Rangers draw leadership from lone senior

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   The Unaka Rangers have a lack of experience this year, as their roster is made up of mainly underclassmen.
   However, there is one player who is in his last season as a Ranger, and this guy is their starting quarterback.
   Season Jeremy Cook will move on after the season ends, but until then he looks to help improve the Ranger squad and sharpen his skills.
   "We just need to go out and practice harder and harder everyday, and hopefully when the conference comes up again we can make it to the playoffs," said Cook.
   Cook says there has been an improvement in the team's performance this year, even though the win-loss column might not reflect it.
   "As far as the record shows, the season hasn't been going good, but as far as practice wise, we go out everyday and practice really hard," said Cook.
   Cook feels like this season that the Rangers are getting their players placed in the right position, as opposed to last year, where people were threw just anywhere.
   One transition that Cook and others have had to adjust to is acquiring their new head coach Mike Ensor.
   "I've had him before as a head coach in baseball so it's not much of a difference, but he does bring a lot of excitement to the team and pumping us up for games, so it's been really fun playing for him," said Cook.
   Looking back on Cook's four-year career, he says the one game that comes to mind as the most enjoyable came in his first season.
   "In my freshman year, the second game I got to start against Chuckey-Doak and I intercepted the ball three times, so that's my most exciting time," said Cook.
   Cook is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, and football wasn't a part of his life until he began his high school years at Unaka.
   "I grew up in Cincinnati and I played street ball, but that was about it, and I didn't really get into sports until I moved down here," said Cook.
   Baseball and basketball were two sports that Cook involved himself in growing up, but by the time he got to high school he decided to focus his attention on football.
   "I played baseball last year at the start of the season, and then when spring practice came up I talked to Coach Ensor, and decided football was the main sport I wanted to concentrate on," said Cook.
   The Rangers have an excellent chance of making the postseason after defeating Cosby, and Cook sees no reason why they can't.
   "I think if we beat North Greene, then we'll have a shot at the playoffs," Cook said. "We've already beat Cosby, and I'm looking forward to playing Chuckey Doak because that's our last game at home."
   The one advantage Unaka has from last season is with the size of the line, which Cook says gives them a chance of winning more games than last season.
   "Our line up front is a lot bigger from last year, and there all coming back next year, so these guys have matured a whole lot," said Cook.
   Cook has made the transition from receiver to quarterback, and it's been a learning experience but doesn't feel like he's under too much pressure.
   "It puts more pressure on you, but it doesn't affect me," Cook said. "I'm always handle it. Dealing with school work up here is real pressure. It's hard."
   Whether taking the snaps or playing receiver, Cook enjoys both slot for he likes catching the ball, but also likes the fact of having command of the offense.
   Being the old veteran of the squad, Cook has taken the role of being team leader, and one to look to for answers.
   "They look up to me because I'm older than the rest of these guys, and a lot of the younger guys come up to me before the game, and I try to help teach them what to do," said Cook.
   Jeremy has a brother named Dallas who was a former player for Unaka, and he feels like he's been a big help in giving advise.
   "He'll come up before the games on Thursday, and he talks to ETSU football players, so he'll give me pointers and show me things I can do better," said Cook.
   Big brother converses with the quarterback at ETSU quite frequently, so Cook says he's been told what to read for the safeties and it has helped him with his passing game.
   Cook's mom and dad have been supportive of him with his athletic career as well.
   "My mom and dad have been there since day one to support me, and they both back me up in anything I do," said Cook.
   As far as the school goes, Cook says he makes pretty good grades and is looking forward to finishing up this December.
   Cook has big plans after high school, as he plans to continue school by heading off to college.
   "I want to go get my teachers degree, and hopefully come back and coach to help out with the football system, and possibly go play college ball somewhere," said Cook.
   Jeremy has enjoyed his time at Unaka, where he says he's going to miss when he leaves.
   "The freshman and sophomores don't realize how much their going to miss it, and my four years have flown by and it's hard to believe I'm going to be gone at the end of the season," said Cook.
   One of Cook's favorite hobbies is music, which he says he loves to listen to and how they create it.
   Unfortunately, Jeremy lost a close friend last year, and he says his friends mom has been a real inspiration to him in his life.
   "I would like to thank Teresa Nidiffer," Cook said. "She is Brandon Asher's mom who was my best friend, and she has helped motivate me and been there through hard times."