School: Unicoi County
Nickname: Blue Devils
Coach: Doug Cooper
2006 record: 4-7, 3-4
Offensive starters back: 7
Defensive starters back: 6
ERWIN — For all its accomplishments in 2006, Unicoi County’s football program isn’t out of the woods yet. So says athletic director Doug Cooper, who took on the responsibility of restoring school pride by adding the head coaching duties to his own job.
“We’re pleased with what the team achieved last season and we hope to be better,” Cooper said. “But when you look at the conference, we’ve got to be picked eighth until we get out of there on a consistent basis.”
Cooper pointed out that Sullivan South, Tennessee High, Johnson County, East, Elizabethton, Central and North all are capable of winning on any given night.
“If you look around for a weak sister and don’t see one, then it must be you,” he said.
Unicoi County, after going winless the previous year, knocked off Elizabethton in 2006 for the first time since 1967. The Blue Devils beat Central on the final night of the regular season to reach the playoffs for the first time in 10 years and the only time in 4A classification.
“We get good fan support whether we’re 0-10 or in the playoffs,” Cooper said. “The people did get more excited last year. That season helped us tremendously.”
The strength of this year’s team lies in the offensive line. Forming the front wall will be tackles Casimiro Razo and Tyler Adams, guards Houston Tittle and Chase Edwards, center Jordan Cooper and 6-foot-5, 225- pound tight end Drew Rice.
“Edwards is our strongest player,” the coach said. “He bench presses 365 pounds. We can’t keep him out of the weight room.
“Rice has great hands. We think he may be a Division I prospect.”
The Devils will operate on offense from a split-backfield veer, with either Chris White or D.W. Whitson doing the quarterbacking. White runs the option well and Whitson has exceptional arm strength.
Ethan Bennett, Nathaniel Tipton and Logan Edwards will rotate at halfback. Brent White, Andrew Lingerfelt and Corey Headley will divide time at wide receivers. White is an outstanding high jumper.
Counting freshmen, the squad has increased to 75 players.
The defense is adequate, and its improvement could determine how well the team fares.
Making up the front will be Cody Dutton and Allan Vance at the ends and Chase Edwards and Jonathan Sullins at tackle. The linebackers will be Rice and Jake Weaver outside and Tipton and Josh Edwards inside. The cornerbacks will be Holden Tolley and Headley, with Lingerfelt at safety.
Once upon a time, Unicoi County’s program commanded respect. Then came a long string of lean years.
“We want to try to get back to that,” Cooper said. “With constant changes in classification, it’s hard to say how long that will take.”