For Andrew Kitts, it was like winning the Super Bowl.
The senior defensive end remembers Friday's 6-0 win over Cosby as one of the more stressful experiences he's had on the gridiron at Union County.
"You went in at halftime at 0-0, and you're just thinking 'Man, isn't anyone ever going to score?'" Kitts said. "Then we score and miss the PAT, and it's all on the defense."
All the stress went away when the Patriots lined up in victory formation.
"I was crying," Kitts said. "Tears of joy."
Kitts was a freshman the last time the Patriots won a game. He remembers the stocky running back, Matthew Torbett, catching a screen pass on the opening play of the game and chugging all the way to the end zone.
"That game was pretty much sealed from the first play," Kitts said.
He wouldn't see a win for 28 more games in a Patriot uniform.
"You just get numb to it," Kitts said. "It's like, 'Oh, we lost again. I can already hear everyone at school, it's just another blowout season, blowout game.'"
Kitts said he's encouraged his friends and the Maynardville community are starting to come watch the Patriots play again. He said the team has bought into Coach Kerr's message.
"We're getting stronger, faster, bigger," Kitts said. "Self-esteem's going up. We're all helping each other out in the weight room, mentoring each other. It's just coming around as a team."
Junior running back and safety Dalton Truan had never won a game before Friday.
"We had a chance to win this game," Truan said. "So we came in with the mindset, since before the game even started Coach had a good talk with us. He said, 'Let's change this year. This is all about us, and let's prove the community wrong. Show them what we've got.'"
Coach Larry Kerr and his son, Josh Kerr, took over the Union County football team in November 2016. Larry Kerr, who owns a 209-107-0 career coaching record, had been in retirement since 2008.
"I've never been in a place that had gone through what these kids have gone through," Kerr said. "These kids are hungry. They'll do everything you ask them to do.
Kerr can't get over Friday's win.
"There were tears and screaming and hollering, and you'd thought we'd won the Super Bowl," Kerr said. "And it was to those kids. I don't know how they felt, I wasn't here [for the losing streak]."
Kerr won a state championship at Knoxville Halls in 1986, and made the state semifinals with Anderson County in 1996. The atmosphere at David Coppock Field on Friday gave him a similar feeling.
"I'm 67 years old," Kerr said. "I've been out of [football] eight years. And it was big enough to make an old, grown man cry. It really touched me."
Both players and coaches said the team has gotten better from where it started in 2017, but there's still a lot of work to do.
"We got confidence," Kitts said. "That, and we're actually executing plays. Because last year, and all the other years I've played, we couldn't get the ball to snap without somebody being in the backfield and sacking the quarterback or getting a fumble."
Kerr served as a head coach at Anderson County (1993-2008) and Knoxville Halls (1981-1992). He said roughly 80 percent of the team is underclassmen.
"We're real thin," Kerr said. "We're building it the right way. I really believe that you have to start from the ground up. The kids have been really responsive. They'll run through the wall for us. We're little, and we're small. I haven't seen a team as small as we are.
"But, heart," Kerr said. "That's what it's all about, heart. And they're believing in it."
Kerr had promised the team it would get one win in 2017 back in January.
"He changed everything," Truan said. "Changed the mental aspect, the weight room, the locker room, he changed absolutely everything."
Union County will travel Friday to play Greeneville at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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