The loss spoiled the Rangers' first home game of the season at the newly renovated Goddard Field. It also overshadowed a big night from Unaka quarterback John Ramsey, who went 13 of 20 for 295 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown.
Devon Jarrett was his preferred target with eight catches for 221 yards and touchdown receptions of 62 and 38 yards.
"Devon and I come in on the weekends and we put in the work," Ramsey said. "We're going to do the same tomorrow, regardless of how sore we are. We're going to talk about routes, about throws, when he's going to snap it, when he's not."
The Blue Devils improved to 1-3 overall, 1-0 in the region, while the Rangers fell to 0-1, 1-3.
Unaka got an early 12-6 lead on the pair of touchdown throws from Ramsey to Jarrett. After Jellico stormed back to take a 20-12 lead, the Rangers tied it with a nine-play drive, highlighted by a 66-yard play from Ramsey to Jarrett. Ramsey ran it in one yard for the touchdown and Logan Benway rushed across for a tying two-point conversion.
However, Jellico scored on the last drive of the half. Blue Devils quarterback Noah Smith hit Ethan Davenport on a 39-yard pass play. He then connected with Andrew Buttram on a 10-yard touchdown throw with just two seconds left in the half for a 26-20 lead.
Albertini scored on a 22-yard touchdown run on the opening possession of the second half. Unaka responded with a 10-yard Benway touchdown run, only to see Albertini bobble the ensuing kickoff before turning it into the 78-yard touchdown return.
"That was a momentum killer," Unaka coach O'Brien Bennett said about the kickoff return. "We had a good plan coming into the second half as far as adjustments go, and the kickoff return, it kind of took the wind out of our sails. Momentum is such a big part of it, particularly when we're trying to learn how to win ball games."
Smith finished off a night with two rushing and two passing touchdowns with a 5-yard run for a 44-26 Jellico lead. Unaka's Nick Bowers came back with a 58-yard kickoff return and Ramsey hit Benway on a 4-yard TD pass three plays later for Unaka's final touchdown.
"We can't fault the effort. The execution just wasn't there tonight," Bennett said. "We missed way too many tackles, too many missed assignments. We're not where we can win games if we miss opportunities. Where we are, we have to have the execution and have the mentality even if something doesn't go our way, we're going to bounce back the next play. The attitude and effort is there. We just need the execution there and we still have a lot of work to do."