It has been a while since Unicoi County started a football season at 4-0.
To be exact, it’s been 37 years and 11 head coaches.
The Blue Devils started the 1984 season by winning their first nine games on the way to posting a 10-2 record and making the Class AA playoffs.
Under then-coach Louis Thompson, the Blue Devils made three consecutive AA playoffs (1984-86) and posted back-to-back 10-win seasons in 1984 and 1985.
Thompson, the school’s winningest coach, left in 1988 to go to Lincoln County, where he turned the Falcon program into one of the state’s best and won Class AAA state titles in 1990 and 1993.
After Thompson left, the Blue Devil program fell on hard times. They’ve posted just four winning seasons (1989, 1996, 2018 and 2019) since his departure.
Despite only four winning seasons, the Blue Devils have made 12 playoff appearances (1989, 1991, 1994, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020), including six straight under current coach Drew Rice.
Under Rice, the program has been stabilized with the playoff appearances and a 34-25 overall record.
So far this season, the Blue Devils have three wins on the field over Northview Academy (22-14), Cosby (44-0) and Happy Valley (35-6) and a COVID win over Madison (NC).
They step into Region 1-3A play this week at home against Claiborne (0-3).
What’s been the big difference in the fast 4-0 start?
“It’s a compliment to our guys and their commitment level. We have a talented group of kids and they have been going out and laying it on the line,” Rice said.
So far, the Blue Devil offense has averaged 33.7 points per game, while their stingy defense has only allowed 6.7 points per contest.
“Bryson Peterson, our quarterback, has done a great job of managing our offense and distributing the ball to our playmakers,” Rice said. “Hopefully we can keep it going this week as we begin region play.”
Peterson hasn’t thrown it much (33 times with 21 completions) for 248 yards and four touchdowns, while junior running back Nehemiah Edwards leads the ground game with 319 yards and five touchdowns.
The offensive line is led by seniors Dawson Hampton and Caleb Swinehart, while juniors Esteban Mendoza, Ty Owen and Brody Rasnick have been vital as well.
The defensive line has four junior starters in Mendoza (16 tackles, 5 TFL), Owen (11 tackles, 7 TFL), Rasnick (11 tackles, 5 TFL) and Lucas Slagle (4 tackles, 2 TFL).
“Our offensive and defensive lines have been really tough, and I think that’s truly the secret to winning football games,” Rice said.
Undefeated through the first four weeks
Like Unicoi County, the following 14 schools are off to a 4-0 start for the first time in years:
2020 Record: 5-4, lost in 6A Quarterfinals
2021 Wins So Far: Raleigh Egypt (61-0), Douglass (54-0), White Station (34-6) and Center Hill (MS) (47-6).
Last Time Starting 4-0: 1998. Won first nine games as they made the playoffs and finished 10-2.
2020 Record: 9-3, lost in 1A Quarterfinals
2021 Wins So Far: Smith County (14-0), Watertown (16-9), Oliver Springs (COVID win) and Eagleville (28-14)
Last Time Starting 4-0: 1998. Won first four games on the way to 8-3 season.
2020 Record: 4-5, lost in 5A first round
2021 Wins So Far: Fairview (28-20), Franklin (28-0), Spring Hill (47-6) and Coffee County (38-17)
Last Time Starting 4-0: 2000. Won first seven games and finished with a 9-2 record.
2020 Record: Didn’t play season because of COVID
2021 Wins So Far: Memphis East (38-6), Hillcrest (30-0), Manassas (COVID win) and Hamilton (46-0)
Last Time Starting 4-0: 2002. Won their first seven games, made the playoffs and finished 8-4.
2020 Record: 8-4, lost in 2A Quarterfinals
2021 Wins So Far: Huntingdon (46-28), Chester County (36-0), South Fulton (72-7) and Obion County (40-14).
Last Time Starting 4-0: 2003.Won first six games and finished the year 9-3.
Clarksville Academy Cougars
2020 Record: 1-9, missed the playoffs
2021 Wins So Far: FACS 30-10, Webb School (63-36), MTCS (27-24) and Tennessee Heat (87-0).
Last Time Starting 4-0: 2012.Won first five games and made playoffs and finished 8-3.
Giles County Bobcats
2020 Record: 4-8, lost in 3A second round.
2021 Wins So Far: Lincoln County (51-8), Nolensville (38-35), Grundy County (COVID win) and Franklin County (36-18).
Last Time Starting 4-0: 2012. Won first 13 games, went 13-1 and lost in 4A Semifinals.
