BY JOE BYRD
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
Unicoi County claimed its first win on Rebel Hill since 1991 on Friday night, riding big second and third quarters to a 41-10 win over South Greene to open the season.
South Greene had beaten the Blue Devils three straight times and seven of the last eight heading into the game.
It started as one of the strangest games in memory with the score tied at 2-2 at the end of the first quarter after the two sides swapped safeties. The Blue Devils figured out in the second quarter they could push the younger Rebels off the ball on the lines, and that was the difference.
South Greene took the field for the first time this year with only a handful of players that had starting experience and only one senior that was a four-year player.
That, combined with losing out a week's worth of preparation because of playing on "zero" week, made for a long night for the Rebels.
"We made too many mistakes," said Rebel coach Shawn Jones. "I'll take full responsibility for it. We'll be better next week."
South Greene netted only 89 yards of total offense.
Quarterback Hunter Waddell led the Rebels' offense, rushing for 36 yards and passing for 79. Waddell was 9-13 passing.
Preston Shuffler carried the ball six times for 22 yards. Tim Lightfoot had 67 yards in kickoff returns, including a 45-yarder. Justin Casteel had five receptions for 50 yards.
A rash of mistakes on offense resulted in a team loss of -43 yards rushing.
Unicoi County totaled 175 yards of offense, led by 67 yards rushing by Hunter Abbott. Phillip Franklin rushed for a pair of touchdowns for the Blue Devils.
Touchdowns were nowhere to be found in the first quarter, but there was scoring, resulting in an unusual football score 12 minutes into the season.
South Greene got the opening kickoff and went three-and-out without moving the ball. A bad snap over the punter's head resulted in a safety and a 2-0 lead for Unicoi County.
The Blue Devils returned the favor a couple of minutes later when South Greene backed them up to their own goal line and Austin Hoyle tackled Abbott in the end zone to make it 2-2.
Hoyle was solid on defense for the Rebels, making a number of tackles for loss. The Rebs' defense forced two turnovers recovered by Matt Nicademus and Manny Alcantara.
Despite the big plays by the Rebels' defense, Unicoi County found the combination to moving the ball late in the second quarter.
Cody Jack Rogers scored on a 2-yard run with 4:58 left in the first half. Thomas Tipton ran in a sneaky 2-point conversion, and the Blue Devils were up 10-2. Another safety with 1:13 on the clock made it 12-2, and Abbott scored on a 6-yd. run :12 before halftime. Tipton ran it in again to give Unicoi County a 20-2 lead at the break.
Unicoi County's Jacob Sawyer returned the second half kickoff 40-plus yards deep into South Greene territory, and two plays later Franklin raced in from the 10. Abbott provided the extra point kick, extending the Devils' advantage to 27-2 less than a minute into the third.
Franklin scored his second touchdown in the third quarter as well, plowing in from the 8 with 4:11 on the clock. Tipton kicked the ball through the uprights, extending the score to 34-2.
South Greene scored its lone touchdown of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter when Shuffler broke loose on a 7-yard run, capping a nine-play, 45-yard drive. Waddell passed to Alcantara for a 2-point conversion, setting the score at 34-10.
Unicoi County didn't waste any time before scoring again. Keith Arrowood returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown. Hunter Burnett's extra point made the final 41-10.
The Rebels are home again next week, hosting Rockwood. Unicoi County plays the second game of its Greene County doubleheader when Chuckey-Doak travels to Erwin.