Ensor, Rangers looking  to charter new course

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   It will be a new look for the Unaka Rangers on the sidelines this season, as Mike Ensor takes over the position of head football coach in 2002.
   Ensor has been on the scene since 1993, where he was a volunteer assistant at Unaka starting out.
   "I went to Johnson County in 1995, where I was an assistant, then I came back to Unaka in '96, and I have been there ever since," said Ensor.
   Ensor served under Richard Thomas for two years with the baseball program, before taking over as head coach.
   He's already proven himself as a talented mind in baseball as the Rangers have been top contenders year in and year out, making it to the regional championship game last season.
   Ensor will attempt to bring the same kind of winning spirit to the gridiron.
   "We're picking up a few athletes from both baseball and basketball this year, and I think it will help us," said Ensor.
   Ensor says they have picked up five or six kids already, and a few that had played previously in junior high.
   With Ensor heading the program now, it's not expected a lot of changes will take place right of the bat.
   "We're not going to change a whole lot of things right now. These kids have been through so much change in the past three years, stability is what we need right now," said Ensor.
   Offensively, the Rangers continued to improve toward the later stages of last season, but defensively look for them to mix it up a little more than in the past.
   "Our defense will change up a little bit, but offensively we're not going to change. We came on with it last season," said Ensor. "We have most of the same kids coming back, and they need to learn the offense we're running now."
   There hasn't been much success for Unaka with its football program in recent seasons, although its baseball and basketball teams have both excelled.
   "Those teams had great athletes that knew how to win and what success was, and that's what kind of attitude we're hoping to bring here," said Ensor.
   Ensor says winning is contagious, but you have to learn how to do it, and that's the plan for the next several of years.
   "We're just going to strive to be better than we have in the past," said Ensor. "We're going to try to be better in the fifth game than we were in the first, along with being better in the tenth game than in the fifth."
   Whether or not it translate to more wins for Unaka, Ensor is simply looking to just improve throughout the year.
   "We're just going to try to be more consistent, and do the little things like blocking, tackling, and hanging on to the football to give ourselves an opportunity to be successful," he said.
   If Ensor can get things turned around, then possibly the excitement and participation level will return, instead of them struggling in getting enough kids to come out and play.
   "It's almost a double-edge sword. You have to have the athletes to win, yet you have to win to get the athletes," said Ensor.
   One bright outlook for Ensor is that he has only one senior player in Jeremy Cook, which gives him an opportunity to build with the same group of kids for the next few seasons.
   "We've got a great group with just one senior, and Jeremy Cook has been a great leader so far, and I think our kids have fed off it," said Ensor.
   Ensor says that Cook and Brandon Irick will be sharing the duties at quarterback this season, with Irick playing some at tailback and Cook in the slot receiver position.
   "Because we're so young and don't have the size like I would like or the natural strength, these kids go out and work hard and that's something I can't complain about," said Ensor.
   Unaka has fell behind just a little to start this season, due to all the changes and the redoing of the football facility.
   But they have been able to come out and work hard still in attempt to become a conference contender.
   "We were a little late in getting out, but they have worked hard all week and really busted their tails," Ensor said. "That's all you can really ask for out of kids.
   "We will be better than we were last year. I don't know if it will translate into more wins, but we'll be better simply because we're a year older and stronger."