A pair of Carter County teams who are enduring miserable seasons on the football team clash on Friday night.
Unaka (0-4) plays host to Cloudland (0-3) at Goddard Field in Mountain East Conference action.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” Unaka coach Steve McKinney said. “The two films, they probably won’t do the same type of stuff. So we’re kind of going into it blindfolded, trying to prepare for everything.
“I know Coach Overbay. He’ll probably bring a lot of stuff in that he wants to do, so we’ll be in that situation not knowing what’s going on.”
In losses to Andrews (N.C.), Coalfield and Hancock County, Cloudland has been out-scored 90-16. Those first two road defeats were by a combined margin 76-8.
Unaka opened the season with a touchdown, and has since given up 148 points. That includes shutout losses the past three weeks.
“We had a very good week of practice,” said Cloudland interim coach Jon Overbay, who will call the shots from the sidelines for the first time. “What we try to stress to the kids as a coaching staff is that we will show up on Friday night. If we will play with heart and come together as team, good things will happen.
“Any time you work with football power and play with salt, if you do those things the rest will take care of itself.”
Quarterback Taylor Whitehead returns at quarterback. The Highlanders were off last week, following the resignation the previous weekend of coach Robbie Turbyfill.
“We just hope to be able to play,” McKinney said. “I know they’ve got the injured kids back, so they’ll be excited. They’ve got a new coach, so we’ll just have to prepare for what we think they’re going to do.”
Anthony Lacy is the workhorse out of the backfield. Solid defensive linemen are Asley Haynes and Logan Campbell, while middle linebacker Colby Guinn should be a force if he is back.
“Like we told the kids, if you can’t excited about playing Unaka something is wrong with you,” Overbay said. “They are very-well coached. We have to be disciplined on defense, and on offense we have changed some things and put kids in different positions.
“I think they have responded. Like Unaka, we have had some adversity. I know it will be an interesting matchup, and we are looking forward to it.”
Corey Pierce has been a consistent performer for the Rangers, especially at linebacker and punter when he is not carring the ball at fullback. Sophomore left-hander Michael Nave is still looking to find his groove under center.
Jake Taylor and Andy Guinn have been the primary ball carriers, although the return of injured Mook Wilson would be a huge plus. Tyler Hatfield spearheads the defense.
“I think our seniors are doing a good job of being leaders, keeping the young kids up,” McKinney said. “They’re excited about this week.”
The Cloudland coach stressed being a long-time assistant has been beneficial in the process the past few weeks.
“Of course it is an unusual situation,” Overbay said. “But since I have always been part of the coaching staff, I think the transition has been fairly smooth.”
McKinney isn’t making his team a favorite. He points out no doubt his players are fired up for a shot at that first victory.
“I figured he would change a whole lot coming in,” McKinney said. “We’re preparing for everything. It’s kind of a situation where what they’ve been doing hasn’t been very successful, so they’re going to try to come in with some new types of looks. We’ve just got to be able to adjust on the field.”