Jr. Rangers look to climb ladder

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   There's probably no other junior high team that is more excited to kick off the season than Unaka, especially after the Rangers' good showing in last week's jamboree.
   Considered by some to be Little Watauga darkhorse this year, Unaka was able to knock off the highly-respected Hampton Bulldogs in last Thursday's jamboree by a final of 8-0.
   The Rangers starting showing improvement last year. They had just one victory but their effort kept them in almost every game, with the outcome not being decided until near the end.
   "We didn't have that great of a season or much success last year, but we have several eighth-graders, so I think we should be better than what we were," said Unaka coach Matt Wilson.
   An increase in numbers should help the Rangers as they are around 30-35 players who are dressing out, which is greater than what they've had in the past.
   Wilson expect good things from his quarterback Dustin Carden, who will be in charge of running the Ranger offense.
   "We have a good quarterback running the offense for us, and we should be pretty strong in the back field," says Wilson.
   Jeff Wilson will lead the charge from tailback, as he carried the Unaka offense last season and there's no sign he'll slow down this year.
   The biggest improvement for Unaka this year is probably its defensive line, which had some trouble last season when facing the bigger schools like a Happy Valley.
   "I'd say we're probably more improved on defense than anywhere else out on the field," said Coach Wilson. "Jeremy Summers and Travis Dykes are a couple of guys that were expecting to help us out up front."
   There are a few new faces in the lineup, as Mickey Campbell and Travis Shoun are two first-year eighth graders that have been impressive.
   "We're heavy with the numbers of eighth graders out this year. We have about 15 that will hopefully continue on to Unaka High school next season," said Coach Wilson.
   The main goal of the Rangers right now is to acquire some success so that the participation level will increase to get the number and quality of athletes needed.
   "Success will breed success, and I'm hoping to get some more wins this season," said Coach Wilson. "My goal is to at least be able to get 20 students from both Hunter and Unaka Elementary."