With a chance to forge a three-way tie for first place, the Blue Devils were unable to derail the undefeated Longhorns, who earned a 28-14 win.
“Our guys have worked for this going all the way back to January,” said Blue Devils’ head coach Drew Rice. “Our leadership from our seniors and juniors has been tremendous all season, and we believe that will continue to be the case. We expect a big crowd, and hopefully we will rise to the occasion.”
This year, the teams are on equal footing. Both are 4-0 in Region 1-3A and each has an overall record of 8-1. Both teams have locked up home playoff games. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Gentry Stadium.
The rainy forecast isn’t causing pause for Rice.
“Our field is in really good shape, and it drains very well,” said Rice. “So hopefully that won’t be an issue for either team.”
Johnson County head coach Don Kerley said turnovers could be a factor.
“But I think Unicoi’s field should hold up,” he said.
In other games Friday, Happy Valley plays host to South Greene, Cloudland visits Copper Basin, and Unaka hits the road to battle Sunbright.
THE BLUE DEVILS’ EDGE
Running back Kody Lewis is the main threat for Unicoi County. He has rushed for 1,546 yards and 19 touchdowns on the season.
Lewis, a junior, is complemented by quarterback Brock Thompson, who has thrown for 964 yards and 14 scores.
Leading pass catcher Brett Strother has racked up 791 yards of offense and has 11 total touchdowns.
“Coach Rice has a really good team and they are well coached,” said Kerley. “I know they will be ready. I think it should be a great game. It seems like every week is a big game for us.”
THE LONGHORNS’ EDGE
Nathan Lane is the main man for the Longhorns, leading the team in rushing, total touchdowns (21), and is coming off a game where he had three interceptions and a game-winning return for a touchdown with less than a minute left.
He is complemented on offense by quarterback Troy Arnold and on defense by tackle machine Tyler Norris.
“They have a tremendous defense,” said Rice. “Coach Kerley and his staff do a great job, and we have a lot of respect for their program.”
The Warriors should have their hands full as the Rebels have scored 34 or more points in each of their last five games.
“South Greene is one of the most athletic teams we have faced,” said Happy Valley head coach Jason Jarrett. “Their system fits well with the personnel they have. Their option attack and passing game puts a lot of pressure on your defense.”
The Rebels also bring it hard on the other side of the ball.
“Defensively they play an aggressive and attacking scheme, which allows their athletes to run and make plays,” said Jarrett.
Happy Valley has been leaning on quarterback Dakota Cochran in recent weeks. He totaled 191 yards of offense in a 40-7 win over West Greene last Friday.
Cloudland and Unaka
Both Carter County schools face huge road trips. The Highlanders will travel nearly four hours to get to Copper Basin while Unaka must journey close to 3 1/2 hours to get to Sunbright.
And when the two teams arrive at their destinations, they will be almost three hours apart.
It’s the final game for the Rangers, who aren’t eligible for the playoffs while it’s a postseason tuneup for Cloudland.