Rangers arm for Jellico

By Marvin Birchfield

   The Unaka Rangers travel to Jellico this Friday, trying to improve on last week's effort from the disappointing loss to Claiborne County.
   "We were outmanned last week, and they were better than us up front and in the backfield, and there were more of them than us," said Unaka head coach Mike Ensor.
   Their chances this week are greatly more favorable in pulling off the upset, due to the fact that they're going against a much smaller school.
   "We expect to be better prepared and evenly matched, simply because we're going up against somebody are own size," said Ensor.
   Last season, the Rangers had a horrible first-half in the 42-6 rout by Jellico up on the creek.
   "It's very critical that we don't get behind early, from a mind-set," Ensor said. "When you're used to losing and when anything bad happens, then you get the 'here we go again' syndrome."
   It was a game plagued by turnovers, as Unaka committed four of them, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
   "They were a good ball team, but you can't turn the ball over to a team which has an explosive offense," said Ensor.
   This time around it will probably be a different story, because the Rangers are a little more experienced.
   Unaka made one turnover last week to start the game (on the opening kickoff), but it was a mistake learned from an inexperienced return man.
   "I don't think that was so much a matter of fumbling, but the ball just hit in the right place for them," said Ensor. "He was a converted lineman and never had been back there, and he didn't know to go after it even though we worked on it, but he will never make that mistake again."
   Despite making the flaw, tailback Cody Hurley was one the Rangers' most productive weapons on offense, as he rushed for 34 yards with one touchdown.
   "I think he was our best running back last Friday night, and he's real coachable, learns quick and plays hard," said Ensor.
   Unaka isn't a big-play team, so with the lack of speed they must execute on playing smashmouth ball and grinding out the clock.
   "The perfect scenario would be to get the ball and grind out four yards here and there, and keep the ball most of the game and stop them on defense every now and then," said Ensor.
   A couple of obstacles for Unaka this week will be trying to contain Jellico's tailback William Kellogg and quarterback Josh Sharp.
   "They have a wide-open offense. They've got a phenomenal receiver and a good tailback, who will also spit-out and be thrown to," said Ensor.
   Ensor said he was pleased with his tackles last week, and also with the way his tight-end Josh Jones performed.
   The one disappointment for Unaka was the effort from key fullback Joey Parlier.
   "He was a no-show in the first half last week, and I told him the same thing," said Ensor. "He came out in the second-half then and played pretty good ball, but he can't wait a half and get started."
   Ensor feels like Parlier is a major part of the offense, so if he can get going, then the Rangers' chances of moving the ball will dramatically increase.
   If Unaka can keep the Blue Devil offense in check and make some stops, then the Rangers have a great shot of getting their first win of the season.
   "We've just got to come off the ball and hit people, and that's something we didn't do last week that we have to do more of," said Ensor.