Early miscues lead to 47-30 Unaka setback

By Marvin Birchfield

   Hanging onto the football was like trying to grab hold of a greased pig for the Unaka Rangers on Friday night, as four turnovers in the first quarter all led to Powell Valley scores in a 47-30 Indians victory at Goddard Field.
   The Rangers (0-2 in Region 1-A, 0-4) had a severe case of the fumblitis bug, which bit them all the way through the opening period.
   "We end up getting down 26-0 before we could get our feet back on the ground," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor.
   Unaka was moving the ball on their opening drive, but a Jeremy Cook fumble turned into a score for the Indians (2-0, 4-0) when Rusty Loza picked up the loose ball to run a 64-yard touchdown.
   "We came out and didn't play very well on defense, but we got the turnover and took it in for the score," said Powell Valley coach DeLynn Cline.
   Next play, Brandon Irick had trouble with the kickoff, which ended up with Alex Swim making the recovery for Powell Valley on the Unaka 24-yard line.
   The Indians punched it in from there with a seven-yard run up the gut from Bradley Pearman.
   An extra-point attempt from Trevor Hester was blocked by Joey Parlier to make it 13-0 with six minutes left in the first.
   With the Rangers needing to get something started from their own 34-yard line, a fumbled snap handed the ball back to the Indians.
   "We had a drive going in the opening and threw the pitch on the ground they run in for a touchdown, we fumble the kick-off and they run it in for a touchdown, we fumble again they punch it in," said Ensor.
   Powell Valley took advantage of the opportunity, striking a 28-yard pass from Corey Russell to Caleb Medley down the left sideline for the score.
   "We've got two good receivers and our tight-end has had a good year, so we've been able to throw it this season so far," said Cline.
   Disaster struck again on the next possession for the Rangers, as Cody Hurley was unable to handle a pitch that ended up in the grasp of the Indians.
   Facing a fourth down and eight at midfield, Russell connected with Medley on a 23-yard pass to keep the Indian drive alive.
   After a 22-yard run by Marvin Moyers, Tyler Francisco plowed in from one yard out, pushing the Powell Valley lead to 26-0 at the start of the second period.
   "Right now we can run it and throw it, and it keeps them off balance -- so if we can keep that up then we'll be OK," said Cline.
   Unaka finally captured a break in the first half, when Moyers lost the ball at the Indian 25-yard line.
   Josh Jones came up with the recovery, which resulted in Unaka's first score of the night.
   Breaking two tackles and rambling off a 20-yard run, Parlier gave the Rangers a much needed touchdown.
   "We can play with this football team, and if we take care of the ball the first half then it's anybody's ball game," said Ensor.
   Unaka added the two-point conversion attempt with a pass from Cook and reception by Jones.
   Powell Valley came back to answer the score with a couple of throws from Russell, which ended in a 15-yard slant pass over the middle to Medley.
   Unaka had a chance before the half to grab a score after recovering a fumble off a punt, but the Indian defense held inside the red zone, forcing the Rangers to go three and out.
   "Defensively that's how we've played all year, and we've just got to try and do that all the time," said Cline.
   Russell hooked up with Medley again in the third quarter for their third touchdown of the game, a 29-yard pass completion down the right side.
   Unaka scored on the next possession after a nice 50-yard kickoff return by Charles Guinn placed the ball down at the Indian 35-yard line.
   Parlier took in from 15 yards away with a bounce off tackle, making it 40-16 after the third period.
   "I'm pretty pleased with some of our kids, and I don't know how many yards Joey had, but he gave another solid effort," said Ensor.
   Powell Valley's last score came in the final period when Moyers outran the Ranger secondary to score from 40 yards away.
   Unaka was able to add a couple of touchdowns in the final quarter of play, with Cook completing a 34-yard pass to Kevin Covarubias to set up a 5-yard run by Parlier.
   "The second half we came out and played a whole lot better," Cook said. "We didn't put the ball on the ground any, and Joey Parlier ran the ball well and our line blocked well."
   Cook saw a lot of action at the quarterback position, after being sidelined with a hand injury in the second game of the season.
   "It feels great after last week's absence, and my fingers have healed up pretty good, so I can grip the ball now and make the long throws," said Cook.
   He completed 4 of 12 passes for 90 yards, adding two 2-point conversions on throws.
   Unaka's final score came with 10 seconds left in the game, when Irick plunged across the goal from two yards out.
   "The fumbles killed us badly, and last week when we played Unicoi we fumbled down inside the 20-yard line, and this week it was de ja vu all over again," said Cook.