West Greene turns back Unaka with good second half

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   The Unaka Rangers were finally able to avoid a first-half slump in Friday night's action against West Greene, but their chance to compete in all four quarters fell to the wayside with a 27-6 non-conference loss.
   Unaka was neck and neck for the first time this season going into the half, but in the second half it was West Greene taking control by outscoring the Rangers 20-0.
   "We played hard the whole ball game, and I can never fault these kids for that, but it was a matter of them just wearing us down in the second half," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor.
   West Greene took the early advantage, striking on their second play from scrimmage, when Bryan Sauceman reeled off a 62-yard touchdown run to make it a 7-0 game.
   The Rangers started deep in their own territory on their first series and had a nice drive going until crossing midfield, when Brandon Irick fumbled and Chad Bowman made the recovery for the Buffaloes.
   Each of the team's defenses held up tough throughout the first half, forcing punts and making the stops on fourth down when needed on both sides of the ball.
   The Rangers made a nice drive during the second quarter, after getting a break off of a 15-yard penalty for roughing the punter.
   Unaka moved the ball all the way down to the Buffalo 7 before making back-to-back mistakes.
   "I was pleased in the first half with our line coming off the ball and blocking well. We had some holes and for the most part we ran the ball well," said Ensor.
   A five-yard penalty for movement by the line, followed by a pitch to Irick, which resulted in a turnover, negated the Rangers' drive and potential score.
   Unaka got one more chance before half, when the Buffaloes gave the ball right back on a fumble that was recovered by Jeremy Cook around the 23.
   Facing a third down and 11 with under a minute left, Cook made the pitch out to Irick, who then threw to a wide open Kevin Covarubias for a 24-yard touchdown.
   "That was the first one I threw this year and I wasn't too confident in myself, but now I feel like I am," said Irick.
   The Rangers were unsuccessful on their two-point conversion, when a fake on the kick never developed.
   West Greene tried to come back and make a quick score by going to the air, but one last throw to the end zone was knocked down by Charles Guinn to keep the score 7-6 at halftime.
   "I've been pleased with our secondary all year long, and this team is known for their passing attack, but for the most part we shut it down," said Ensor.
   Unaka had played the best first half of football this season so far, as they put up 150 total yards to West Greene's 128.
   The Rangers had been known for being a much better second-half team this year, and they would receive the ball first hoping to build on to their momentum.
   Unaka was faced with a fourth down and one from their own 39, where they elected to go for the first.
   Irick had the ball and tried to make it to the outside after a clogged middle, but the pursuit of the Buffalo defense hammered him, causing a fumble to create the turnover.
   Three plays later, Justin Wheeler made a 31-yard touchdown run as he broke several tackles to put West Greene ahead 14-6.
   "Weather kindly dictated what we did and I didn't think we played good in the first half, so we went in and had a discussion and came out to play well in the second-half," said West Greene coach Barry Carter.
   The Rangers didn't have much success on offense in the second half, as they had just four first downs, which all came on their last possession of the ball game.
   "We didn't have much fire in the first half, and adjusted right before half, so we came back out and got after some people," said Carter.
   West Greene continued to have success with its ground game as Wheeler had three straight carries for 39 yards, capping the drive with a five-yard touchdown run up the middle.
   "We're a passing team, but tonight we had to run the ball, and I thought we did a good job at doing that," said Carter.
   The Rangers fumbled on the their next possession when Joey Parlier was stripped of the ball and A.J. Taylor came up with it for the Buffaloes.
   Unaka was still plagued by fumbles on the night. The Rangers had six total and four of which resulted in turnovers.
   West Greene's final score came off a turnover, with Jake Schuck bouncing out to the right to take it in from seven yards out.
   "The second half they decided to run over us and that's what they did," Ensor said. "They came off the ball and hit us in the mouth."
   The Buffaloes made a drive toward the end of the third period that last for nearly 12 minutes before fumbling it away down at the Unaka 5.
   Unaka was able to move the ball back down the field in their final series, but ran out of time after getting inside 35 of the Buffaloes.
   "We just got wore down in the second half," Irick said. "They were bigger, stronger and outplayed us."