Weve been waiting on this game since December.
These sentiments shared by Unicoi County High School Blue Devil football senior Dayton Clark echoed what the rest of his teammates felt as the Blue Devils opened up the 2015 season on a high note.
UCHS (1-0) tallied more than 500 yards of offense and used a pair of special teams plays on fourth down attempts to earn a come-from-behind victory over South Greene, 36-33, on Friday, Aug. 21, on Rebel Hill in Greene County.
The Blue Devils and Rebels previously met in 2012 with UCHS taking the contest, 41-10.
Fridays victory was a sigh of relief, according to senior quarterback Hunter Hensley, as the Blue Devils were able to end an 11-game losing streak that included a winless campaign in 2014.
We went through two coaches and nobody believed in us, Hensley said. Id go to school every day and hear we were going to lose, that we were going to lose this season … I told people to bet money on us and we won tonight.
Hensley (13-22, 251 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) linked up with five different receivers in the contest, but had the fans on the edge of their seats on fourth-and-21 from the 10-yard line, with under three minutes remaining in the game and his team trailing, 33-28.
The senior faked a punt and scrambled in the Blue Devil endzone before finding Clark near the 35-yard to give life to the Blue Devils game-winning drive, which was capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by junior Cameron Higgins (11 carries, 83 yards, 3 TDs).
Ive played since I was seventh grade … but I will always remember that catch, Clark said with a smile after the game. I actually ran into my own player, ran off … and the next thing I know, I turn around and the ball is right there. So I just catch it and fall down; I was so excited, I didnt know what to do.
With so many different highlights to list, the play helped seal the deal for the Blue Devils, according to head coach Glenn White.
I knew then, if we didnt get the first, it was over, White, who recorded his first win with the program after taking over midseason last year, said. We just took a chance, the Lord was with us, and we got it done.
Hensley had the magic working on a fourth down earlier in the contest as well. Trailing 14-7, the senior linked up with Michael Howell (five catches, 83 yards) on a 95-yard, 16-play drive capped off with Higgins first touchdown of the night.
Howell was joined by senior Eli Gillis (two catches, 81 yards, 2 TDs), junior Shaddon Peavyhouse (four catches, 66 yards) and Nick Fender as receivers that saw looks from Hensley. Gillis hauled in his two touchdown passes in the first half from 24 and 57 yards out.
Our receiving core was great, Hensley said about the help on the outside. I cant say the receiving core did well without saying our offensive line did great. I had a good game, but I was nothing without the receiver core and our offensive line.
UCHS and South Greene went back-and-forth in the first half to battle to a 20-20 tie at halftime.
The Rebels opened up the second half working inside the Blue Devils 10-yard-line when quarterback Justin Casteel tossed one of his five touchdown passes to give his squad the 27-20 advantage.
UCHS and South Greene continued to trade scores until the Blue Devils took the final lead of the night and senior Brandon Caldwell was able to grab an interception with 1:08 left in the contest to seal the victory.
Brandon is my best friend, Hensley said, and I told him thats why we play on Friday nights, and he came up to make a big play.
Caldwell also came up with a forced fumble on an ensuing South Greene drive in the second half. Along with the heroics, senior Randall Blangin helped halt a potential run back from a score for the Rebels on kickoff while also setting up the Blue Devils with ideal field position on a run back in the fourth quarter.
The never say die attitude has become a custom for the Blue Devils this season, Caldwell said.
You can definitely tell it is a new year, he added. We definitely have a new mindset Monday through Thursday in practice, taking reps and reading our assignments. It feels great showing everybody what our team is capable of doing and getting the big win tonight.
The Blue Devils were paced by a three-headed monster for rushing. Along with Higgins, Hensley (17 carries, 66 yards) and Nick Fender (16 carries, 89 yards) were able to rumble their way across the field.
We were all praying the entire time, Higgins said. It was a team effort but 100-percent God tonight. The running game was all about the blockers. They were there for us making the holes.
UCHS lined up with Logan Lance, Brett Lemmon, Jacob Smith, Eddie Martinez, John Burnett, Justin Laughren and a host of other linemen on the offensive side of things.
Lance also helped wreak havoc up front for the Blue Devils on defense. Lance led the way with 10-1/2 tackles.
Helping lead the defense was Colt Brewer (nine tackles, TFL), Smith ( 8-1/2, sack, TFL) and Warren Shelton (eight tackles). Multiple Blue Devils were able to swarm on the Rebels rushing attack that netted under 60 yards of rushing during the night. Penalties were dicey between both teams receiving 16 flags each. UCHS was hit for 184 yards while South Greene had 107 yards worth of penalties.
We shot ourselves early with penalties, White said. There was nothing mean about it, but we were just playing aggressive. We were able to do what we needed to do to get the win. Our defense bent, but it didnt break. Were going to fix some of that, but right now were going to enjoy it. I cant say enough about our kids and coaches.
Were going to get ready for Sullivan East next week … we needed this win tremendously and I thank the good Lord for it.
And according to Clark, the Blue Devils will be ready for East.
Were probably the hardest working team in the conference, he said. Im proud of everybody on this team. Were going to do what we always do work hard, practice hard and get ready for them.
UCHS welcomes Sullivan East on Friday, Aug. 28, with a 7:30 p.m. start time at Gentry Stadium. The Patriots are coming off a 21-0 victory over Johnson County in their season opener on Thursday, Aug. 20.
The UCHS junior varsity football team was scheduled to face South Greene after The Erwin Records press deadline on Monday, Aug. 24.
The underclassmen will be in action again on Monday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. against the Patriots in Bluff City.
Weve been waiting on this game since December.