Jackets shed Rangers

Photo by Kristen Luther


  The Rangers were trying to win their first post-season game ever, but some missed opportunities late forced them to suffer a 35-7 defeat against Coalfield in round one of the Class 1A playoffs on Friday night at Goddard Field.
  Unaka had two missed executions after trailing by seven going into the final period, which enabled Coalfield to pull away and spoil the Rangers' postseason.
  "We need to get more aggressive, and that's what essentially happened tonight," said Unaka coach Mike Ensor. "When we wanted to move the football and when we blocked we moved the football, and when we got lazy and didn't come off the ball we got hit on the mouth.
  "We made great strides this year and I'm proud of these boys, but we still have a long way to go. Tonight we were competitive for the whole ball game, and I can deal with that."
  The Rangers found themselves down right from the start as Coalfield's Brandon Davis went 85 yards to paydirt on the opening kickoff.
  Unaka's defense came up with some big plays in the first half, as an interception from Brandon Medina stopped a Yellow Jackets' drive with 9:57 left in the second period.
  Coalfield added its second touchdown of the contest with 4:33 left in the half, after senior tailback Michael Paul Gilbert had several nice runs before finishing with a 3-yard plunge into the end zone.
  The Rangers trailed 14-0 at the half, but an inspired Unaka bunch came out to fight their way back in the third quarter.
  "We came back and got our offense running pretty good, and then a few key turnovers happened and that killed our momentum," said senior center Travis Pasquale. "We're just happy with the season we've had, and it was a great season from all of us. Everybody played with a lot of heart and pride, so you can't ask for anything more."
  After a fumble recovery by Jeff Wilson, Cody Hurley found the end zone on a 25-yard scamper to cut the Yellow Jacket lead in half.
  Coalfield experienced another turnover on its next possession when a strip by Charles Lee Guinn resulted in senior lineman Adam Ensor making the recovery.
  "At times we played good and at times we didn't," said Coalfield coach Gary Kreis. "We didn't handle the football very well, but hats off to the Unaka kids because they came back and hung around to give us a heck of a football game."
  Unaka took the ball from its own 17-yard-line, then came up short by stalling out right outside the Coalfield 20.
  Coalfield made the most of it on its next offensive series as Davis made a cut back across field to score on a 58-yard touchdown run with 11:10 left in the final period.
  The Rangers responded with a 32-yard run from Guinn, who received blocks from quarterback John Zimmerman and senior wideout Daniel McInturff.
  "We came out and busted our tails the whole game," said McInturff. "Our line was getting beat and the coach got on them and they stepped up. I thought we played the best we have all year in the second half, but I guess we just lost a little steam at the end."
  Guinn finished the evening with 252 yards on 21 carries, but was never able to reach the end zone.
  The drive ended down inside the 10 when a double hand-off from Guinn to Hurley fell to the ground, with the Yellow Jackets capturing the turnover.
  "I felt like a lot of it was my fault, because I almost fell off-sides, and then when I got the ball from Charles I fumbled it, and that's when things really turned around," said Hurley. "We pushed our younger clansmen all year and then our seniors stepped up, and so did our freshman."
  It did not go well for Unaka after that, as Coalfield scored on a long drive, with Gilbert getting the TD call from two yards out.
  The Yellow Jackets added another score after a nice drive from Unaka turned ugly once again.
  An interception by Zimmerman down inside the Coalfield 10 resulted in an 76-yard return from Steven Towley.
  A 20-yard run from Gilbert added insult to injury, as the emotions from both sides spilled out after the game.
  Some late hits and cheap shots by both teams caused friction at the end, which forced the teams to be separated after shouting between the two nearly resulted in a rumble upon the creek.
  "This score is not indicative of the ball game," Ensor said. "It got ugly here at the end,. Our kids did a good job and their kids did a good job, so I hate that it got out of hand.
  "They were some cheap shots from them and some cheap shots from us, so I'm not going to say it was their fault and not ours."