Rangers tackle powerful 'Landers

By Marvin Birchfield

   It will be the showdown between David and Goliath when Unaka takes on Cloudland Thursday night, as the Rangers try to figure out on how to slow down the Highlander potent offense at Goddard Field.
   Cloudland is averaging 42.6 points a game, and the Unaka defense is allowing opponents to score 33.9 points during the season, which could make a long night for the smaller and less talented Ranger team.
   "We'd just like to play well, and make some long drives and first downs trying to keep it away from their quick-striking offense," said Unaka coach Mickey Taylor.
   As far as a defensive strategy, the Rangers are looking not to get man-handled like so many teams have that face Cloudland.
   "They like to pound it up inside," Taylor said. "And when you do stop them, they go outside with Mark Byrd and Dakota Benfield.
   Taylor commented on how lackluster of a season it has been for the struggling Rangers, and it was going to be difficult to keep it close, since Cloudland is one of the better programs in the state.
   "It's going to be tough, and I hope we can just play well and give a good showing," says Taylor.
   One positive note for Unaka this season is the fact of their junior varsity team finishing up with a winning record, for most of the JV club plays on the varsity squad.
   "We're just looking forward to getting into the weight room this winter, and preparing ourselves for next year," said Taylor.
   For the Highlanders, this might be a tune up before they venture into the post season play-offs.
   "We're going to go out and play our game to try to come away with the win," said Cloudland coach Mike Lunsford.
   Lunsford is looking forward to improving, and polishing the offense skills.
   The ground attack will be a tough task to contain for the Rangers, as this is Cloudland's stronghold over other teams.
   "Power running is our bread and butter, and we plan to continue that with possibly mixing it up by throwing some," says Lunsford.
   The Highlanders are not shabby on the defensive side of the ball either, as they're holding teams to 12.3 points this season, and outscoring opponents by over 30 points a game.
   "Our secondary is playing good," Lunsford said. "Our linebackers need to step up, but we do have a big and controlling defensive line."
   Cloudland looks to have a good showing for Thursday night, and for everyone to execute in their role of play.
   "I'm just looking for a whole team effort from everyone this week," says Lunsford.
   If Unaka can pull off the miraculous win, then it could provide them with a berth into the 1-A playoffs, but realistically there isn't much of a chance this will happen.