Rangers prepare for Greenback

Published 1:51 pm Monday, October 31, 2022

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By C.Y. Peters
Star Correspondent
    The Unaka Rangers are riding the momentum of a record-setting season as they head into Region 1-1A playoffs this weekend.
The Rangers, who finished the season at 6-4, are coming off an impressive 34-0 win over Happy Valley, marking the second time this season Unaka beat the Warriors.
 “We’ve been working all season with the goal of challenging ourselves and getting better each week so that we are playing our best football in the playoffs,” said head coach O’Brien Bennett.  “We have played eight games against playoff teams and another against a 3A opponent this season.”
Bennett said the Rangers struggled as the season began.
“At the beginning of the year we were scrambling a bit to run a safe and effective practice and were very limited in doing individual position drills, especially at the skill positions,” he said. “But since filling out our coaching staff in September adding a running back and linebacker coach in Joey Parlier and a Wide Receiver/Defensive back coach in John Kosko, along with Coach Jake Jones agreeing to come back to call the defense on Fridays, you can definitely see the improvement every week.”
This is the first season in which Unaka beat a team by 64 points and the first time the Rangers scored 64 points in one game. They held the Cosby Eagles scoreless this year and had Jellico 46-0 and allowed a late score for a 46-7 final.
   “In that time, we have been 5-1 with the one loss being to an outstanding Hampton team. In the five wins, we have outscored our opponents 194-27,” Bennett said. “Our senior leadership has played a big part in buying into the process of having a successful season rather than just a good game. Landon Ramsey, Johnny Douglas, Ryan Peters, Jamol Blamo, Joe-Z Blamo, Takoda Freeman, and Kaeden Barton have all stepped up as leaders on and off the field in that respect and it shows in the continual improvement we’ve made over the course of the season. That leadership also helps as we increase the roles of underclassmen.”
Ramsey, has completed 121 passes for 1,637 yards and scored 14 touchdowns passing this year. He has also rushed 118 times for 726 yards with 13 touchdowns and scored nine two-point conversions.
Brynin Repass, the backup quarterback, has completed 50 percent of his passes, scored a touchdown and rushed 13 times for 108 yards.
Blamo carried the ball 83 times for 621 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught 27 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns.  Blamo also had an interception for a score, TJ Thomas had 15 carries for 206 yards and two touchdowns and had a kick-off return for a score. He caught ten passes for 243 yards. Peters carried the ball 19 times for 108 yards with a touchdown and had four two-point conversions. He also caught a pass for 21-yards and a score.
  “Marcus Shomaker, Brayden Powell, Brynin Repass, Isaiah White, TJ Thomas, and AJ Greenless have all grown into play-makers while Jacob Wilson, Nathan Wilson, Aidan Peterson, Tyler Smith, Jake Taylor have grown into being Friday night every down players who, even if not starting, provide the valuable depth you have to have at this time of the season,” Bennett said.
Joe-z Blamo caught 35 passes for 559 yards scoring five times, Takota Freeman caught 21 passes for 310 yards scoring four times. Others with receiving yards are Johnny Douglas five for 81-yards, AJ Greenless 11 for 116 yards.
    One of the best plays of the year was when TJ Thomas raced 83-yards and then lateraled on the three-yard line so Isiah White could score a touchdown.
    On defense, Ramsey made 73 solo tackles; Blamo with 49; Johnny Douglas 51; Greenless 12; White 20; Peters 31; Repass 32; Joe-z 15; Thomas 24; Brayden Powell 22; and Marcus “the Big Show” Shomaker made 29 solo tackles.
Bennett said Greenback (5-5) will be a tough opponent. “Greenback is a tough first-round draw. This group of seniors played for a state title in 2019 and they know how to win in November,” he said. “They have playmakers and speed at every position on offense, including the line, and are capable of scoring on any play. Their QB is a dual-threat athlete equally capable of going 80 yards by way of air or ground. Their receivers do an excellent job of coming down with 50-50 balls and punishing the secondary for playing too tight, but they are also very good in space, and their line is very athletic and gets out in front of screens and sweeps extremely well.”
In their last three ballgames, Greenback has outscored their opposition 105-21. “So they are also coming in playing their best ball of the season,” Bennett said. “Defensively, they are very athletic and very disciplined. They read keys and blocks well and aren’t easily deceived by eye candy. Their secondary plays well in coverage and can turn a little mistake into a big play for the defense in the blink of an eye.”
Unaka will have to protect the football and be deliberate on offense to make the most of each drive, he said. “Defensively, we’ll have to be very disciplined in our jobs and in our tackling. These guys feast off of mistakes, so we have to be very fundamentally sound and avoid trying to do too much. We’ve talked and prepared all season for winning these types of games and now it’s here.”
Kickoff is 7 p.m. Friday at Unaka’s Goddard Field.

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