Rangers find loss hard to swallow

Photo by Dave Boyd
Unaka fullback Andrew Richardson busts through the middle of the Twin Springs defense.

By Marvin Birchfield
Nothing is more disheartening than to see victory slip away in the final seconds of a contest. It's even more so when there's controversy involved.
The Unaka Rangers had to swallow a difficult loss in the final seconds of their matchup with Twin Springs (Va.) on Friday, after several unusual happenings at the end of a 19-18 Titan win at Goddard Field.
"This is the best ballgame we played by far, and the kids did a great job," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor. "We gave one away at the first of the season, and then had one taken away from us tonight, but hats-off to Twin Springs. They played real well."
Absolute total chaos is the best way to describe this confrontation with everything from a dysfunction clock at the end to an enormous amount of penalties and close calls throughout the affair.
Twin Springs grabbed the first score of the night, when quarterback Keith Warner found a wide-open Adam Parker streaking down the field for a 33-yard touchdown pass.
Unaka was able to come back and capitalize off of a Titan turnover, when Scott Pearson made a break on the ball on a pass intended for Anthony Head. Pearson ran for 33 yards on the return giving Unaka excellent field position on the Titan 28-yard line.
After a couple of nice runs from senior fullback Joey Parlier, the Rangers found their way to the end-zone on a six yard sweep with Charles Guinn.
"We worked real hard this week and I thought we should have came away with one, but it just didn't happen," said Parlier. "Last season is hard for me to repeat, but right now I'm only concerned with getting back into the routine of things and helping my team get some wins."
The two-point conversion attempt failed for Unaka making it a 6-6 tie with 10:48 left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Twin Springs struck for the second time of the night, when Kendall Gibson returned the ball 75 yards for a touchdown.
Guinn responded for the Rangers with a 32 yard return giving Unaka a good start at the Titan 40 yard-line.
After rambling for 18 yards on a sweep to the right-side, Guinn took it straight ahead from three yards out to tie the game once again with 8:15 left in the second period.
"I thought we had a lot of good plays tonight," said Guinn. "The line was blocking tremendously well. There were a lot of bad calls against both sides, but we just came up short tonight."
The amount of second-half penalties gave new meaning to the term flag football. What was once considered a game for little kids had evolved up into the high school ranks with yellow handkerchiefs being tossed almost every other down.
A total of 37 combined penalties between the two teams for an amazing 364 yards does not include all of the offsetting flags that are non-factors in the stat. The amount of penalties had both sides fuming. Twin Springs received two unsportsmanlike conduct calls which cost them a total of 30 yards on one down during the third period.
Unaka made a drive toward the end of the third, after a couple of personal foul calls against the Titans moved the ball down inside the 20-yard line.
They would cap it off starting the fourth quarter on a spectacular play by Guinn. Facing fourth and twelve from the 17 yard-line, the Rangers went back to Guinn trying to make something happen.
It appeared Guinn was stopped well short of the first-down, but he spun to avoid being tackled and ended up sprinting 17 yards to the end zone. With the run, the Rangers held a 18-12 lead.
"Everybody was keeping each other fired up to keep the adrenaline going," said Guinn. "This is really tough, but we just got to keep our heads up for it's all we can do."
After two stops from the Unaka defense, it looked as if the Rangers were going to get their second win of the season.
Twin Springs received their last possession with just under three minutes left in the contest and tailback Gibson taking over for an injured Warner at quarterback.
Gibson started the game winning drive with a 33-yard run and he continued to inch his way toward the Ranger goal with time becoming a crucial factor. A run to the three yard-line made it first-and-goal with 1:05 left to play.
"That was our third string quarterback, who had never took a snap this year, and the kid came in there and did a great job," said Twin Springs coach Sargent Reed.
After two Unaka stops, Twin Springs put all their chips on the shoulders of Gibson, who tried to squeeze in the end zone on third down conversion. Gibson was stopped short of the goal line, and the ball popped out and rolled out of the end zone, giving the early celebration to Unaka.
Not so fast, as the officials ruled that Gibson was down before the ball came loose. Even more critical was the fact the clock stopped several times in all the confusion, allowing Twin Springs another shot at the end zone.
Gibson managed to get the snap off before the clock expired. He was stopped short of the plain of the goal, when he fumbled the ball. Unbelievably, the ball was picked up by lineman Mickey Fields who ran in for the tying score with no time remaining.
"These kids played their guts out," said Ensor. "We thought they had blew the whistle on the last play of the game and stop playing, but it was the issue in the stoppage of the clock that seem to cost us tonight."
After a five yard penalty for illegal motion, the game rested on the foot of Brandon Ashworth. In the pressure packed situation, Ashworth nailed the extra-point for the win.
"The kids played hard and stayed after it all night," said Reed. "They never once gave up. Our guys played real gutty and gritty and I'm proud of all of them."
Despite the heartwrenching defeat, Unaka (1-3) promises to be ready for Grace Christian on Tuesday.
"We played our guts out in which was our hardest game of the year so far," said Ranger lineman Jordan Ensor. "If we can play like that Tuesday, we won't be stopped. Our coach told us to keep our heads up, because if we play every game like this, we're not going to lose many more."