Rangers look for winning formula

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.cpm
The Unaka Rangers travel to Pigeon Forge on Friday night, where they'll take on King's Academy in search of their first win of the season.
Unaka has dropped its first two games of the season, but a victory this week would be a big lift for a struggling program.
"We just have to continue to improve, and become more consistent of hanging onto the football, making the key block in crucial situations," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor. "We were a little better at it last week than in week 1, so we're hoping to be even better at it this week."
Hoping to get the monkey off their backs, the Rangers will be heading into this game with some changes in their offensive scheme.
"Our offense has sputtered so far this season, and we've been good from the 20 to 20, but we haven't been able to punch it in," said Ensor. "Part of that is to do with the wing-T offense, because you've got to be able to bust 50- to 60-yard runs."
The Rangers have put together several drives so far, but once in the red zone they seem to have trouble in finding their way to the goal line.
"When you get down inside the 20 yard-line, then you have to be able to move people," said Ensor. "We worked a little bit more. When we get in that situation, we're going with the I-formation a little more."
One of the biggest changes for Unaka is moving senior fullback Joey Parlier to the tight-end position.
"We're going to focus a little more on the I-formation, and we've moved Joey up to tight-end, and "Andrew Richardson" back to fullback," said Ensor.
Parlier has not been up to par physically with stomach problems and after reaching 1,100 yards rushing last season. Ensor is hoping by making the change that his fullback will return back to star status.
"We can still move Joey back and forth a little bit, but he's had a lot better week of practice, and once the medicine gets into his system he's doing a little better," said Ensor.
The Ranger defense seems to be fairly strong up front and has not struggled as much as the offense has, but the one exception so far has been a breakdown of their pass coverage.
"I've been pleased with how our defense has played except for our pass coverage," said Ensor. "Our pass coverage has been weak, but that's something you don't work on a whole lot, because people around here don't throw the ball that much."
This is one area the Rangers need improvement at if they expect to contain King's Academy.
"We've been looking more and more at it each week, and this week I really don't know what to expect," said Ensor. "I've heard they have a couple of kids that can throw the ball, and a receiver who does a good job catching."
King's Academy won 45-18 over TSD last week, but it's still uncertain at this point what to expect as it is 1-1 on the season.
"I tried to find out some information about them, but wasn't too successful, but I know they have some kids who are talented," said Ensor. "I heard they like to run the ball inside, but I don't think it will work too well on us. North Greene and Hurley like to do the same and neither one had muck success in running the ball between the tackles."
The Rangers haven't focused a whole lot on what they need to do in order to stop King's Academy, but what they can do to further improve their efforts.
"We've spent a lot more time this week in trying to correct the things we do or don't do, and go from there," said Ensor. "I've been very pleased with our defensive play up front, and also our offensive line, for the most part."
One lineman that stood out for the Rangers last week was Chris Richardson, who did an excellent job, while being outmatched in size, at the line.
"Last week we were real concerned about our left tackle slot, and we were running four different guys in and out," said Ensor. "Something happened and I don't know what caused it to flip his switch, but Chris Richardson dominated North Greene's 6-5, 325-pound tackle for the last quarter and a half."
Joey Estep has had a good week of practice according to Ensor, who looks for that to help out their efforts inside.
"Joey's had a good week of practice inside, so that will free us up to move Andrew around defensively as well as Joey," said Ensor. "We're real excited about this week and we're just going down there and see what happens."