2020 Record: 5-6, lost to Bledsoe County in 2A first round.
2021 Wins So Far: Moore County (29-14), Cannon County (25-0), Mt. Pleasant (16-14) and Huntland (28-17).
Last Time Starting 4-0: 2013.Won first four games, finishing 7-4 and made the 3A playoffs.
East Hamilton Hurricanes
2020 Record: 8-4, lost in 4A second round.
2021 Wins So Far: Ooltewah (33-13), Portland (42-34), East Ridge (49-0) and Sequoyah (70-0).
Last Time Starting 4-0: 2013.Won first four games finished 10-3 lost in 5A Quarterfinals.
Lipscomb Academy Mustangs
2020 Record: 10-3, lost in Division II-AA Finals.
2021 Wins So Far: Greater Atlanta Christian (76-7), Independence (62-7), Goodpasture (COVID win) and Pulaski Academy (AR) (64-28).
Last Time Starting 4-0: 2013.Won first four games, made playoffs, and finished 8-3.
Knoxville Catholic Fighting Irish
2020 Record: 5-5, missed the DII-AAA playoffs
2021 Wins So Far: Chuckey Doak (63-7), South Greene (52-0) and Baylor (31-21).
Last Time Starting 3-0: 2014.Won first nine games and finished 9-2.
2020 Record: 5-5, missed the playoffs
2021 Wins So Far: Jellico (49-19), Midway (20-19) and Wartburg (25-0).
Last Time Starting 3-0: 2014. Won first five games, made the 1A playoffs and finished 6-5.
South Doyle Cherokees
2020 Record: 10-4, lost in 5A Semifinals.
2021 Wins So Far: Oak Ridge (28-20), Knoxville Grace (34-27), Scott (42-10) and Bearden (26-7).
Last Time Starting 4-0: 2014.Won first 12 games, made the 5A Quarterfinals.
3-1 for the first time in a while
The following eight teams have won three of their first four games for the first time in several years, including two programs that are making school history.
Freedom Prep War Eagles
2020 Record: Didn’t play season because of COVID
2021 Wins So Far: Beat Manassas (50-0), MLK Prep (COVID win), Westwood (60-0), lost to Mitchell (32-14)
Last Time Starting 3-1: Never. The school has only had a football program for four seasons.
Green Hill Hawks
2020 Record: 4-6.
2021 Wins So Far: Beat Kenwood (35-16), Wilson Central (25-15) and Columbia (28-14) and lost to Siegel (29-21).
Last Time Starting 3-1: Never. The school is in its second varsity season.
2020 Record: 0-8, missed the playoffs.
2021 Wins So Far: Beat Fulton County (KY) (40-0), Bruceton (69-27) and Scotts Hill (49-13), lost to West Carroll (27-21).
Last Time Starting 3-1: 2005. The Bulldogs started 3-1 and finished 4-6 and missed the playoffs.
2020 Record: 0-10, missed the playoffs.
2021 Wins So Far: Beat Gatlinburg Pittman (14-13), Cherokee (37-13) and Cocke County (49-7) and lost to Volunteer (28-14).
Last Time Starting 3-1: 2005. Started 3-1, finished 7-4.
Baylor Red Raiders
2020 Record: 4-4, lost in DII-AAA Quarterfinals.
2021 Wins So Far: Beat Rabun Gap (GA) (35-21), Ensworth (52-28) and Chattanooga Christian (49-8), lost to Knoxville Catholic (31-21).
Last Time Starting 3-1: 2013. Started 4-1, finished 7-5.
2020 Record: Didn’t play season because of COVID
2021 Wins So Far: Beat Bolton (44-42), Kingsbury (20-18) and Sheffield (24-0), lost to Fayette Ware (35-12).
Last Time Starting 3-1: 2013.Started 4-1, finished 7-4.
2020 Record: 6-5, lost in 3A second round.
2021 Wins So Far: Beat Dresden (48-13), Gibson County (42-6) and Fairview (47-14), lost to Peabody (31-29).
Last Time Starting 3-1: 2013. Started 4-1, finished 9-4.
White County Warriors
2020 Record: Finished 5-4.
2021 Wins So Far: Beat Livingston Academy (40-0), Warren County (COVID win) and Cookeville (41-13), lost to Station Camp (14-10).
Last Time Starting 3-1: 2013.Started the year 6-1, finished 8-3.
