Rangers chase playoff spot at North Greene

By Marvin Birchfield

   Unaka goes into this Friday night with a lot riding on the line. The Rangers will try to knock off North Greene in a battle for the last spot in the conference in an effort to make it to the postseason.
   The Rangers' only victory last season came at home, when they took on the Huskies by a 20-8 score.
   This time around they travel down to Baileyton, where they look to make a statement in the rebuilding of their football program.
   "We're not really feeling any pressure, because our kids know it's a big game just like North Greene does, and we just want to come out and play well," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor.
   Unaka had a rough go last week on offense against Hampton, acquiring just 69 yards total, but has a better chance Friday of finding the groove facing North Greene.
   "We hope to get back to playing pretty well," Ensor said. "Last week we had some injuries plus played a very good football team and didn't have much offensive production."
   A big part of the Ranger offense this season has been Joey Parlier, who was contained by the Bulldogs for 26 yards on the ground with 11 caries.
   "Joey has to step it back up and have another big ball game, and get back into the 100-yard range, plus some other kids to step it up as well," said Ensor.
   One concern for the Rangers is injured quarterback Jeremy Cook, who hurt his neck last week on a come-from-behind tackle.
   "Jeremy is still banged up this week, so we will probably go with Irick," Ensor said. "He's already played three or four games for us so far, plus gives us a little different dimension."
   Even though Cook may not be taking the snaps, don't be surprised to see him making other plays on the field.
   "We don't want to see him get beat on, so we may put him out at receiver, possibly wing-back, and he's ready to play quarterback if need be," said Ensor.
   An issue that arises quite often for the Rangers is the fact they have trouble holding on to the ball, and this could be a deciding factor Friday night.
   "We've got to take care of the football against them. They're explosive enough that you can't give them turnovers, and when we have opportunities we must capitalize on them," said Ensor.
   Unaka is possibly the favorite going into this week's matchup, but don't count the Huskies out by any means.
   "North Greene is a good football team," Ensor said. "They're real athletic, and the are big up front with a couple of kids that run the ball pretty well and throw the ball good too."
   As far as the Ranger defense, Ensor feels like they can stop them, but it will be a challenge that his kids must meet.
   "Their explosive but pretty sound in what they do, and we're going to try to keep eight men in the box and go at them as well, so it may be a little smash-mouth football," said Ensor.
   By playing eight men up front, Unaka will have to count on their corners to stay man-to-man with the wideouts at times.
   "You can't stay in the eight-man front all night and expect to contain them, so we will disguise our fronts a little bit in jumping in and out looking like you're in a zone sometimes, and in a man-to-man the other times," said Ensor.
   North Greene does like to throw the ball some, but so far this season Unaka has been accustomed on how to defend it against the opponents already played.
   "They will spread the field, which is what we've seen for the last six or seven weeks, and we saw five teams throw the ball pretty well," said Ensor.
   Look for this to be a tremendous and classic battle, as both the Rangers and the Huskies seek their second win of the year.