Jr. Rangers trip 'Landers
By Adam Buckles
The Rangers of Unaka are currently having their best season in middle school football. Tuesday night at Goddard Field, the Rangers took their final step to reach their goal, shutting out Cloudland 12-0 to clinch a berth in the Little Watauga championship.
"I am more than happy for my kids tonight," said Unaka coach Matt Wilson. "They have worked hard all year, and I think they deserve it."
The two teams started off a slow for a quarter and a half, with each team fumbling twice.
Halfway through the second quarter, Unaka tailback Jeff Peters went off the left tackle for two yards, then later pitched to Britt Yelton for a 61-yard dash to the end zone.
With :15 left in the first half, quarterback Dustin Carden looked to throw but ran a bootleg and raced along the Ranger sideline for a 53-yard score. Unaka lead 12-0, which proved to be the final.
"We have one day to prepare for Johnson County, and we just have to come to play," said Wilson. "We had some breaks, but the boys sucked it up and they played the way they're supposed to."
Cloudland was clicking on a late drive in the fourth quarter, but defensive end Kelly Rapert sacked quarterback Nick Sluder to end the 'Lander threat.
"We had three chances to score, but we did not capitalize," said 'Lander coach Jon Julian. "I feel like that our offense clicked good enough to win, but those fumbles just really killed us."
The Cloudland ground game had a big lift from Lucas Clawson, who racked up 101 yards on 21 touches. Randal Johnson chipped in 19 yards on two carries, while Sluder was stopped for 14 yards on 13 tries.
Willard Honeycutt provided the only catch for the 'Landers, and the grab was good for 31 yards from Sluder. Clawson and Christian Montgomery each chipped in a good effort on defense.
"Unaka has a real good ball team, but we just did not get the breaks," said Julian. "We have a good squad coming back for next year, and our line and backfield will be more improved."
Peters led Unaka with 105 yards, followed by Carden with 91 and Yelton with 63. Chad Odom, Adam Colbaugh, Rapert, Peters, and Carden each stood out for the Ranger defense.
"I glad we are in the championship against Johnson County -- these boys have really earned it," said Wilson.
Cloudland finished 4-5 on the 2004 campaign. The Rangers improved to 7-3 and will play in the Little Watauga championship Thursday at 6 p.m. at Johnson County.