Midway turns back Rangers

By Marvin Birchfield

   KINGSTON--In their quest to come away with a first-ever playoff victory, Unaka was outmatched with the physical play of Midway and suffered a 48-13 loss.
   A total of six turnovers on the night by the Rangers hampered their chances to knock off the Green Wave, which required a mistake-free game from Unaka to come away with an upset.
   "We had several mistakes and had a fumble punt that was a turn of momentum even though we did stop them, and had a drive going for a possible tie and the ball was tipped for an interception," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor. "They went up 14-0 and then we came back and punched it in, and if we could of just got a score here and there."
   Midway, the number two seed in Region 2 1-A, took control by stopping the Rangers on their first possession.
   The Green Wave keyed all evening long on sophomore Charles Lee Guinn, never letting him get to the outside to utilize the his speed.
   "We were worried. We saw Guinn and he's real fast, and their big lineman Travis Pasquale is good," said Midway coach Craig Moshier.
   "They stuffed us a couple of times to start the game, but we held on and did a pretty good job."
   A pitch on third-and-eight resulted in a five-yard loss, which forced the Rangers to punt going three and out.
   "I have to give them credit -- they did a good job of taking the run away and that gameplan," said Ensor.
   Midway was successful on its first series of offense going four plays for 45 yards.
   A run by Brock King placed the ball down at the 5-yard line of the Rangers with a gain of 32 yards on the play.
   Two plays later, James Klein carried the ball from four yards out, giving Midway a 7-0 lead with 8:27 left in the first period.
   A mistake on the kickoff return ended with a fumble and the Green Wave recovering on the Unaka 24-yard line.
   Two nice defensive stops from Andrew Richardson and Tory Morton forced the Green Wave into a fourth-and-10 situation, with the Rangers making the stop after getting pressure on the quarterback.
   "We had a couple of misreads and they broke a couple of runs they shouldn't have, but we just didn't do our job on defense," said Richardson.
   Unaka had a drive going after a pass from Jon Zimmerman to Brandon Irick went for a 53-yard gain.
   "We tried to mix it up a little by moving me to receiver, and they threw me some passes, but the game just didn't end that well," said Irick.
   The Rangers went to the air again on third down and long, but this time Patrick Woods made the pick to stop the Unaka momentum.
   "Our passing game looked better tonight. We probably threw for more yards than we have all season," said Ensor. "We just got the Zimmerman kid in last week and that gives us a look of what were going to have down the road with him, and even the Carpenter kid throws the ball well also."
   With 20 seconds left in the first quarter, Midway struck again on a five play 75-yard drive.
   A one-yard plunge from King gave the Green Wave a 14-0 advantage, with the Rangers needing to make a play to get themselves back in the ball game.
   Unaka did just that, with Irick reeling off a 52-yard run on the option, which he turned back up inside and almost scored on before being dragged down by a saving tackle at Midway's 11.
   "I saw everybody going one way across the field, so I just cut it back the other direction and there was nobody there," said Irick.
   Two straight carries by Richardson resulted in a six-yard touchdown run to close the gap to 14-7 with 8:58 left in the half.
   "It feels good to have gotten here and have a winning season, but I hate it ended this way," said Richardson. "I'm proud of my teammates, and that we were able to get here."
   Unaka's defense stepped up to stop the Green Wave at midfield, forcing them to punt on fourth-and-three, but a penalty for running into the kicker gave Midway a first down to keep their drive alive.
   The game was never quite the same after that point, as Midway took the ball on the next play to score on a 47-yard run by Klein.
   "They stopped us on two series in a row, and then that penalty allowed us to get back the momentum, so we came back with a few counter plays to slow down the penetration we were running the ball too," said Moshier.
   On the Rangers' next play from scrimmage, a fumble gave the ball back to Midway en route to its fourth touchdown of the first half.
   A 21-yard run on the quarterback keeper from Jude O'Toole gave Midway first-and-goal at the at the six yard-line.
   Two carries by Klein ended with a touchdown from one yard out, giving Midway a 28-7 lead at halftime.
   To open the second half, Midway put together a 62-yard drive, with King scoring from four yards away.
   The Rangers opened with a nice drive in the third period, with Zimmerman completing a 20-yard pass to Irick.
   "It's really tough. This was my last game I'll ever play in high school, so I'm certainly going to miss it," said Irick.
   The Green Wave managed to catch Irick behind the line of scrimmage for a five-yard loss, pinning the Rangers into a fourth-and-16 situation.
   A pass to Guinn from Zimmerman almost got the Rangers out of the jam, but a nice pop by the Green Wave defensive back kept the play six inches short of the first down.
   The Rangers were able to capture a turnover when Daniel Breadwell coughed up the football, with Jordan Ensor making the recovery at Midway's 13.
   A personal foul penalty moved the ball back to the 28, and an attempt through the air ended in an interception by Spencer Myers and a 63-yard return.
   The first play to start the final period saw King make a sprint into the end zone on a 13-yard run.
   Both King and Klein combined for three touchdowns each and a total of 255 yards on the ground.
   Midway made a good adjustment on its pass coverage in the second half, coming away with four interceptions on the night, including three in the final two periods.
   "We were running man coverage, and we swapped up our coverage some there at halftime, and that helped us quite a bit," said Moshier.
   The Rangers struck in their final series of offense, with Guinn breaking away with his biggest gain on the evening for 23 yards.
   A 15-yard run from Steven Lapp gave the Rangers first-and-goal at the 4 with under a minute left.
   Richardson scored his second touchdown of the night on a two-yard run with :05 left in the contest, as his football career at Unaka ended on somewhat of a good note.
   "It feels good to get a touchdown in my final game, but I couldn't have done it without my teammates," said Richardson. "We've worked hard for four years to get here, and now I just don't what to say."
   It's not over until the final second has ticked off the clock, and on a kickoff by Unaka on the last play of the night, Chris Fordam ran for 70 yards, putting an exclamation point on the Green Wave victory.
   "We made some mistakes and good teams like them capitalize when you get here in the playoffs," said Ensor. "It's a gut-wrenching time for these seniors. I've known all these kids since they were little. I said, 'You're the guys that are going to be known as the group that turned this program around.'"