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Rangers prepare for their first task of the year

BY NIC MILLER
STAR CORRESPONDENT
STONEY CREEK – While many schools in the area have had their season underway for two weeks, the Unaka Rangers won’t get started until this Friday when they have their first task of the season on the road.
The Rangers will be traveling two hours Friday to take on the Hancock County Indians in what will be both team’s first contest of the season.
It was a big question as to whether or not the Rangers would even play a season this fall as teams in the Carter County School District began their season last weekend.
When asked about their restrictions due to the pandemic, head coach O’Brien Bennett said “The big thing for us Friday is to minimize mistakes. Both teams come in with 2 weeks of practice, no scrimmages, and no seven on sevens.
“We will both be working the bugs out live under the lights. At this stage of preparation, the team most likely to beat you is yourself. If we can avoid that, I like our chances.”
After being asked about his team’s weapons, Bennett said that he had a bunch of young guys that were becoming key players on his team.
“We return the entire offensive and defensive front from last year. Seniors like Colby Jones, Jordan Day, and Nathaniel Oaks have all started or played major roles since they were freshmen.
“Senior Austin Fair started every game last year on the defensive line and looks to continue that role. Logan Taylor, Noah Carden, and Cody Drew were solid starters as sophomores on the front and have grown tremendously in the last 12 months.
“We combine that with a lot of young talent coming up through the ranks, including very promising freshman Marcus Shomaker and sophomore Aaron Tipton, and we should be as deep up front as we have ever been.”
Bennett continued, saying, “That will only make life easier for returning starter at quarterback Landon Ramsey. He passed for over 1500 yards and 15 TDs last year as a freshman.
“He has a much more in-depth understanding and command of the offense this season. Junior Devin Ramsey returns at wide receiver where he has already accumulated over 1000 receiving yards in his short career. Joining him in a talented receiving corps are seniors Darian Lash, Nick Shell, and Matthew Erickson, along with talented junior Caleb Lydick.”
“Sophomore Takoda Freeman has had a tremendous offseason and looks ready for Friday nights on both sides of the ball. Juniors Daniel Shearl and Drew Smith, along with sophomore Jamol Blamo will compete for carries.
“Shearl will split time at wide receiver and is an explosive athlete. Smith has added good weight, speed, and power this off-season after enjoying a successful season at linebacker last year, recording 87 total stops.
Bennett finished up saying “Blamo will also be in the mix at LB, along with sophomores Ryan Peters and Nathan Painter as well as freshman TJ Thomas. Lydick, Freeman, Erickson, Ramsey, Shearl, Lash, and  Kaleb Gonzalez are all competing in the secondary for Friday night reps. Junior Daryl Harris has been a force in practice and can play on any of the three levels in defense.”
Kickoff between the Rangers and Indians will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Hancock County High School in Sneedville, Tennessee.