Rangers hopeful that youth and experience mesh in opener against North Greene

Published 11:03 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2021

BY AUSTIN ALEXANDER
STAR CORRESPONDENT

STONY CREEK – Covid is still looming through the planet, but each day it seems like more is getting back to “normal.” Of course normal is relative, but normal for a lot of folks in Carter County is good high school football on a Friday night.

With the new school year starting, football in Stony Creek is back with a vengeance and a trip to the North Greene Huskies is the first stop on a busy season manifest.

North Greene and Unaka last met what feels like an eternity ago after the 18 months we’ve had, but it was actually just two short years ago.

At the time Unaka was turning over a new leaf at the quarterback position and several other spots and were just trying to find their footing.

“Going into that game, we were replacing a veteran team and a great group of seniors. We were trying guys at different positions trying to see where they fit and find our team’s identity,” said head coach O’Brien Bennett who says that this team is more equipped to handle the challenge.

“Having a lot of those guys back has helped as we know a lot more about ourselves going in than we did in 2019.”

Though the Rangers of 2021 do resemble the 2019 iteration, there’s one key difference.

“We lost another great class last year, including several four-year starters on the line, so once again we are breaking in some younger players,” Bennett said about the 2021 Rangers. “The difference this time is that it’s not at the QB position.”

Landon Ramsey could be the key to a solid season this year as the junior returns for his third year as starting quarterback for Unaka, a rare achievement for any high schooler in the country.

Joining Ramsey in returning this season is his older brother Devin, his favorite receiving target as well as two other reliable wideouts in Tadoka Freeman and Caleb Lydick.

As for the big hog mollies in the trenches, Coach Bennett seems to think it may be a winning formula.

“We’re still young upfront, but we’ve got some great veteran leadership in Cody Drew, Drew Smith, and Noah Carden helping break in some very, very talented young players in Marcus Shomaker and Brayden Powell,” Bennett concluded on how his offensive line is a good mix of youth and experience.

The bottom line is this game is going to set the tone for the season and as Coach Bennett described, the simple things can decide the opener.

“Friday night, we need to protect the ball and avoid costly mental errors,” he said to how Unaka can bring home an early road win. “If we limit mental errors, we feel like we can limit big plays and make them earn things the hard way.”

Coach Bennett would continue stating that his team is also fully aware that if they’re not careful they can end up on the side of the coin that they’re trying to avoid.

The basic point Coach Bennett says, “We want to execute at a high level so that our playmakers can do what they do: make plays.”

The Unaka Rangers kickoff their 2021 campaign at North Greene in Baileyton at 7:30 pm on Friday.