Rangers return to league play vs. Eagles


star staff


  The Rangers start on a regular-season downhill slope tonight, and with only one conference game under their belts, they'll be faced with knocking off the Mountain East competition one by one.
  This is a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, with Unaka at 5-0 on the year and Cosby at 0-5.
  The rivalry between Unaka and Cosby has been fairly intense in recent years, and despite the records it could be more than just another cakewalk for the Rangers.
  "They've had the same wrap as we have being a basketball school, and that's not fair to Cosby, because they can also be a football school," said Unaka Mike Ensor. "They have some good athletes, so we can't let them get behind us and make some big plays."
  Stakes are on the line for Unaka, which has a chance to clinch a playoff berth in its sixth outing.
  "I've told the kids that this week's game will put us in the playoffs," said Ensor. "At the first of the year our goal was to make the playoffs again, and this week does that."
  Another goal for the Rangers was to improve on their record of 5-5 last season, and a win Friday will top that.
  "We have a chance to reach two goals, and that means a lot for them and a lot to me as a coach and staff also," said Ensor. "When you can get both of them accomplished in the first six games, then that's a huge deal."
  Cosby is looking to turn a season around which has been disastrous so far, while the Rangers are set on sticking to their winning ways.
  "We've had the best practice this week that we've had all year," said Ensor. "We want to come out and do some of the same things we've been doing -- of course establishing the run, and making the pass and letting our athletes make plays."
  It's questionable right now if senior leader Cody Hurley will play, as he has been a spark for this Ranger team in the last few outings. A sprained ankle received in practice this week has the fullback sidelined, and it's uncertain whether he'll be ready or not come game time.
  "We hope Cody is able to play, especially since it's homecoming," said Ensor. "If he's not able then we're not going to push it, because he's too vital to us. We still have Jeff Wilson, and he's a capable fullback."
  The Eagles run the similar type of plays that Unaka does, so this gives them a little confidence in coming into the contest.
  With high ambitions, Cosby is hoping to come away with the upset.
  "They run a similar offense to ours and we've seen plenty of film, so we're hoping to make a good ball game out of it," said Cosby assistant coach Tyler Shelton.
  Even though this is only Unaka's second conference game, the start it is off to, coupled with Cloudland's early struggles, has put the Rangers on the podium to be the team to beat in the Mountain East Conference.
  "Unaka is considered to be the top dog right now, so to get a conference win up there would be huge for us," said Shelton. "We have high expectations this week for the game against Unaka."
  The most recent Cosby loss was decided by one point for the second time this year.
  The only Eagles loss which was really lop-sided was the third game, against Thomas Walker (Va.) in a 47-0 rout.
  The Eagles haven't suffered any losses to key injuries, but a few minor ailments have hampered them closing out the contests down the stretch.
  "We've been in some tight ball game that were not decided until the fourth quarter," said Shelton. "Teams usually have two, three, or four kids who are all-stars, so that's been the difference."
  Look for Jason Whitlock to spark the defensive, while Derek Coleman tries to keep pace with his 150-yard running average on the season.
  "We have a kid coming back on defense this week, which will help, and our defense has been pretty good this season," said Shelton. "We're just getting ready and look forward to the road trip."