Rangers ground Eagles for first victory of year

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   There hadn't been a lot to cheer about in the 2002 Unaka football season, as the Rangers were winless in their first five meetings.
   But on Friday night there was plenty of celebration, when they took aim and shot down the Eagles from Cosby in dominating fashion with a 34-12 final at Goddard Field.
   "It feels good, and they did some of the same things that we have done for other people, but we got after people and they laid it on the ground a bit, putting us in excellent scoring position," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor.
   The Rangers were explosive on offense by accumulating 385 yards total, and their defense was like that of a steel curtain, holding Cosby to under 100 yards total going into the Eagles' last possession.
   The game started off typical for Unaka -- turning over the ball after getting a couple of first downs, and resulting in points for the opposition.
   "After that first series I said 'golly here we go making it easy for people again,' and then we got settled into a rhythm and played defense doing a good job," said Ensor.
   Brandon Irick was unable to handle the pitch from Jeremy Cook that led to Keith Seay making the recovery for the Eagles on Unaka's 30 yard-line.
   Two plays later, Josh Ford connected with Seay in the right corner of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
   The Rangers came back with an eight-play, 65-yard drive to tie the contest at 6-6, after some hard running from Joey Parlier and Tory Morton.
   "The line made the holes and I just tried to get by a few guys," Parlier said. "I never broke a really long one, but you beat it down the field a few times then you're bound to get in the end-zone."
   Parlier took it up the middle from 10 yards out, giving Unaka its first score and a boost of confidence that was needed.
   "It's unbelievable to go without it and have a hard year last year, too," Parlier said. "I've been looking for this a long time."
   Unaka was a terror on defense, with Travis Pasquali making a sack, and the secondary playing tough after getting burned on the first series.
   Cosby was forced to punt, but got possession right back after the ball struck a Ranger player from behind and the Eagles recovered.
   The Ranger defense held again to get the ball back, and a nice drive from Unaka ended after making it down inside the 20-yard line.
   "We've been in the backfield all year long, but have not made the plays, and tonight we did," said Unaka's Brent Huskins.
   Unaka finally caught a break on a turnover, when Adam Reliford coughed up the ball at the Cosby 28 and Irick recovered.
   The Rangers capitalized from that point with Parlier making his way into the end zone from 5 yards away, as Cook added the two-point conversion on a run with 2:34 left in the half.
   "We did a good job of blocking tonight and kept the blocks ahead of us, and our back did a good job of hitting the holes," said Huskins.
   Cosby came back to threaten when defender Scott Pearson slipped and fell, leaving Seay wide open with Cook making the saving tackle on the 22-yard pass play.
   Ford attempted to go to Seay once again, but Irick had the position and made the pick, which was ran all the way down to the Eagle 20.
   A holding call moved the ball back to midfield, and the Rangers were looking for a quick strike with just over a minute left.
   Freshman Charles Guinn was put in the backfield, and a pitch out to the right was all he needed to outrun the Cosby defense, as he broke-off a 50-yard touchdown run to give Unaka a 20-6 lead at half-time.
   "I just try to do my best, and it's a little bit of encouragement when you've got about 15 guys coming after you," Guinn said. "Honest, I mean the only thing you can do is run."
   There was a little concern whether Unaka could continue its domination it had displayed in the first-half, but on the Eagles' first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Josh Mick penetrated the line to stop Reliford for a loss.
   "This feels good and it something you can't imagine until you've been there and done it," said Mick.
   Mick came up big again for the Rangers, as he recovered a loose ball from a Reliford fumble that stopped the Cosby opening second-half drive.
   "I think we'll beat some other 1-A teams, and all and all I think we've had a pretty good season," said Mick.
   Unaka made a surge down field, after a bone-crunching block from Josh Blevins sprung Cook for a 25-yard run on a quarterback roll-out.
   "It feels good, and I'm proud of the whole team for our offensive line did well, and we had three or four backs that had well over 60 yards," said Cook.
   The Rangers were faced with a fourth and six outside the 20, but Guinn bailed them out on a 17-yard pitch to the right, setting up first and goal.
   "Our blockers did well tonight, and without them I'm nothing," said Guinn.
   Irick capped off the drive on a four-yard run up the gut, where he broke two tackles to make his way across the goal.
   The Unaka defense continued to hammer Cosby through the third and fourth quarters, and a sack and forced fumble by Josh Blevins denied Cosby of capturing a score after getting inside the 20.
   "I tell what we talked about earlier this week, whoever laid the ball on the ground the most is the team that will lose," said Cosby coach Randy Sturgill.
   A near touchdown came when Cook ran a rollout to the left side from 12 yards out to the end zone, but Parlier was called for a clip in the backfield to wipe away the six points.
   "I thought I had it, and then I looked back, and Joey said he hit the guy straight up, but I wasn't too worried for we was well up," said Cook.
   The Rangers were able to score on their next series after a turnover by Cosby, when Cody Hurley busted out to the right running for 17 yards making the score 34-6 with 5: 29 left in the game.
   Finally, the Eagles found their way back to the end zone in the closing minute, when Reliford crossed the goal from two yards out.
   "We played a pretty good game last week, and my hat's off to Mike. They physically whipped us up front," said Sturgill.