Rangers succumb to Unicoi County

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   The final chapter in the third installment of the Rangers vs. the Blue Devils came to an end on Friday, with the result being the same as the previous two weeks.
   Unicoi County captured its first win on the season, hammering Unaka in a 33-6 final at Goddard field.
   Size and speed was the difference that dictated the contest.
   "You look out there at those kids and they are muscled up," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor. "They run through arm tackles and have good leg drives."
   The Blue Devils weren't exactly burning it up at the start, fumbling the ball on their first two offensive plays.
   Unicoi's Chris Brown broke loose up the middle on the first play, but while being tackled, he lost the ball. Fortunately for him, the ball rolled another 10 yards before the Blue Devils recovered.
   The next play, they weren't so lucky. Unaka's Brent Huskins busted through the Blue Devil line, stripping the ball away from Josh Hensley and making the recovery.
   "We've got to cut down on turnovers," said Unicoi County coach Larry Howell. "I thought our blocking was good and we broke some tackles."
   The Rangers took the ball and drove it down inside the Unicoi 35-yard line, but the drive stalled after a couple of penalties hindered them from making a first down.
   "The first drive, two penalties killed us," said Ensor. "And the on the second one, we had penetration and they blow a little counter play, which was probably the wrong call. I'll take the blame for it."
   Unaka had a drive going again on the next series that Ensor was referring to, but a fumble that lost five yards and a sack from the Blue Devil defense kept them from gaining the early momentum.
   Before the end of the first quarter, Unicoi County made their first score, when Brown rumbled to a 22-yard touchdown, breaking tackles in the Unaka secondary.
   "There's nothing we can do about starting the season 0-2," said Brown. "But we can do something about our last eight games. We've took that attitude and ran with it."
   The Rangers had great field position on their next possession after Brandon Irick ran for 49 yards on the kick return. Only kicker Emmanuel Mendoza's touchdown-saving tackle for the Devils kept Irick from knotting up the score.
   Unaka advanced the ball down inside the 20, but were turned away when Irick's fourth-down run attempt came up short.
   "We did a lot better on tackling tonight, and we did a better job on stopping the off-tackle lead play," said Howell.
   After regaining possession, the Blue Devils scored two plays later, when Brown plowed over a couple of Ranger defenders for a 53-yard touchdown run.
   "We're not going to lay down for anybody, and just because we're in a hole early we're not going to give up," said Brown.
   With the half winding down, the Blue Devils struck again with a 78-yard run by Thomas Britt to give them a 20-0 halftime lead.
   "Thomas had some good break away runs, and I thought Hensley did a good job of running the option which helped us," said Howell.
   The Rangers got the ball first in the second-half and were driving after a 30-yard run from Joey Parlier.
   "The twenty yard-line killed us," said Parlier. "For we got down there, then threw the ball on the ground. When you get that far you have to be able to seal the deal."
   Unicoi's defense held on fourth down, and an interception by Dusty Tolley denied the Rangers from getting back into the ball game.
   "Offensively, I thought we played pretty well," remarked Ensor. "Then we shot ourselves in the foot, when we got down inside the twenty. Inside the 20, we were terrible."
   The Blue Devils marched the ball back down the field, capping off a 90-yard scoring drive with a 29-yard run from Aaron Saylor.
   Unaka was moving the ball again to start the fourth quarter after a pass from Irick to Josh Jones placed the ball at Unicoi's 16 yard-line.
   On second down and two from the eight yard-line, Unaka pitched the ball to Charles Guinn on the sweep, but a fumble kept the Rangers from scoring.
   Unicoi County's last score came with 5:11 to play, when Cody Scott made a nine-yard td run after catching a 46-yard pass earlier in the drive from Thomas Evely.
   The Rangers' persistence finally paid off on their last possession of the ball game, when Parlier had a couple of big carries totaling 56 yards, followed by a two-yard touchdown plunge from Cody Hurley.
   "First game on the new field, what's on the scoreboard up there is not what you want," said Parlier. "We have to just work on making some big plays."
   Brown led the Blue Devil ground attack with 12 carries for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Parlier was the lead man for Unaka with 20 rushes, totaling 169 yards. Hurley, Guinn, Irick and Tory Morton also had multiple carries for the Rangers, who stand at 0-3 on the season before hosting Powell Valley next Friday night.