For four years, Unicoi County High School football was an enigma I was unable to figure out.
I saw just about everything you could expect from high school football. From a winless season to back-to-back playoff berths. Entering this season, there was hype, and it was to be expected. The team was coming off a coaching turnover from the previous season and while the Blue Devils couldn’t net any wins, they still played competitive to the season’s end for then interim head coach Glenn White.
It was a off season of adjustments, coaching additions, players returning to the program … the works. Attending practices, you could see a fire and a drive from players that were tired of taking in on the chin and were ready to get the 2015 season underway.
The hype and scrimmages led into the season opener, where the Blue Devils took home a 36-33 victory over South Greene. Even with over 180 yards worth of penalties accumulated by UCHS, they were able to amass over 500 yards of offense in a thrilling come-from-behind victory.
Enter last week. Momentum was on the side of the Blue Devils. With pep rallies, parades and more, the stage was set for UCHS to move to 2-0 on the year as they headed into Mountain 8 Conference play.
Sullivan East wasn’t going to have it, and decided to welcome the Blue Devils back to Gentry Stadium with a 35-0 shutout on Friday.
While the game’s final score was reminiscence of years past, the first half was an indicator of the changing currently underway. The offense was stagnant due to Sullivan East’s outside pressure, which in any other circumstances would have snowballed the Blue Devils to a 35-0 disadvantage at halftime. But UCHS kept the defensive pressure alive, forced three turnovers early and had the spots to make a rally. But execution on the offensive side was unable to occur.
The offensive woes were mentioned in the post game interview with Glenn White, who accepted full responsibility for the loss about not having the right blocking adjustments in place for quarterback Hunter Hensley.
The first two games are under the belts of Blue Nation. The team experience the extreme highs and lows of season in the span of two weeks – the real calling card of this team comes with what will be shown Thursday night in Greene County.
UCHS heads into West Greene for conference play against the Buffalos – who are coming off a 22-21 victory over the South Greene Rebels. If scores are any indications, it’ll look to be a stout contest.
But something seems different about this year’s team. You can tell from the players – either on the field or even on social media – this isn’t just football season. The team continues to talk about wanting to change the culture of football inside Gentry Stadium.
Even after the season opening win, no player took any credit from the game. Every athlete continued to defer credit elsewhere. That’s a trait you won’t see much anymore.
This is a team that just isn’t to football because its football. They enjoy the game but you can see the group of 14 to 18 year olds have other intentions this year. They want to right the ship and post a winning season for the fans in the community.
This is a team that wants to change the culture.
And the tools are in place. There’s talent across the board and a nine-man coaching staff in place. The Blue Devils have the potential to cause some trouble inside the Mountain 8 Conference and are in prime position to right the ship quick with a possible win Thursday.