Football Patriots Work to Compete Under Kerr

Coach Larry Kerr

Union County High School football coach Larry Kerr and son Joseph Kerr came to Union County with one mission: to rebuild the Patriots football program. And they'll be the first to tell you it's going to take some time.

Folks will remember Larry Kerr as the football coach who took the Halls High School Red Devils to a state championship win back in the 80s. In the 90s, he moved to Anderson County High, making it to state playoffs 18 out of his 22 years there. He was comfortably retired when some "old friends" called to ask if he'd come to UCHS. No commitments, he said. He'd visit the school, watch some film, and talk with the players.

What he saw shocked him. Last year's team was down to just 19 players. The team hadn't won a game in years, and every game in the last season ended in the "mercy rule." The team couldn't play 11 on 11 practices. Lack of practice and aging equipment meant way too many injuries. Three of those 19 kids were rising seniors who had three years of high school football and not a single win.

"I'd never seen anything so bad," Larry said. "The program had hit rock bottom. I felt really sorry for the kids. That's tough, to keep your head up."

So, back in January the Kerrs and the Patriots got to work. It started in the weight room, and Larry spent time in the school cafeteria, talking to kids and recruiting players. Now, the team is up to 50 players, and there's a junior varsity program for the first time in years. The school kicked in for new helmets and pads, and the team held a fundraiser that put $6,000 towards uniforms, shoes and sweats.

"I wanted the kids to feel like we're not second-class citizens, and I didn't want money or the lack thereof to be a reason not to play football," Larry said.

And all that work has paid off, not in a winning season, but in a competitive season so far. Only one game, has gone to the mercy rule this year, and that was against powerhouse Greeneville High. Others have been losses, but competitive losses. And then there was the victory 6-0 against Cosby.

"You ought to have seen the crowd come onto the field," said Larry. Some folks even cried.

Larry called out some of the team as standouts this year, including senior Andrew Kitts, one of those kids who stuck with the program even through the hard times. Larry called the lineman offensive guard and offensive tackle "a backbone and a leader." Seniors Joseph Hickman and Zane Heatherly play tight end and defensive back, and senior defensive end Adam Bryan "is a special kid, a real bright spot."

Juniors include quarterback Joey Chamberlain and Dalton Truan "the best runner we've got, and pound for pound the toughest kid we've got." Sophomore Zach Pierce, who plays linebacker and fullback, has put in lots of time on the weights and packed on 20 pounds since January. Colby Dawson is another standout on linebacker and fullback.

As for the rest of the season, Larry said he hopes to see one or two more wins, but asked parents and fans to keep it realistic. "Rome wasn't built in a day," he quoted.

"We're trying just to get to competitive," he said. "They're learning how to fight. We've got to go out and earn respect, work and stay committed.

"Thanks for all the support. Stay behind the kids. Support the kids. We've got work to do, but believe me we're trying to make a difference."

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Franklin Delano Capps

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Robert Bruce Kezer

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Thomas Michael McLaughlin

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Frances Jane Nichols “Janey”, age 61, of Rockford, went to be with the Lord on February 8, 2019, surrounded by her loved ones. She was a beloved mom, sister, and granny. Preceded in death by parents Jack Huggins and Bernice Van Dyke, brother Jackie Huggins, sisters Sarah Munsey, Sandy Huggins, and Darlene Dunaway.

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