O’Brien Bennett leads Rangers to first-ever playoff win

Published 12:37 am Saturday, November 5, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
By C.Y. Peters
I haven’t seen as many fireworks since the 4th of July.  This is the first year Tennessee Volunteer fans could tweet they beat Alabama.  It’s the first year the Creek can tweet the Unaka Rangers have won a state playoff game.  In 1959  Henry Wayne Ensor was on the last Unaka team to win a Conference Title.  Tonight 63-years later he was there for Unaka’s first-ever playoff win.  Principal Mike Acie Ensor was the first fan at the gate to hail the Ranger’s win.  When his arm raised toward the sky in Victory, the fans poured onto the field to celebrate with their players.
” What a great community win! I promised our guys that it wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it,” said Coach Bennett. They bought into the process from day one, knowing that they may not even be around to see the results that are built on the foundations that they laid. I’m so proud of our kids, our school, and our community. We’ve got a long way to go, but the Creek is Rising!
Thirteen flags in the opening half didn’t stop the Unaka Rangers from scoring 24 points in the first half and holding a 24-6 lead at halftime. Greenback took the opening kick-off and moved the ball to the 45 before being stopped on fourth down giving the Rangers the ball on the Greenback 45. Landon Ramsey completed two passes, one to TJ Thomas, and the other to Joe-z Blamo. A flag pushed the ball back to the Unaka 49. On third down, Ramsey drops back and hits Blamo on a 51-yard touchdown and the game’s first score. Ramsey added the two-point conversion and the Rangers led 8-0.
    The Cherokees ran only two plays when Quarterback Caden Lawson hit Unaka’s Blamo for the interception on the Ranger 49. Ramsey moved the ball down the field on a 20-yard up-the-middle run and on the next play hit Blamo again for a 25-yard score and a 14-point lead. Ramsey powers his way up the middle for the PAT and a 16-0 lead with 4:35 to play in the first quarter.
    Greenback would only run three plays until they would have to punt. TJ Thomas busted over the right end and got his hand on the punt giving the Rangers the ball on the 44.
    The Rangers ran only three plays and were forced to punt for the first time with 1:17 left in the first. Lawson moved the ball down the field and scored on a 21-yard pass to Connor James. The two-point try was no good and the Cherokees trailed 14-6. Three plays and Ramsey had to punt, he was knocked down on the ground, no call but a great kick sent the ball to the 15.
    On the second play, Lawson connected with Johnny Douglas of Unaka for the inception and he ran the ball to the three. On the first play, Ramsey takes the ball and pushes his way goal over the goal line for the score.  He added the two points and Unaka led 24-6 at the 7:01 mark.
    Greenback converted an on-side kick the start the third recovering on the 48. After the hit of the night by Ramsey to break up a pass on third down and nine, it looked like the Cherokees would have to punt but two flags on the Rangers gave Greenback a first down. Seven minutes later Greenback would strike first in the second half on a pass play to Cody Lewis. The extra-point try failed and the score was 24-12.
    Another on-side kick try failed as Unaka’s Brayden Powell fell on the ball. It only took Ramsey two plays and then a 52-yard run in less than a minute, and the Rangers now led 32-12 after Jamol Blamo’s conversion.
A good return by Greenback placed the ball on the 40. In two plays, Lawson air’s out a bomb that hits Cooper Williams for a 50-yard score and pulls the Cherokees back within 12 after Luke Morris’s two-point conversion. Unaka 32 Greenback 20 with 5:54 to play in the third.
  Another on-side kick and Greenback recovers but four big stands on defense by the Ranger line give the Rangers the ball. Ramsey runs up the middle moving the ball to the one before he runs a quarterback sneak for the score with 1:56 still in the third. The Rangers now lead 38-20.
   Unaka defenders did a great job on the long passes knocking down pass after pass. Ryan Peters and Blamo kept the middle clogged up making tackle after tackle. The Rangers held an 18-point lead at the end of three 38-20.
   Greenback lost a great chance to score from the 4-yard line when Isiah White intercepted a pass in the end zone giving Unaka the ball on the 20. From here the Rangers start working the clock. Blamo carries a couple of times up the middle for a first down. From the 44 Ramsey pitches to Thomas as he takes off and looks like Namu ( Worlds fastest athlete) racing up the middle for the touchdown. At 6:51 Unaka has a 44-20 lead.
  The fourth-quarter defense belongs to Jamol putting pressure on the Greenback quarterback forcing incomplete passes. Lawson would take his team down to the goal line where the Ranger defense made a great stand and took over the ball on the one-yard line with 4:45 to play. Ramsey holds on to the ball and runs three straight times taking time off the clock. Ramsey picks up a first down with three minutes to play. After the Cherokees use up all their time-outs, Ramsey takes a knee for the final two minutes. Bennett said ” I’m proud of our seniors, they have put in so much work for the last four years, but I’m also proud of the guys that went before them who believed you will reap what you sow if you give it time and you keep working on it.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox