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Pigeon Forge bests Devils, 22-8

A “Big Blue” upset bid fell just shy in the second half on a rainy Friday night in Erwin.
The Unicoi County High School football team jumped out to an 8-0 advantage against Pigeon Forge, but the Tigers rattled off 22 unanswered points to earn the 22-8 Mountain Eight Conference victory at Gentry Stadium on Friday, Oct. 9.
Pigeon Forge moved to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the league, while UCHS dropped to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the conference.
Nick Fender got the Blue Devils rolling on the opening possession by getting the ball out to the 50-yard line after a 20-yard kickoff return.
UCHS only needed three plays to hit paydirt. Quarterback Hunter Hensley (11 carries, 78 yards, TD) connected with Michael Howell for 24 yards and later rushed for another 24 yards to the end zone. Cameron Higgins took the 2-yard plunge on the two-point conversion to give the Blue Devils an 8-0 lead with 10:56 on the clock.
Eddie Martinez was then able to get the Blue Devils an extra possession with an onside kick recovered by Colt Brewer; however, UCHS was unable to capitalize with the Tigers recovering a fumble on fourth-and-18.
Missed attempts in the red zone kept the Blue Devils away from padding the lead, including short field possession from a blocked punt by senior defensive end Jacob Smith. The Tigers also came up with a pair of key interceptions in the secondary, by Devin Davenport and Cyrus Smith.
Pigeon Forge’s Turner Whaley was able to get his team on the board with an 11-yard pass to junior Dawson Day early in the second quarter. The two-point attempt was successful to knot things up.
The 8-8 tie carried over into intermission.
“I liked our effort in the first half,” UCHS head coach Glenn White said, “especially there on that first series. We went down, scored, and got that onside kick. We tried to take it to them. We got down there (in the red zone) twice in the first and we didn’t get in … that’s my fault. We came back and played some good defense heading into halftime.
“But we just couldn’t get off the blocks up front. Pigeon Forge is a good football team. We’re still in control of what we need to be in control of.”
The Tigers were without head coach Scott Meadows, who was unable to make the trip due to medical precautions after going through tests at a hospital in the Pigeon Forge area.
Noah Whaley (34 carries, 199 yards, TD) was able to break open the score for the Tigers with a 21-yard run with under four minutes left in the third quarter.
“They just kept running that play over and over with him,” White said about the senior tailback. “He was a 1,000-yard rusher coming into the game and I thought we played them well, but he just started to break open there in the second half.”
The Tigers outgained UCHS in the contest 246 to 204 in offense, with Noah Whaley accounting for nearly all of Pigeon Forge’s yardage.
Pigeon Forge kicker Nick Sisto drilled two field goals in the fourth quarter, including one from 32 yards, to give the Tigers the final advantage.
Hensley completed four passes out of 10 attempts for UCHS, for 83 yards. Howell led the charge with 64 yards on two receptions. Eli Gillis and Fender had a catch each, for 10 and 9 yards, respectively.
Cameron Higgins, Brandon Caldwell and Smith helped wreck havoc on defense with a sack each. Warren Shelton led the team with five tackles and senior lineman Justin Nelson added four.
Pigeon Forge was led by Andrew McCarter with six total tackles on the night.
Preparation is now the game plan moving forward for UCHS, according to coach White. The Blue Devils await Claiborne County on Friday, Oct. 16, for senior night and the last home game of the regular season.
“The effort is good,” White added. “It has always been good. It is human nature to get in a slump at times. This is a good football team and we have a good opportunity to finish strong in this league, either finishing third or fourth; our goal is third. That goal starts now for Friday’s game with Claiborne County.”
Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. with senior night festivities taking place before the contest.
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The UCHS junior varsity football team earned a 20-18 win over Chuckey-Doak last week.
The Blue Devils faced David Crockett on Monday, Oct. 12, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
Junior varsity play is scheduled to conclude on Monday, Oct. 19, with a road trip to Johnson County. The contest is scheduled to kickoff at 6 p.m.