Rangers tripped by Rebels

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR Staff
HURLEY, Va. -- It was a cliff hanging kind of experience for Unaka in its battle with Hurley Va. The match-up went down to the wire, with the Rebels getting past the Rangers in a 24-20 final Friday night.
Unaka nearly overcame nine turnovers and having two punts blocked, but a letdown on the pass defense enabled Hurley to score the winning touchdown with a minute left.
"We self-destruct, and that's our typical mode of operations," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor. "We start out like gang busters, and then shoot ourselves in the foot because we don't know how to win."
The Rangers took control of the contest in the early going as Hurley fumbled the ball on its first play from scrimmage. Kasey Garland made the recovery on the Hurley 18-yard line.
Senior fullback Joey Parlier got the call on the Rangers' first series, capping off a five-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Unaka's defense was impressive in the first period, as Hurley had trouble moving the ball on the ground.
Senior linebacker Andrew Richardson was in the backfield on several occasions, making the hits and dropping the Rebels for a loss.
"We made too many mental mistakes by giving up ball, and we just simply gave them too many extra possessions," said Richardson. "We can rebound but we have to get mentally tough. We beat ourselves."
The Rangers used the combination of the powerful fullback Parlier and speedy tailback Charles Guinn.
Guinn rambled for a 29-yard gain down the left side to finish off the first quarter, and he ended the night with a game-high 141 on the ground.
Brandon Irick converted the quarterback sneak at the goal line, finishing a 13-play drive for 80 yards, which gave Unaka a 14-0 lead with 9:34 left in the second period.
The Rebels continued to try in work the running game, but with no success. Travis Pasquale hammered the Rebels' leading rusher, Michael Conrad, forcing Hurley to punt.
"I thought we could come out of here and get the win, but we just had too many fumbles today, and hopefully we'll work on that and get better," said Pasquale. "We came out and hit them in the mouth and made some key stops, but we let them back in the game and our heads dropped, so we can't let that happen anymore."
It was dominant defense by the Rangers that held Hurley to just one rushing yard on the evening on 35 attempts.
Unaka had no success in putting together a drive toward the end of the half, as it was forced to punt deep from its own territory, giving the ball back to Hurley with 38 seconds left.
The first play from scrimmage Isaac Stacy hooked up with Conrad on a swing pass out of the backfield that went for 35 yards and the score, making it a one possession game heading into the locker room.
"That is something we haven't had in a long time --to not quit and play a little pride," said Hurley coach Wayne Hall. "This is a first time in a long time that we've been able to win the first game starting the season."
Unaka lost its momentum toward the end of the first half, and it carried over to the rest of the contest.
Hurley took the lead with 2:05 left in the third, when the Rebels cashed in on a mistake by the Rangers special teams.
A low snap to Brent Huskins ended with the Rebels scoring a touchdown, as a swarm of defenders emerged and Josh Justus pounced on the loose ball in the end zone.
The Rangers finally caught a break in the fourth quarter when Guinn picked up a fumble off the snap to go 51 yards for the score, and give the Rangers a 20-18 lead with 3:26 left.
"We made a lot of mistakes that cost us the game, and just about everybody fumbled the ball," said Guinn. "It's disappointing and a lot of us need to learn how to play with some heart, and work on coming together as a football team."
It looked like Unaka was on its way to victory, but it managed to give up fourth down and long twice in Hurley's final drive.
The Rebels converted a fourth-and-13 on an over-the-middle pass from Gabriel Hurley to Matthew Hackney, covering 36 yards, for their second touchdown of the game.
Unaka finished the game by fumbling on a third down and two, ending any chance of a Ranger comeback.
"You're on the field twice with fourth-and-20, and you tell the kids don't let anybody behind you, and you get burned," said Ensor. "You turn the ball over 11 times, then you can't even beat a pee-wee team. I don't know what the answer is right now."