By Keeli Parkey
Almost 400 rushing yards carried the Sullivan East Patriots (2-0) to a 41-6 victory over the Unicoi County High School football team (1-1) on Friday, Aug. 26, in Bluff City.
“Sullivan East is an excellent football team,” Blue Devil head coach Glenn White said. “It seemed like everything they did worked for them. It was a tough night.”
The Blue Devils’ first possession started on a high note as sophomore Brett Strother carried the opening kickoff 36 yards to give his team good field position. However, the Patriots’ defense, which was stingy throughout the game, forced a UCHS punt on third and nine.
Sullivan East broke through the Blue Devil line to block Christian Leon’s punt and took over possession on their own 39-yard line. On first down, fullback Jake Crumley found a gap in the Blue Devil defense for a 61-yard touchdown run. Patriot Aaron Frye found the uprights on the extra point and East led 7-0 with just over 10 minutes to play in the first quarter.
UCHS fared no better in its second offensive possession as East forced another third-and-out. On the ensuing punt, the Patriots again broke through the Blue Devil line to tackle Leon at the UCHS 12-yard line.
East needed only two plays before Matthew Nixon scampered into the end zone from five yards out. Frye again converted the extra point and the Patriots held a commanding 14-0 lead.
The Blue Devils put together a solid drive on their next possession, thanks to runs by Nick Fender (86 yards on 16 rushes and 1 TD) and a pass from quarterback Kendrick Williams to Shaddon Peavyhouse (1 catch for 59 yards). However, a personal foul call against the Blue Devils stalled the drive and forced a third and 18. Fender then carried for 10 yards, but UCHS was forced to punt.
The Patriots took over possession of the ball with just under six minutes to play in the first quarter. After a long possession, the Blue Devils forced East to punt on fourth and 18. The punt sailed into the end zone.
UCHS took over on their 20-yard line with seconds to play in the quarter. They failed to gain yards on first down before the quarter ended. Facing second down and 10, Williams threw to Fender for a 9-yard gain on the first play of the second quarter. The Blue Devils got another first down on fourth and one, thanks to a quarterback sneak by Williams.
Williams then hit Dylan Lewis on a 43-yard pass on what ended as the Blue Devils’ only scoring drive of the game. A few plays later, Fender rushed into the end zone from nine yards out to put UCHS on the board, 14-6, with 10:30 to play in the first half.
“East got up on us 14-0 in the first quarter, but I thought we came back in the second quarter and played like we are capable of playing,” White said.
The Blue Devils kept momentum going in their favor on the kickoff when Owen Nicholson recovered an onside kick and took possession again. UCHS began moving the ball again, but the Patriot defense then rose to the challenge, tackling Williams and putting a halt to any momentum for the Blue Devils, according to White.
“We took charge for about a 6-minute period. We were moving the ball, but missed some blocks on that play,” White said. “That really stopped our momentum.”
East only needed a few plays to score again, this time on a 22-yard run by Hunter Eads. Frye again converted the extra point and the Patriots led 21-6 with nine minutes to play in the half.
UCHS earned two first downs on its ensuing possession thanks to two completions by Williams to Lewis and carries by Fender. The Blue Devils marched down to East’s 39-yard line where Fender carried for two yards on first down and four yards on second down. On third down, with four yards to go, Fender was tackled for a loss.
The Patriots took over on downs with three minutes to play in the half after holding the Blue Devils on the ensuing fourth down play.
A facemask penalty against UCHS helped East march down the field into Blue Devils’ territory. The Patriots’ tailback pass on first down was incomplete. East then fumbled the snap on second down, but recovered it and on third down gained nine yards to earn another first down.
With time running out in the half, Fyre found Hunter Eads in the end zone. Frye’s extra point was good again and the Patriots took a 28-6 lead into the half.
East added two more touchdowns in the second half – one when Frye threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Sam Arnold, the other on a 50-yard run by Nixon. Frye converted the first of the two extra points to give East 41 points for the game.
The Blue Devils threatened to score in the fourth quarter. Freshman Kody Lewis (8 carries for 46 yards) found his way into the end zone, but the score was called back on a penalty. UCHS did not threaten to score again.
The Patriots won the game, 41-6.
There are some positives to be taken away from the loss, according to White.
“What we want to learn from this is to keep fighting,” he said. “We got down and we didn’t finish. It wasn’t that we weren’t trying against East, we just didn’t finish.
“Our flaws were exposed,” he continued. “We are going to fix those. We still have a lot of football left and we still have a very good team.”
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, they will play the rest of the season without senior Cameron Higgins. The team learned last week that Higgins suffered a torn ACL during the jamboree played earlier this month at South Greene.
“Cameron is a tremendous young man,” White said. “We are going to miss him. He is a great fullback and defensive end for us.”
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The Blue Devils had 320 total yards – 174 in the air and 146 on the ground – on 72 plays. The team struggled on third downs, converting on one out of 11 attempts. They completed 2-5 fourth down attempts. Thirteen penalties cost UCHS 104 yards.
Williams ended the game going 12-24 on pass attempts for 174 yards for the Blue Devils. Shane Armstrong had three carries for 16 yards. D. Lewis had seven receptions for 96 yards. Owen Nicholson had 1 catch for 20 yards.
D. Lewis led the Blue Devil defense with 10 tackles. Strother added six and Michael Smith had five.
The Patriots had 440 yards – 390 of which came on the ground – of total offense on 48 plays. Ramsey had 132 yards on 11 rushes and one touchdown, while Nixon had six carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
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The Blue Devils return to Gentry Stadium this week in their first conference game of the season. Their opponent this week will be the West Greene Buffaloes. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“They are an old-school football team,” White said. “They have some good skill people and some good runners. I think they are well coached. I think they will be ready for us. We have to be ready for them.”
The Blue Devils defeated West Greene, 26-10, in Mosheim during the 2015 season.
“We are back to work and we are going to polish what we do,” White said. “There is no doubt in my mind that we are going to play a good football team in West Greene on Friday.”
“I thank the fans for going to Sullivan East on Friday. I wish the result had been different, but I hope they will continue to support us and come out this week. I fully expect to beat West Greene.”