Youthful Rangers hope to grow up fast
By DALLAS COOK
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
"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
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.