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No matter how you look at things, it would be really difficult not to give Coach Jerad Huskins and his staff a ton of credit for what happened Thursday night.
And the Unicoi County players deserve a bunch of compliments for their character, which helped form the foundation for a 28-10 win over Chuckey-Doak.
“It was probably the best game we’ve had since I’ve been head coach,” said Huskins, who is in his third season.
In Week Zero, Unicoi County was pushed aside in a 35-0 whipping by South Greene. And for a program that has seen more bad than good in recent years, it seemed reasonable to expect a possible trip to the tank for the final nine games of the season.
Not under Huskins’ watch.
“We demand commitment year round,” said Huskins. “If you don’t lift weights, you don’t play. The kids have invested so much in it, after one bad game they can’t throw in the towel.”
Chuckey-Doak was picked to finish well above South Greene in the Blue Ridge Conference, and was also coming off a 54-6 win over Unaka. Many observers expected the Blue Devils to hit the road and get flattened.
But when Hunter Abbott raced 45 yards for a first-half touchdown, the Blue Devils had life and carried a 7-3 edge into the locker room.
Then something happened that could have demoralized the team. South Greene ran the second-half kickoff back for a 10-7 lead.
But then again, how could a three-point deficit be much to worry about coming off a 35-point loss?
“We’ve got resilient kids,” said Huskins. “And they are mentally tough kids.”
On the next three possessions, quarterback Austin Hensley led three scoring drives. He had two touchdown runs and a touchdown pass to Jordan Berry.
Moving the football wasn’t a problem for the Blue Devils, who also drove inside Doak’s 10-yard twice and didn’t score.
“We dropped a TD pass, so it could have been worse than it was,” said Huskins.
Hensley completed 13 of 21 passes for 137 yards.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils’ defense loaded the box against Doak power back Julius Montgomery and stymied the Black Knights’ attack.
“We just said if you’re going to beat us, you’re going to beat us throwing,” said Huskins. “We tackled well, gang tackled, and made plays.”
Among the standouts in the game for the Blue Devils was Abbott, who finished with 88 yards on 12 carries.
Also, Berry made an impact on both sides of the ball. Besides the touchdown reception, Berry forced two fumbles from his linebacker position.
In the secondary, Josh McKinney was part of a very good tackling effort, said Huskins.
“Chuckey-Doak has some big kids, but we tackled well,” he said.
All things considered, a season lost has been found again quickly.
“We had high expectations coming into the season,” said Huskins. “They could have felt sorry for themselves, or come back and win a game. I’m really proud of the way we bounced back.”
Huskins said the next step is continuing forward.
“We will try to carry on and get a snowball effect going,” said Huskins, whose team will be at least a toss-up pick next week in the Three Rivers Conference opener at Johnson County. “We talked to them about not being satisfied.”