By Keeli Parkey
It took one play for the Unicoi County High School football team to score and less than one minute before they completely controlled their first Region 1-AAA game of the season.
That dominance lifted the Blue Devils (1-2, 1-0) to a 65-6 victory over the North Greene Huskies (0-3) in Baileyton on Friday, Sept. 6.
“I was pleased with how we played,” UCHS head coach Drew Rice told The Erwin Record. “We were able to get the ball to a lot of different people and got everyone on the sideline in at some point, so anytime you can do that, that’s a good thing. I thought we came out and executed well.”
After losing their first two games of the season, Friday’s victory was an important won for the Blue Devils.
“I think we saw what we are capable of being,” Rice said. “We just have to continue to improve each week, and good things will happen. (The win is) everything. We know our non-region schedule is tough, so to take care of business in our region is what we must do. I am proud of how our guys approached it.”
The Blue Devils started their first drive against the Huskies at midfield. On first down, quarterback Brock Thompson hit Evan Huff for a 51-yard touchdown return. Miquel Vasquez then converted the point-after attempt (PAT) for a 7-0 UCHS lead.
The UCHS defense then pinned North Greene deep in their own territory, allowing Zhante Breedlove to recover a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Vasquez was converted another PAT and the Blue Devils led 14-0 with just over one minute gone in the first quarter.
“I thought our entire defense played really well,” Rice said. “Zhante played like we know he is capable of. He is a big physical kid with a great motor, so we need more of that out of him each week.”
Next, the Blue Devil defense again pushed North Greene deep in the Huskies’ territory – and again took advantage. This time, L.J. Mitchell forced a safety with a tackle in the end zone, giving UCHS a 16-0 lead with 9:55 to play in the first quarter.
“Our guys showed up, went out and executed,” Rice said. “We did a good job of executing our game plans on both sides of the ball.”
The Blue Devils scored two more touchdowns in the first quarter – a 42-yard run by Thompson and a 10-yard run by Kody Lewis. Vasquez converted both PATs and UCHS held a 30-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. UCHS lead 51-6 at halftime and 58-6 before scoring another touchdown in the fourth quarter for the 65-6 final.
The lead allowed Rice to play everyone on his bench.
“I thought they played great,” he said of his less experienced players. “We didn’t play hardly any starters in the entire second half so our young guys got some great work. We know we have some really talented young guys, so their development throughout the season is a very high priority for us.”
The Blue Devil offense had its best game of the season so far – amassing 393 total yards, including 218 passing yards by Thompson. The junior quarterback completed 8-11 passes, for 3 touchdowns; he also had 2 carries for 34 yards and 1 touchdown.
“Going in we wanted to get our offense and Brock going,” Rice said. “So hopefully, we can continue that momentum going into Happy Valley this week. We have to play our correct techniques and carry out our assignments.”
Huff had 4 catches for 96 yards and 1 touchdown. Tanner VanHoy had 1 catch for 70 yards and a touchdown. Peyton Whitson had 2 catches for 45 yards and a touchdown. Tracy Vanover had 1 catch for 8 yards. Vasquez was a perfect 9-9 on PATs.
The Blue Devil offense also had 175 yards on the ground. Nehemiah Edwards had 7 carries for 46 yards and 1 touchdown. Lewis had 4 carries for 39 yards and 1 touchdown. Charles Hopson had 3 carries for 19 yards. Robbie O’Dell had 2 carries for 15 yards and 1 touchdown. Diego Diaz had 3 carries for 14 yards and 1 touchdown. Caleb Pelaez had 2 carries for 8 yards.
Gabe Tipton had 5 tackles and 1 sack for the UCHS defense. Roby Lemmon had 4 tackles and 1 sack. Isaiah Smith, Breedlove, Edwards, Dylan Adams and Mitchell each had 1 sack in the game.
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The Blue Devils will face rival Happy Valley in non-region play on Friday, Sept. 13, at Gentry Stadium in Erwin.
“They are 3-0 and are a very good football team,” Rice said of the Warriors. “We are going to have to put together a complete football game Friday night. We have to take care of the football and play our assignments on defense.”
Getting their first non-league win is important to the team, according to the head coach.
“It would be huge,” Rice said of a win over Happy Valley. “It’s not a region game, but it is a rivalry game, and that’s the important thing this week. We have to have a great week of practice and we hope everyone comes out and supports these guys because they deserve it.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
For more photos of the 2019 UCHS football team, visit The Erwin Record’s online photo store.