Unaka gets another tough test

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   This week's matchup for Unaka will be up on the Creek, where they will face the Buffaloes of West Greene.
   Unaka (0-4) is winless so far this season, but things have been quite different for West Greene starting off.
   The Buffaloes had their best start ever this year, when they went 3-0. Last week was their first loss, when the Warriors came into their home and escaped with a 28-21 victory.
   It will be tough for the Rangers to stop the offense of the Buffaloes, but with a rainy forecast this might be one of the breaks Unaka is looking for.
   "It's tough when the ball is wet and you're trying to throw or run sweeps, but we're more of a power team than finesse," said Unaka head coach Mike Ensor. "So a wet field could favors us a little and make it more on the level of an equal playing field."
   One thing that hasn't favored the Rangers is the fact, that they have continuously turned the ball over with the exception of their first game.
   "We've been working on hanging on to the football in practice, and hopefully we won't turn the ball over deep in our own territory for that has killed us," said Ensor.
   On the defensive side of things, Unaka has had trouble all season long stopping the big plays.
   "We're working right now on the things we have been lacking fundamentally, such as tackling and overpursuing the ball," said Ensor.
   West Greene possesses a threat with the air attack, and so far the Rangers have seen plenty of teams that like to throw the ball.
   "We've already seen a lot of different looks this season, and we've faced three out of four teams who like to throw the ball, so I think that will help us in defending the pass," said Ensor.
   A high note for Unaka this week is its JV team won over Hampton in a 20-14 final.
   "We have a lot of players from our varsity team that plays, but we don't have the numbers so we have to use them," said Ensor. "The one thing is though, we didn't play a lot of people in their key positions. We have to be able to bring the younger kids along."
   West Greene has an advantage with its passing game, which can be their best weapon to strike with at times.
   Quarterback Josh Dearinger has completed 27 of 54 passes this season for 443 yards, which puts him at the top in leading passing stats of the Watauga Conference.
   "I've got an awesome quarterback in Josh Dearinger, and he has been able to complete 50 percent of his passes so far," said West Greene coach Barry Carter.
   One of his deep threats is receiver Michael Franklin, who has caught 13 receptions with two touchdowns.
   Another strong point for West Greene is its kick and punt man Justin Wheeler.
   Wheeler leads the league in punt average at 42 yards a kick, and Coach Carter thinks he's one of their key players on the team.
   "We've got one heck of a kicker: Justin Wheeler," Carter said. "He just kills the ball and leads the league in punting."
   The thing that could hinder the Buffaloes is the fact of their defense being able to stop teams from moving the ball.
   "We have to get people busting through the line of scrimmage better, and have linebackers filling the gaps, plus concentrate on not overpursuing," said Carter.
   Happy Valley's Tim Whaley rushed for 236 yards last Friday against West Greene, and this is a major concern for the coaching staff.
   "I expect Unaka will be ready to play, and I'm sure they'll try to run over us like everyone else has," said Carter.