Jr. Rangers keep season alive with 28-12 win over Cloudland

Published 11:14 pm Thursday, September 29, 2016

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips Jr. Rangers Landon Ramsey breaks outside before scooting into the endzone for Unaka's first score Thursday night on Orr Field.

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips
Jr. Rangers Landon Ramsey breaks outside before scooting into the end zone for Unaka’s first score Thursday night on Orr Field.

After a lackluster start, the Jr. Rangers came alive in the second half to top the Cloudland Jr. Highlanders 28-12 for a berth into next week’s playoffs.
“I told our kids at the beginning of the year that it is a process and that you have to keep grinding and working,” said Unaka head coach Daniel McInturff after Thursday’s contest at Orr Field. “We had a sketchy first half, but our kids came out and competed in the second.”
For the Jr. Highlanders, things got off to a great start. On their first possession, Cloudland, behind the heavy running of Elijah “Easy” Blair, scored after a 9-play, 50-yard drive that ended with Blair finding paydirt from four yards out. With the two-point conversion no good, Cloudland led 6-0 with 2:38 left to play in the first.
The Jr. Rangers started the night on a flat note as they fumbled the ball during their first play of the game allowing the Jr. Highlanders to recover and set up shop on Unaka’s 32-yard line. However, after six plays, Cloudland would relinquish the ball back to Unaka on downs on the 22-yard line.
The turnover monster would strike Unaka again. After a big run by Jr. Rangers Landon Ramsey, Unaka QB Will Sexton tossed an interception on the ensuing play. The interception would put the Jr. Highlanders on Unaka’s 25, and after seven plays, Cloudland’s Devan Hall popped into the end zone to give the Jr. Highlanders a 12-0 lead with 3:56 left in the first half.
On the following kickoff, Unaka’s Daniel Shearl returned the ball to the Jr. Highlanders’ 35-yard line, before Sexton found Jr. Rangers Devon Ramsey for a 27-yard pass play to put Unaka on the 6-yard line. On the next play, Landon Ramsey scooted to the outside before scampering on into the endzone to give the Jr. Rangers their first points of the night. Failing to convert on the PAT, Unaka closed the margin to 12-6 with 2:36.
With time running out in the first half, the Jr. Highlanders marched into the red zone and found themselves with a chance to score from the three-yard line. However, the Unaka defense made a stand and held the Jr. Highlanders out of the endzone to send the teams into the half with Cloudland leading 12-6.
“I felt like that was a key moment in the game,” McInturff said. “We pretty much didn’t have the ball for the whole first half. And without that stop who knows how things would have turned out.”
The Rangers didn’t waste anytime in the second half as Sexton found Unaka’s Nathan Reed on a hitch route for a 37-yard touchdown. And with Sexton connecting with Shearl on the two-point conversion, the Jr. Rangers led 14-12 with 7:21 left in the third.
After recovering an onsides kick, the Jr. Rangers struck again with Sexton keeping for a 40-yard touchdown rush to give his team a 20-12 edge.
The Jr. Rangers would recover the onsides kick again. However, would end up having to punt the ball.
The final score of the night came when Sexton found Devon Ramsey on a fade route for a 47-yard TD play. Landon Ramsey ran in the two-point conversion, and the Jr. Rangers led 28-12.
Next week, the Jr. Rangers will host Rogersville in a playoff match up. The time and day have yet to be determined.
For the Jr. Highlanders, who celebrated eighth-grade night Thursday, it was the end of the road.
“It was a tough season,” said Cloudland head coach Kevin Kendall. “Coming off a year where we played in the state championship game, we came into this year with a lot of youth. But we have a lot of experience now after this season. It was a tough year, but they fought hard, and they learned.”

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