Youthful Rangers hope to grow up fast

By DALLAS COOK

STAR Staff

   The Unaka Rangers will use this year as a rebuilding year but will not sacrifice this season due to inexperience on the field.
   With just five players that have experience under their belts returning from last year's 3-7 team, Coach Mickey Taylor will have to do some serious strategizing in hopes of a successful season.
   'They've had good attitudes and have worked hard. It's like the Abyss, it's unknown right now," Taylor said of his unseen talent. "We don't have as many skilled people and have less speed."
   On the offensive side of the ball senior Jamon Baggott and sophomore Brandon Irick are battling it out in practice, and as far as Taylor is concerned the position is up for grabs.
   "I think Jamon and Brandon are both going to play," said Taylor of the two. "From what we've seen out I'm pretty happy with both of them."
   In the backfield for Unaka, sophomore Joey Parlier and senior Travis Bowman will run the ball for and have some big shoes to fill from last year's backs. In 2000, Unaka featured two strong running backs in Justin Bowling (956 yds.) and Matt Caldwell (645 yds.) as they combined for over 1,600 yards rushing.
   "It may be by committee," said Taylor of the his young running backs. "Parlier and Bowman would be our guys if we had to play tonight but there are several others that are going to play."
   The receiving core will primarily be made up of junior Jeremy Cook, senior Michael Bowers and freshman Brent Huskins. Last year Cook caught seven passes for 125 yards, including one touchdown.
   "We'll depend on throwing the ball to him quite a bit," said Taylor on Cook. "He's definitely our best receiver because he's a returning receiver, so we expect a little more out of him as far as leadership."
   On the line for the Rangers, seniors Ricky Estep and Bobby Carr lead the way and will play alongside a younger group this year.
   "As far as our offensive line goes I think if we get a little more experience and as times goes on we'll be as good as last year," said Taylor. "We're just a young bunch of kids."
   Sophomores Andrew Richardson, Josh Jones, Jordan Ensor, Jesse Harris, Casey Garland, Josh Mick and freshmen Rusty Holtsclaw, Travis Pasquale and Adam Ensor will all combine to form Unaka's front.
   As far as the defense goes, Coach Taylor seems to have a pretty good idea for a gameplan and is eager to see how his squad will do against the new Region 1-A conference.
   "I think we've settled into what we want to try and do," Taylor stated of his defense. "We're getting a better idea about our personnel and we're going to try and put them in better situations because of where we're so young. We're not going to ask them to do a whole lot but we feel like we have some people who can play defense."
   On the defensive front, Jones, Carr and Richardson will lead the way as Estep, Bowman, Parlier and Baggot man the linebacker positions while Cook and Irick will patrol the secondary.
   For the special teams, freshman Huskins takes on a major role as the teams new punter while Ensor may give Unaka some extra-point kicks.
   "Hopefully we can continue to improve," Taylor said. "Right now we have about 20 freshman and sophomores so we're building for the future but we're not sacrificing this year's bunch."
   The Rangers are young this year but look for the Unaka to maybe upset and surprise some people with a new and unpredictable squad.
   Unaka will open up the season at home as they host Claiborne County next Friday night.