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Unaka planning to reverse history with Jellico

BY ALLEN LAMOUNTAIN
STAR CORRESPONDENT
Having dropped the last three contests to the Jellico Blue Devils the Unaka Rangers believe they have closed the gap and hope to secure a 2-0 conference start with a victory on Friday night at Goddard Field.
“They have some good skill position players,” Rangers head coach OBrien Bennett said. “Their quarterback – Joseph Paul – is a big strong football player who can take the top off a defense.
“They like to throw to Jordan King – he is their go-to guy. They have a few other players we will have to contain as well but we can’t overplay one guy.”
Unaka (1-1, 1-0 conference) has a unique opportunity to secure a home playoff game with a win over the Blue Devils as it will give the Rangers a 2-0 conference mark with just Cloudland remaining on the conference slate.
Sophomore quarterback Landon Ramsey will trigger the Rangers offense that features junior RB Daniel Shearl and FB Drew Smith, who Bennett said, “He gets the tough yards. He is a big back and we return five starters on the offensive line so we should be able to open some holes.”
The returnees are seniors Nathaniel Oaks, Jordan Day and Colby Jones along with juniors Logan Taylor and Cody Drew. The Rangers receiving corps is fast and dangerous with junior Devin Ramsey gaining confidence and working well with younger brother Landon.
“We didn’t have the luxury of 7-on-7 this year so we are a little behind in the passing game,” Bennett said. “Daniel Shearl has done a good job carrying the ball and we are looking for others to step up.
“We haven’t beaten Jellico since I have been here, but I think we are closing the gap. They like to throw the bubble screen but if they had their druthers they would just as soon run it on you.”
This will be the second home game for coach Bennett against the Devils who have taken 30-16, 44-34 and 42-24 wins over the last three seasons respectively and in this COVID-19 season, a home game means stands half full.
That doesn’t mean the community isn’t supportive of the team however as Bennett says, “The community has been extremely supportive of the team, helping with donations and other things the team needs.
“They all want these kids to have a full season and we are doing all we can to follow TSSAA guidelines.”
Jellico (0-2) come in having lost 18-8 to Oakdale and 32-30 to McCreary Central (Ky) so they will be looking to continue their winning streak over the Rangers and get a conference win.
The Rangers fell 46-6 to 3A Claiborne County last week but have a 36-14 win over Hancock County that was a road win.
The remaining schedule is daunting for Unaka as they play the next four games on the road. They travel to Happy Valley, Cloudland, Hancock County in a non-conference game and Cosby before finishing at home against Hampton and Sunbright.
The game time for Jellico is 7:30 pm.