No. 9 Rangers take long trip to Oakdale
Unaka travels beyond Knoxville tonight to take on the Oakdale Eagles, who are searching for a big upset in their homecoming celebration.
The Rangers, state ranked for the first time in school history (at No. 9), are perfect on the year at 6-0, while Oakdale is at 2-4.
Unaka heads into the contest facing some key injuries in its backfield.
Last week senior fullback Cody Hurley missed action with a sprained ankle.
Hurley is out again this week along with freshman Jeff Wilson, who has been a big contribution for the Rangers so far.
"We're a little concern going into the game -- we're banged up with some bumps and bruises," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor. "A couple of kids had intestinal problems and missed practice, so they'll be held out also because that's part of our policy with missing practice."
Unaka is forced with starting a couple of young guys in the backfield, which have been gaining experience in the JVs.
"We've run two kids this year in JV which are Joey Sheets and Cody Diebler," Ensor said. "Brandon Medina is also someone who we will put back there, but Sheets has been playing tailback for us in JV, so we look to get him some reps on Friday."
Unaka's gameplan is the same as always going in: start with the run and develop the pass.
"We want to establish the run and then work in the pass," Ensor said. "We've added a few new wrinkles, and we're hoping our special teams can score a touchdown for us this week."
Oakdale runs a similar type if offense as that of the Rangers, so Unaka is looking to stop the ground game and put some pressure on their backfield.
"Their very run-oriented. They run a double wing and double tight set," Ensor said. "I think we're more athletic and we'll put eight or nine box. When they go to a spread out set, we'll go man to man, but still bring pressure on the quarterback."
One thing the Eagles have going for them is the talent level of the teams they've faced within their conference.
Last year, all of the Region 2 teams defeated Region 1 in the first round of the 1A playoffs.
"Anytime you're faced against tougher teams, then you'll get better over a period of time, but the down side is when you lose games close games, then you sometimes lose your morale," said Oakdale coach Phil Childers.
It's homecoming night for the Eagles tonight, so expect the players from Oakdale to give it their all.
"I think we'll do pretty good," Childers said. "It's homecoming and the guys are looking forward to hopefully coming away with a win and getting an upset over the number nine team in the state."
Oakdale's two wins came against Cosby, 14-13, in the first game on the season and against Lookout Valley two weeks ago in another one-point decision.
Last week the Eagles took a beating from CAK (Christian Academy of Knoxville) in a 43-0 rout, which is their worst loss of the year.
"We're very improved from last year," said Childers. "We've had some young guys step up, and we're not giving up as many points as we did last season."
The key to Oakdale getting an upset with rely on being able to control the line up front.
"Our linebackers have to be on their toes and find the ball, and we must be able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides," Childers said. "They're very deceptive with their offense, but the team who wins the battle with the line of scrimmage will win the contest."
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