Breaking losing streaks
The following five teams broke lengthy losing streaks in Week 4:
Cannon County 42, Webb School 16: The Lions broke a 14-game losing streak as the tailback Ryan Perkins rushed for 421 of the team’s 544 rushing yards in a dominant win over Webb.
Kingsbury 26, Douglass 0: The Falcons got 177 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns from Trey Lane Cross as they broke an 11-game losing streak.
Northwest 27, Whites Creek 20: The Vikings broke a 10-game losing streak and gave coach Reynaldo Pena his first career win as Bobby DeMeyers picked off two passes, returning one for a touchdown, while also catching a touchdown pass in the win.
FRA 49, Columbia Academy 13: FRA snapped a nine-game losing skid as running back Jeffrey Vercher ran for 171 yards and scored five times in the blowout win.
Sequatchie County 22, Jackson County 0: The Indians made a winner out of first-year coach Rusty McIntyre as Peyton Campbell passed for 214 yards and three touchdowns to help Sequatchie break a seven-game skid.
First head coaching wins
Matt Chandler, Tennessee High beat Karns 32-30
Clint Finch, Brentwood beat Henry County 21-14
Rusty McIntyre, Sequatchie County beat Jackson County 22-0
Matt Moody, McMinn Central beat Polk County 21-3
Reynaldo Pena, Northwest beat Whites Creek 27-20
Kolby Tackett, MTCS beat Mt. Juliet Christian 56-27
Winless no longer
The following 20 schools notched their first win of the season in Week 4:
Brentwood (1-3) beat Henry County 21-14
Cannon County (1-2) beat Webb School 42-16
Crockett County (1-3) beat Bolivar 48-6
East Robertson (1-3) beat Cheatham County 40-8
Farragut (1-3) beat Oak Ridge 35-30
Johnson County (1-1) beat Sullivan East 7-6
Kingsbury (1-2) beat Douglass 26-0
MASE (1-2) beat Memphis Nighthawks 6-0
Melrose (1-2) beat Memphis East 58-20
Middle Tennessee Christian (1-3) beat Mt. Juliet Christian 56-27
Milan (1-2) beat Liberty 64-0
Millington (1-2) beat Fayette Academy 48-29
Northwest (1-3) beat Whites Creek 27-20
Red Boiling Springs (1-1) beat Cosby 20-0
Richland (1-2) beat Hickman County 42-7
Rossview (1-3) beat Northeast 27-22
Sequatchie County (1-3) beat Jackson County 22-0
Stewarts Creek (1-1) beat Franklin 30-20
Tennessee High (1-1) beat Karns 32-30
William Blount (1-3) beat Heritage 38-19
First head coaching changes of season
It has been a tough 23 games for coach Ryan Bolinger at Sequoyah.
Bolinger was named the Chiefs’ head coach in 2019 and had yet to win a game entering 2021.
This season hasn’t been much better as Sequoyah is 0-3 and has been outscored 119-0. It lost to East Hamilton 70-0 last Friday.
On Tuesday, Bolinger (0-23) resigned from his position. Offensive coordinator Dustin Peels and fellow assistant coach Lance McConkey will lead the program for the rest of the season.
“My time at Sequoyah has been challenging to say the least. It's a culture like I have never experienced. When changing a culture, it takes multiple parties, (Coaches, players, parents, administration, teachers and coaches from other sports) If not everybody is on board, it makes for a very difficult road,” Bolinger said.
Sequoyah’s last win on the field came back in 2018 as it defeated Sweetwater 56-20 during a 5-5 season.
The last winning season for Sequoyah came back in 2013 when the Chiefs finished 9-3 and made the Class 4A playoffs.
Sequoyah hasn’t made the playoffs since 2017.
“I tried to bring in several quality assistant coaches, a few that were previous head coaches, throughout my time there, and I encountered one obstacle after another in bringing those coaches in,” Bolinger said. “I wanted so badly for Sequoyah to become a successful program and I put a lot of time and effort to do that but was unable to accomplish that. I always look at every situation, both good and bad, as an opportunity to learn and make connections.”
Sequoyah will host Region 3-4A opponent Soddy Daisy on Friday night.
Sequoyah is the second school this week to have a head coaching change.
Class 1A power South Pittsburg named Heath Grider and Wes Stone as co-head coaches for the rest of the season after Chris Jones resigned after just one game to accept the defensive coordinator job with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
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