Rangers romp past GC Rams

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com
SEYMOUR--Unaka has done something that it wasn't able to do the previous two years, which is put together more than one win.
It's been a struggle for the Rangers of late, but their 39-20 victory over Grace Christian on Tuesday night was a sign of more good things too come.
"We came out and did what we wanted to do. We got up on them early and executed well," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor. "We did some really good things, and also got our young kids in and they played a lot."
Unaka took the opening kickoff, putting together a seven-play drive that went for 62 yards.
A couple of nice gains from senior fullback Andrew Richardson set up a 22-yard TD scamper from Charles Lee Guinn.
For the fourth time this season, Guinn rushed for more than 100 yards. He finished the night with eight carries for 164 yards and two touchdowns, and it's those kind of efforts that landed him last week's honors for TSSAA 1-A player of the week, and this week's Tri-Cities Nissan Elizabethton Star player of the week.
The Rangers were on their toes with their defense the first time out, as an attempted reverse from Josh Hamilton was stuffed by Guinn for a two-yard loss.
It took just one play from scrimmage for Unaka to strike on its next possession, when Richardson busted through the line, then cut it to the outside for a 39-yard touchdown run.
"The line did their job and I got the block. The hole was there, and that led me on my way to the promise land," said Richardson. "We played pretty well, and we need to keep up this kind of intensity and improving throughout the season."
Daniel McInturff added the extra point for the Rangers, as they led 13-0 with 7:31 left in the first period.
The Rams didn't see much daylight in the early going, and a third down and long play from midfield turned disastrous when Joey Estep caught quarterback Stephen Mathes for a 14-yard sack.
Another quick strike came from the Rangers, when Guinn made his second touchdown run of the evening, on a 59-yard burst.
It was starting to get ugly for Grace Christian by the end of the first period, as a mishandled snap off a punt gave the Rangers excellent field position, at their own 9-yard line.
The Rangers went on to capitalize, with freshman tailback Steven Lapp taking it in from two yards away.
"My line did a great job for me blocking, and pretty soon we're going to have a winning team," said Lapp. "I'm very pleased with all of our efforts."
Grace Christian was able to find a little success right before the half ended as Bill Puckett scored on a 9-yard run, after Unaka fumbled away a punt.
"We've got 10 days to work on it, and I will find someone who can catch a ball before then," said Ensor. "That's something critical that we need to learn how to do. The defense can't continue doing its job, and then give it right back to the other team again."
The Rangers tried to respond back in the final minute, but two touchdown runs were called back, one coming from Lapp for 64 yards, and the other by Guinn for 59 yards.
"That made me mad. I ran all the way down there and then they called it back," said Lapp. "We'll get ready for Cosby now. That's what next week's practice is all about."
After enjoying a 26-6 lead at halftime, the Rangers slipped up to start the third quarter by allowing an 80-yard kick return from Preston Taylor to go all the way for a touchdown.
Unaka had a nice return itself, but a 60-yard run from Guinn down to the Ram 20 was brought back with a block in the back call.
"The only thing I'm displeased with was when we came out on the first series in the second half, and let them run a kick back because we were lackadaisical," said Ensor. "They came back and punched the next series in, so from then on we put our JV kids in for the rest of the game."
Guinn got on his horse once again, this time on a 59-yard run. He almost scoring, but a stumble near the end allowed a Rams defender to push him out of bounds at the 2.
A quarterback keeper by Brandon Irick and extra-point kick from Ray Kelly gave the Rangers a 33-12 advantage with 8:43 left in the third period.
Unaka stopped the Rams offense all throughout the third quarter, with Kasey Garland making a tackle on Mathes to force a punt.
The Rangers captured their last score of the night when Cody Hurley made a bounce to the outside and went 41 yards on the touchdown run.
After the Rams acquired good field position near midfield off a Ranger fumble late in the third, Unaka was able to come back by capturing a turnover, with freshman Joey Sheets making an interception with a nice return.
"We've been down in points and rankings, but we came out and showed them what we're made of tonight," said Sheets. "I was trying my hardest, and just earn my spot to be a part the varsity."
Grace Christian was able to add some more points to its in the final period, as a 72-yard reverse from Nick Zockoll was capped off by a six-yard scoring bootleg from Mathes.
The Rangers who are 2-3 on the season will travel to Cosby next Friday, which is an important conference matchup with possible playoff implications on the line.