ERWIN — Sullivan North saw the opportunity and struck for gold.
Jacob Jasper rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries as the Golden Raiders earned a 44-22 win over Unicoi County Friday night at Gentry Stadium in their conference openers.
“Unicoi is a real sound, fundamental team,” North head coach Robbie Norris said. “Coach (Jerad) Huskins and their staff have the kids playing well and scared us early.”
The Golden Raiders improved to 2-1, 1-0 in the Three Rivers Conference. Unicoi County fell 1-2, 0-1.
After stalling North’s opening possession, the Blue Devils needed just one play with Luke Fronckoski cutting to the outside and rumbling 87 yards out for a score with 9:28 in the first quarter
“Luke is just a hard nose kid,” Huskins said of his junior tailback.
North’s next two possessions saw Jasper rush from 12 and 46 yards out on touchdown drives to go into the second quarter ahead 16-6.
“A lot of people doubted us going into the season and said our defense would have to carry us,” Jasper said. “We’ve got running backs in Austin (Linton), Kody Goins, and Nick Copas does a great job running the offense.”
Nick played behind Corey (Rowe) last season and hasn’t missed a beat.”
Copas finished the night with 61 yards on five carries and a score.
North kept the pedal to the medal in the second frame. UC stalled on their first drive of the quarter then North would capitalize on a 60-yard drive capped off by a Nick Copas two-point quarterback sneak to take a 23-6 lead with 5:30 left in the first half.
“Our run game was big tonight,” Linton said, who finished with 67 yards on eight carries and nine tackles on defense. “Our backs do a great job and Bryson (Salyers) is a great fullback for us, we wouldn’t of gotten it done without him.”
The play of the game came when UCHS punted with 2:20 left in the contest. Jonathan Green blocked it and ran 15 yards for a TD to put North up 30-6.
“It was a rough night for us,” Huskins said. “We lost our backup punter and our first string, Thomas Tipton, went done with an injury. Our two kickers were also hurt so we went for two each score. Injuries have been killing us this season, past three games we’ve lost a key contributor.”
Fronckoski would rush from eight yards out and nab a two-point conversion to place the score, 30-14, going into halftime.
Fronckoski finished the game with 17 carries for 157 yards and two scores.
Hensley finished the night passing 6-15 with 73 yards and a score. Fronckoski tossed a 41-yard half back pass to Tipton in the firs quarter while Gillis led the receivers with 50 yards on two receptions.
Copas, Riley Eaton and Tyler Arnold were part of some sacks that helped keep the Blue Devils offense at bay.
“It was big,” Linton said. “Coach Copas talked to us before the game and said turnovers won games. Unicoi’s for some big boys and I was proud of the way we came out and held them, it was big.”
Unicoi County was led in tackles by Justin Nelson, who tallied in 12 on the night.
North will play Union County, Va., next week while the Blue Devils host Gatlinburg-Pittman for homecoming.