Rangers top North Greene to start 2018 season

Published 11:45 am Saturday, August 18, 2018

By Wayne Phillips

Compliments of the Greeneville Sun

After watching a first quarter that seemed to last an eternity, it was obvious that few North Greene fans felt their Huskies had any hopes of winning the 2018 season opener against old rival Unaka Friday night at the Tundra.

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They fell behind by two touchdowns, they had an amazing seven penalties in the period, and nothing was going right for Coach Andrew Murray in his debut as mentor of the Huskies.

But turn the tables they did, and the Huskies were on the one-foot line with a chance to score and possibly tie the game when the final second ticked off the clock as a fourth-and-inches play came up short of the goal line.

“I’m just dang proud of their fight, the effort by a bunch of hard-nosed kids,” Coach Murray said. “We were able to hang in there after playing so bad in that first quarter. The kids believe, and they are only going to get better.”

The result was a 20-12 victory for the Rangers in a game that lasted over three hours, mainly due to 27 total penalties, some injuries, and a delay for an ambulance to arrive and transport an Unaka player.

It was a gutsy performance by Coach Murray’s troopers, who got a standout effort from several players, including senior quarterback Briggs Kiker and bruising senior tailback Colton Story. Kiker rushed for 82 yards on 16 carries and passed for 117 more yards, and a touchdown to Ethan Atnip. Story got 27 tough yards inside and scored once.

The Huskies got a victory over Unaka last year for their only season victory, but Unaka got some revenge by owning the first quarter, despite losing two fumbles in the period and another in the third quarter. Senior quarterback John Ramsey was the key as he threw for 191 yards and rushed for two touchdowns. Logan Benway led the rushing attack with 74 yards. and also scored once.

Unaka took the game’s opening kickoff and marched goalward rapidly, but they failed to convert when Nick Bowers lost the handle on the ball at the 7- yard line of North Greene and James Dykes recovered for the Huskies.

The home team ran three plays and lined up to punt from their 13, but Coach Murray tried to catch the visitors off guard by calling a fake punt and a pass, but the ball fell incomplete, and Unaka took over deep in NG territory.

This time it paid off as Benway scored on a 2-yard run with 7:22 left. The 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete.

The Rangers scored on their next possession as well, moving 58 yard in six plays, as North Greene jumped offsides three times in the drive, helping keep it alive. Ramsey scored on a 2-yard run, the conversion pass failed, but the Rangers had built a 12-0 lead with 3:30 still left in the period.

The Huskies got themselves in a hole again on their next possession and were forced to punt from their 10-yard line, but the snap from center sailed over the punter’s head and out of the end zone, resulting in an Unaka safety and a 14-0 lead.

Another Ranger score was thwarted when a pass from Ramsey to Bowers covered 22 yards to the goal line, but the ball was fumbled and rolled through the end zone to kill that scoring threat.

North Greene got their offense alive when Kiker took over at the 20 and marched his team 80 yards, with two big passes of 21 yards, one to Cade Smith and another to Ethan Atnip for a 21-yard score early in the second quarter. Unaka helped the drive along with two major penalties, one a pass interference and one a face mask.

The Huskies then closed the gap to 14-12 just before intermission when Colton Story barged into the end zone from 6-yards out, carrying bodies with him. That drive was set up when Story intercepted a Ramsey pass and put the Huskies in business at the Unaka 22.

In the third quarter, the Huskies got within scoring range when they drove from their 41 to the Unaka 14, but a Kiker pass was picked off in the end zone by Unaka’s Devin Ramsey.

Unaka got the touchdown that eventually iced it in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run by Ramsey, culminating a 55-yard drive in nine plays that killed five minutes off the clock.

That left time for North Greene to march from their 40 all the way to the 1-foot line as the final seconds ticked off. Kiker and Story were especially strong on that drive, with a pass of 13 yards to Story and a 10-yard strike to Sky Arwood. Kiker also ran a 22-yard dash that was stopped at the 1, but a block in the back penalty moved it back to the 21.

With time running out and no timeouts remaining, the Huskies got it down inside the 1 on a 4-yard run by Story. With two seconds left and facing fourth down, Murray called time and sent in the final play, a handoff to Story. But Story lost his footing a bit, and the Rangers were able to yank him down at the 1 as the game ended.

“If I had it to do over, I would call the same play,” Murray said. “I asked the seniors on the sideline what they wanted to run, and they all said give it to Story. He came up just short. But what an effort.”

The Huskies are back home next Friday to face Cloudland.