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Off the Field – Going in the right direction (Oct. 14, 2015 issue)

“There isn’t a column for moral victories”
Friday, Oct. 9, didn’t produce a victory for the Unicoi County High School Blue Devil football team, but it showed the area that head coach Glenn White and the rest of the coaching staff have the ball rolling in the right direction for years to come.
Before diving into the “shoulda, coulda, woulda,” just take a look at the product Pigeon Forge brought to Gentry Stadium Friday night.
The Tigers took a 22-8 victory back to Dolly Parton’s neck of the woods, but it didn’t come without a fight. Pigeon Forge was without head coach Scott Meadows due to medical precautions, so the team had ample motivation for the contest.
Nasty weather and an 0-3 record at home for UCHS, the Blue Devils didn’t stand a chance, right?
Heading into halftime tied 8-8 with every opportunity to boast a two-possession lead, the Blue Devils were able to prove the naysayers wrong.
But that win still eluded the program.
Tiger Noah Whaley, a 1,000-plus yard rusher heading into Friday, took the bull by the horns and snapped the tie in the third quarter before a pair of field goals sealed the victory for Pigeon Forge.
Back to the Blue Devils, the pieces are falling into place to turn Unicoi County into a legitimate contender.
When was the last time that could be said? As of this publication, the Blue Devils are out of playoff consideration, but this is a team that could easily win its last three games of the season.
This goes back to the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” … this is just the opinion of a 23-year-old writer. But to watch the Blue Devils this season, you would be hard pressed to find a reason to not believe this program is heading in the right direction.
It is about learning to win, learning to hold onto leads, learning ball security … it doesn’t come overnight for a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 1996.
That “chip-on-the-shoulder” attitude needs to continue for the Blue Devils. They should embrace the underdog attitude. Each year, the student-athletes have slowly put pieces in place to establish a suitable program at UCHS. Last season, a midseason coaching transition and loaded-conference didn’t help matters. But with this current staff in place and students buying into the system, bright skies are ahead for the Blue Devils.
Be sure to make the trip up to Gentry Stadium Friday night for the Devils’ home finale. If you happen to miss it, there’s still a good chance you could catch Blue Nation in November.
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College football makes the fall season worthwhile.
During a busy Saturday, I was able to keep tabs on the University of Tennessee and Georgia contest. Like any other Volunteer fan, being happy about the 38-31 final is a bit of an understatement.
But away from Neyland, other games brought the hammer, including Texas’ shocker against Oklahoma and the Kansas State almost-upset against TCU in Manhattan.
Even locally, Tusculum College was able to earn a 26-17 victory over No. 23 Wingate during the Pioneers’ homecoming evening.
And we can’t forget Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where former Blue Devil Corey Headley and the Fightin’ Engineers coaching staff saw the team move to 5-0 on the year with a 28-27 thriller over Bluffton, earning two national votes for ranking in Division III.
The gridiron gods knew how to serve up entertainment on Saturday.
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The Three Rivers Conference basketball jamboree is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 12, at Sullivan South High School.
The UCHS Lady Blue Devils will square off against Happy Valley at 8:30 p.m., with the Blue Devils and Warriors set to follow at 9 p.m.
Teams competing in the jamboree will compete in one quarter of action.
A look at the upcoming 2015-2016 seasons with head coaches Kerri King and Michael Smith will be featured in The Erwin Record’s annual basketball supplement. The inside-look at the basketball program will hit stands mid-November.
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Visit erwinrecordpix.com for a gallery of photos of athletic events involving Blue Nation athletes. Photos are available for purchase on the site by print or download.