterback from the Unicoi 49-yard line all the way to South Greenes 26-yard line.
A block in the back on the return had the Devils back in their own part of the field, but a 28-yard pass from Rogers to Will Shelton had Unicois offense back in motion with Franklin (4 carries, 33 yards, 2 TDs) capping off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run with just over four minutes to go in the third quarter.
Preston Shuffler scored South Greenes lone touchdown of the game in the start of the fourth quarter with a 9-yard run to make the score 34-10.
Special teams left their stamp on the game for the Blue Nation, with Keith Arrowood taking the kickoff back 65 yards to pay dirt to solidify Unicois lead, 41-10, after Burnetts second extra point kick. Burnett wrapped up the extra point duties after Abbott left the game with a leg cramp.
During the offseason we split up the coaching duties and its worked out for us, Huskins said. Coach Milan has done a great job with the special teams this year and a couple of gadget plays really worked out for us.
Arrowood finished the game offensively with three catches for 21 yards while bringing in three tackles from his spot in the secondary.
While the first part of the schedule looks to be favorable for the Blue Devils, coach Huskins explained that Chuckey-Doak is on his teams mind.
Were going to hit the weights this weekend and just prepare for Chuckey-Doak, he said.
The Devils will play their home opener against Chuckey-Doak on Friday, Aug. 24, at 7:30 p.m.
The Devils junior varsity was in action prior to The Erwin Records press deadline going against South Greenes junior varsity on Monday, Aug. 20.
By Curtis Carden