Rangers look to end Huskies’ winning streak

Published 9:28 am Thursday, August 20, 2015

File Photo Unaka quaterback Blake King stiff arms a Avery County defender during a previous scrimmage.

File Photo
Unaka quaterback Blake King stiff arms a Avery County defender during a previous scrimmage.

Friday night’s gridiron meeting between North Greene and Unaka will be the 34th meeting between the two rivals with the Rangers holding a slight advantage, 18-15. The Huskies, however, have won the last two and four of the last five.
Unaka will try to turn those numbers around.
“This one counts,” Rangers head coach Steve McKinney said. “It’s not like the jamboree where you just look to make a good showing. It’s a test that comes on Friday after studying all week, Monday through Thursday. On Friday it’s pass or fail and everyone in the community knows it.”
Last season North Greene rushed for 296 yards and four touchdowns in a 39-6 win at Goddard Field. This contest will be non-conference as the old Mountain East Conference has been broken up by TSSAA’s new realignment.
Unaka graduated a bunch from last year’s squad that finished 1-9 overall, but they hope they have found a quarterback this season in sophomore Blake King or freshman John “Boy” Ramsey. Both have taken reps in practice and both have thrown the ball well in scrimmages and practices. But the real bullets will be flying Friday night and that is when the truth will show itself.
“I was not a happy camper with today’s practice,” McKinney said. “I want a faster tempo and game-like conditions, but we just went through the motions today. I have seen teams practice well and play bad on Friday and I have seen teams practice sloppy and play well come game time. But you can’t just turn it on like a switch.”
Coach Scott Verran, who has had a long relationship with McKinney going back to their days at Happy Valley said, “It’s all about how the young kids respond to game action. You kind of know what you’ll get from the upper classmen, and our young guys have been getting better with every snap. Coach McKinney had a large group graduate last year as we did and we are pretty familiar with each other. I don’t think there will be any big surprises.”
The player North Greene will key on defensively is Unaka’s senior running back Micah Hunt who has shown breakaway speed and toughness in the preseason scrimmages and in the jamboree.
“We have to know where he is on the field,” Verran said. “Coach McKinney likes to line him up pretty much everywhere, so we have to be aware because he can break one at any time, especially on special teams. I don’t have a kicker that can consistently reach the end zone so we’ll have to just kick it and go play.”
The Rangers defensively will have to deal with junior quarterback Tyler Stroud who Verran said, “Has been accurate and runs our offense well.”
The Huskies will rotate three or four tailbacks into the action including Elijah Sauls who Verran said has been a steady presence in the weight room this summer and has added 20 pounds without losing any speed. Josh Estepp and Cody Compton will be part of the backfield rotation to keep fresh legs on the field for the Huskies.
McKinney is looking for one of his seniors – running back Brandon Guinn or Brent Parlier – to step up and show the way for his young group and to take some of the spotlight off of Hunt.
“When you are the main guy, you become a target and everyone zeroes in on him,” McKinney said. “I am hoping that Brent Parlier or Brandon Guinn can make a few plays that can help spread them out and take some of the spotlight off him. Defensively they like to stunt a lot and mess up your blocking patterns, and they have some speed. They have a big lineman that is one of the best I have seen and we’ll have to do a good job blocking him.”
Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Goddard Field.

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