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Off the Field – Solace found in sports (Oct. 21, 2015 issue)

While it may be temporary, sports can provide a moment of solace.
A community coming off the heels of CSX’s announcement to reduce operations at the Erwin CSX Terminal on Thursday, Oct. 14 – a move that affected 300 jobs – got a needed dose of positivity from Gentry Stadium the next day.
Once the scoreboard struck zero at the end of the fourth, a packed house at Gentry Stadium erupted in celebration as the Unicoi County High School Blue Devil football team was able to snap a two-year losing streak at home with a 52-16 win over Claiborne on Friday during Senior Night.
Tight-knit communities, like Unicoi County, thrive in the sports scene. On Friday nights high school students take the limelight in the fall. Being from the area and taking in the cool breeze of the “Friday Night Lights” from the stands allows a two-hour window to step away from the grind of the issues of the world.
“It was an announcement that affected everyone,” Blue Devil head coach Glenn White said about CSX’s announcement. “It’s tough for a town like Erwin and area like Unicoi County to come back from that. It affects the workers and their families. We have boys on the team that have fathers that worked on the railroad. It was an announcement that shook the area.
“Friday night, we had a big crowd out. Places like Unicoi County, coming up to Gentry Stadium … people are from here and went to school here. They have a chance to come back to their old stomping grounds. It takes you back to a simpler time when there weren’t any problems. For that moment, you get to relive some of the moments of being a student or student-athlete.”
From the days of the Clinchfield Railroad to CSX, Erwin has been known as a railroad town. A community that was struck years ago by troubles during the closure of pottery factories was able to overcome that by coming together. Overcoming obstacles, whether in town or on the gridiron, can be accomplished with the help of the individual beside of you, White said.
“It was a tough way to end the week,” he added, “but, Friday night we hope we’re able to help the community with the victory. We’re going to rally as a community to overcome these obstacles in the coming months.”
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UCHS cross country runners are gearing up for postseason action.
Head coach Thad Higgins will take his runners to Doe River Gorge on Tuesday, Oct. 20, to compete in the Three Rivers Conference meet and jockey for position in the regional and, potentially, the state meet held in November.
The Lady Blue Devil runners are led by sophomore Megan Todd, who qualified in 2014 for the TSSAA state competition. The fresh-faced Blue Devils are led by lone senior Lance Banks. Other Blue Devils looking to make some noise at Thursday’s meet include Austin Wilson, Andrew Bowen and John Campbell.
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Former Blue Devil and current Rose Hulman Institute of Technology assistant football coach Corey Headley is continuing to be part of the success.
The Fightin’ Engineers came away with a 42-7 victory over Defiance to move their overall record to 6-0 on the season last week.
Rose-Hulman will have an opportunity to clinch their league’s title this week by squaring off against Franklin College, the five-time champions of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.