Unaka senior Nick Bowers will be that and much more for the Rangers’ football team this fall as they try to improve on a 3-8 2018 campaign.
“We can take a lot of experience from last year and build on it going into this year,” Bowers said. “We had a lot of young kids play last year, playing big minutes.”
Bowers will be a head-hunter on a defense that will be one of the strong suits for the team. And even though he plays a key role on offense as well — racking up over 900 total yards at multiple positions last season — Bowers says defense is where he most likes to play.
“I just like the physicality of it and I want to be the one to help the team making some big stops this year,” he said. “Our goal-line stop at the end of the game last year against North Greene was awesome. It sealed the game and we started the year with a win.”
Rangers head coach O’Brien Bennett knows exactly what type of player he has in Bowers and he’s grateful to have him in a leadership role.
“He’s a very intelligent young man. He watches film and understands our opponents tendencies,” Bennett said. “He understands what everyone is supposed to do. He gets us lined up correctly. It’s rare to have a guy like that, but he studies hard enough and pays attention enough to know what’s coming on the next play.
“On any given Friday night, he could line up at running back, wide receiver or quarterback. He’s big and strong enough to do anything you ask of him, but he’s also athletic and fast to play any position.”
Leadership from the upperclassmen is huge for any team success. Unaka has just five seniors this season. The Rangers haven’t won a region game since 2016.
“Being in a leadership role means everything,” Bowers said. “This is the stuff you dream about — growing up with your friends and playing high school football together. Hopefully, I can leave an impact on these younger kids and they can continue to build.”
“(Nick) is fun guy to be around and with his leadership, he makes everything interesting,” Bennett said. “He keeps it fun and sometimes as coaches we forget to have fun. Nick always comes out there and has fun along with competing.”
They have key home games this year against Hancock County and fellow Carter County rival Cloudland. Other notable games include non-region opponents Happy Valley at home and at Hampton.
“Having a guy on the field that is fun, intelligent and like a coach on the field who can also lead is important,” Bennett concluded. “I told him that he’s a leader no matter what he thinks because people follow him for better or worse.”
The Rangers open up the season on the road at North Greene on Aug. 23. The first home game will be against Cosby on Aug. 30.