BY ALLEN LAMOUNTAIN
ELIZABETHTON -- Senior tailback Mason Early rushed for 80 yards on 20 carries and lefty quarterback Tanner O'Laughlin struck for three touchdown passes in a 29-0 thrashing of Unaka at Goddard Field as North Greene remained unbeaten (3-0) on the year.
The Huskies led 3-0 at halftime behind a 34-yard first quarter field goal by Tyler Bailey as both teams had trouble keeping a handle on the ball after a hard, but quick, rain shower just before the opening kickoff.
O'Laughlin shook off a poor first half in which he completed just one-of-eight passes with an interception to finish with five-of-12 pass completions for 127 yards and three second half touchdowns.
"We needed a spark," said Huskies head coach Josh Edens. "Three to nothing wasn't going to get it for either team and the issue was certainly in doubt. That was going to be the spark. If Unaka made a big play it was probably going to be their spark, but we were fortunate enough to come up with one."
The Huskies defense forced five turnovers from Unaka, and after the first half North Greene did not have a turnover, and showed the big play capability they have developed under Edens and the senior leaders, including O'Laughlin.
The Huskies (3-0 overall, 1-0 MEC) stopped Unaka's opening drive of the second half on downs near midfield and took possession on the 45-yard line. From there O'Laughlin spotted Unaka's zone coverage and went deep when the safety was late coming across.
Senior Codie Coleman caught the O'Laughlin bullet for a 55-yard strike that made it a 10-0 game after Bailey's extra point.
"It goes back to turnovers," said Unaka head coach Steve McKinney. "We started to get a drive going and turned it over. They got a quick score on us after that and we aren't the type of offense that can score quickly."
On the next Unaka possession the Rangers fumbled again and Tyler Ricker recovered at the Unaka 22 yard line. Once again on the first play, O'Laughlin rolled to his right and found Coleman in the corner of the end zone for a 16-0 Huskies lead as Bailey missed the PAT.
The Huskies forced four Unaka fumbles and had a first half interception and held the Rangers to just 88 rushing yards and 34 passing yards.
"In the first half Unaka did a great job of shutting us down," Edens said. "Steve (McKinney) and his coaches did a great job and they played their guts out. At halftime I told the guys we had to do something, we had gotten away from who we are.
"I challenged the guys up front to match our five against their five and my guys were up to the challenge, and it allowed O'Laughlin to make some big plays for us."
The Huskies forced a Unaka punt and Austin Anderson - under heavy pressure - shanked a 12-yard kick and North Greene took possession at the Ranger 19 yard line. For the third consecutive possession the Huskies scored on the first play from scrimmage as Early found a crease and ran it in for the score.
Bailey missed the point after and the Huskies had to settle for a 22-0 advantage.
Early in the fourth quarter senior LB David Triantas went down after colliding head to head with Unaka's Eli Rasnick on a punt play and went down in a heap. He needed to be taken off the field on a stretcher and was taken by ambulance to Sycamore Shoals hospital.
"I got a report on him and he is fine," said a relieved Edens. "He got a real bad shoulder stinger, but they told me he had movement in all his extremities and was aware of his surroundings."
In the final five minutes O'Laughlin struck again, after another Unaka fumble, with a 13 yard scoring pass to Zane Britton to render the final tally of the contest.
North Greene 3 0 19 7 -- 29
Unaka 0 0 0 0 -- 0
NG - Tyler Bailey, FG 34, 6:20
NG - Codie Coleman, 55 pass from Tanner O'Laughlin (Bailey kick) 6:02
NG - Coleman, 22 pass from O'Laughlin (kick failed) 5:40
NG - Mason Early, 19 run (kick failed) 4:36
NG - Zane Britton, 13 pass from O'Laughlin (Bailey kick) 5:08
First Downs 13 6
Rushes/Yds. 33-112 37-88
Passing (Att-Com-Int) 13-5-1 15-3-1
Passing Yds. 127 34
Total Offense 239 122
Fumbles/Lost 4-1 3-3
Punt Avg. 5-49.2 7-36.0
Yds. Penalties 10-120 7-80
RUSHING - NG: Early 21-80, O'Laughlin 9-36. UHS: Guinn 8-38, Rasnick 3-0, Hatfield 8-28, Perry 6-8, Crawford 12-14.
PASSING - NG: O'Laughlin 5-12, 127 yds. 3 TD's. 1 int. Bailey 0-1, 0 yds. UHS: Rasnick 2-12, 29 yds. 0 TD's 1 int. Nave 1-3, 5 yds.
RECEIVING - NG: Coleman 3-106, Early 1-8, Z. Britton 1-13. UHS: Carrier 2-26, Hill 1-8.