Rangers make statement in Baileyton

Published 4:49 pm Monday, August 20, 2018

For the Rangers, Friday night’s 20-12 win over North Greene was more than just a win for Unaka. The victory shone a light on a program that has seen revitalization in the weight room and on the field since Rangers head coach O’Brien Bennett took over leadership.
Making a stand and a statement
For the Unaka Rangers, everything they had worked on in the offseason, all of the anticipation to see if hard work does pay off, came down to one last play.
The clock showed just 2 seconds left in regulation as North Greene set up shop on the Rangers 1-yard line in hopes of overcoming Unaka’s 20-12 lead. The Rangers, however, didn’t falter as the Huskies handed the ball off to Colton Story, who lost his footing as Unaka’s Aaron Carr made it into the backfield to bring him down, ending the game and giving the Rangers a win to start off 2018.
“When you get down there to the one-yard line and the game is on the line, there is no such thing as little things,” said Bennett. “Every rep you did in the weight room, everything you did during practice, everything you had done since January matters. And for us, it all came down to that stop at the one-yard line.
“Fortunately, our kids made the play,” said Bennett. “That is what we needed to see to know that all of the time in the weight room and on the field paid off.”
In the middle of the Huskies final drive down the field, it was during a timeout that Unaka senior Bryson Street did something that gave Bennett no doubt that the Rangers were going to win the game.
“It was a hot and muggy night, and I think everybody on this side of the state were struggling with cramps,” said Bennett. “On that last drive, Bryson was cramping up the whole time, but he refused to sit down. He came off the field during a timeout and started catching a cramp and looked down at his leg and just said, ‘No.’ I turned around to Jenny Jones and said, ‘Jenny, that is how I know we are going to win this ball game.’ Because no matter what his body was telling him, his heart was going to override it.”
The Rangers goal-line stand came at the tail end of a defensive performance that saw Street record 12 solo tackles, one fumble recovery, a pass breakup and two tackles for loss. Street’s fellow linebacker Nick Bowers had eight solo tackles while Brandon Smith and Cydney Robertson had four solo tackles each on the line. Along with three solo tackles, Unaka freshman Devin Ramsey also had a drive-killing interception.
“We limited their big plays,” said Bennett. “We were able to get them in three-and-out situations and put our offense in good situations. That is huge for us. We really emphasized stopping the run this season. So to be able to get lined up,  get tackles for loss,  and limit the big plays, which often happen because someone missed a tackle, is big for us. We really emphasized our tackling in the offseason.”
Doing what they do best
Last season, the Rangers left no doubt that they could pass the ball as senior quarterback John Ramsey tossed for over 2,000 yards in 2017. And Friday night, it seemed that Ramsey and the Unaka receiving core are still a threat.
Ramsey tossed for 208 yards while connecting on 12-of-23 passes with one interception. Ramsey’s top target was Devon Jarrett who pulled in five catches for 94 yards, while Reid Taylor had four catches for 56 yards.
Making ground in the run game
Friday night, the Rangers’ three touchdowns all came on the ground, which is a big departure from how the Rangers scored in 2017 with Unaka only scoring 4-rushing TDs all season while recording 21 TDs through the air. Two of Friday night’s TDs were scored by Ramsey who finished the night with 30 yards rushing on 6 carries.
“We all expect John “Boy” to be able to throw the ball around,” said Bennett. “I don’t remember who said it but they said he was a lot like Jared Lorenzen, but I think he is more like Ben Roethlisberger. He is a big guy at 235 pounds, but he can also move. This offseason he has worked on his speed and agility, and it showed.”
Unaka’s Logan Benway had the most yards rushing for the Rangers as he tallied 74 yards on 14 carries while hammering in a TD. The Rangers finished with roughly 99 yards rushing Friday.
“We had 367 yards rushing for the whole season last season,” said Bennett. “To be able to put a quarter of last years total in the first ball game indeed shows the emphasis on the run game this offseason has paid off.
“Benway, you know, I can’t brag on him and the offensive line (Colby Jones, Athin Hughes, Drew Stanley, Nathaniel Oaks, Jordan Day) enough,” added Bennett. “Benway carried the rock Friday. He made tackles, and he made plays.”
Next up
The Rangers are off this week. On Aug. 31, Unaka will travel to Hancock County to open up Region 1-A play.

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