ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) – Unicoi Co. High School made some substantial renovations to Gentry Stadium last summer, but only had 1/3 capacity at its home football games. As the 2021 season nears, they hope to have full crowds back and to give them a show as well.
The Blue Devils had a strong season last year, going 5-5 but had a chance at winning the region championship fall off. Head coach Drew Rice has preached to his team that they keep being one game away.
A couple years ago, it was the game at Chuckey-Doak when they saw the Region 1-3A regular season title slip away with that loss to Afton.
Last season it was two region losses to the Black Knights and to Claiborne Co., which forced the Blue Devils to hit the road for their first round playoff game at Gatlinburg-Pittman, a brutal assignment in Class 3A. They’re hoping to have a home playoff game in the spiffed-up Gentry Stadium and they feel they have a group that can make that happen.
“Very excited, these guys have been tremendous, this is going into my 5th season and feel like this is probably the best offseason we’ve ever had so that’s very encouraging, we only have eight seniors that’s by far our smallest class but it’s a great group and just very proud of them and very proud of the offseason we had and you know just ready to go,” Rice said.
Although a number of skill players are coming back, it’s a new man at the quarterback position. Life after Brock Thompson has arrived in Erwin.
Thompson took over three games into his freshman year and ended up being a four-year starter. He powered through some injuries last year and still managed to throw for almost 1,000 yards.
Now it’s up to Bryson Peterson to take over, who did play a few games last year while Thompson was hurt. He went 3-0 as a starter heading into the playoff loss.
He has a big time running back to rely on in Nehemiah Edwards, who could be a breakout weapon to watch in this area.
“I think he’s adjusting pretty well so far, Bryson and Brock were pretty close when they played together here I think Brock definitely mentored him a little bit so he’s kinda picked it up really well,” Unicoi Co. senior running back and linebacker Isaiah Smith said.
“Bryson’s really prepared cause he started last year a couple games and he’s got some games under his belt so we feel like he’ll be ready to go he’s got a good arm and can hand the ball off pretty well so we feel like he’ll be pretty good,” Unicoi Co. senior offensive and defensive lineman Caleb Swinehart said.
Unicoi Co. gets its season started on Friday, August 20 at Northview Academy.