BY WAYNE PHILLIPS
Senior Nic Alexander scored three times, senior Bryce Malone rushed for 171 yds. and two more scores, and the Chuckey-Doak Black Knights made new Coach Aaron Christian's debut a success with a 33-12 victory over Unaka Friday night at the Knights' home field.
The Black Knights, enjoying a sparkling new field house and a clean place to dress for a game for the first time in decades, broke the game open by recovering two consecutive Unaka fumbles on kickoffs in the third quarter to put two quick touchdowns on the board and break away from a slender 13-6 halftime edge.
Chuckey-Doak won despite piling up a whopping 19 penalties for 206 yds. But Unaka couldn't take advantage of the mistakes because they made plenty of their own, not the least of which was six turnovers with four pass interceptions and two lost fumbles.
The Knights turned the flow of the game in the first two minutes of the second half. The kickoff to the Rangers was fumbled and recovered by Hunter Cobble, and on first down Malone took a sweep around end for 19 yds. and a touchdown. The PAT failed on a fumbled snap from center.
Chuckey-Doak kicked again, and Unaka promptly fumbled again, this time with sophomore Dillon Brown falling on the loose ball at the Unaka 27. Malone ran for 19 yds. to the 8, and Alexander bolted across the goal line from there. Collin Crews kicked the PAT.
Suddenly a 13-6 first half advantage had turned into a 26-6 lead, and the Knights were on their way to victory.
The game didn't start well for the home team. On their first play from scrimmage, the Knights lost a fumble with Dylan Greene recovering for the Rangers at the C-D 42.
But the drive went nowhere and Unaka's punt rolled dead at the C-D 24.
Malone took the handoff from junior quarterback Kris Hinkle and darted up the middle before turning it to the outside and taking off on a 76-yd. touchdown run. It was a big game for Malone, who was a questionable starter just a week ago after undergoing a knee injury during a scrimmage.
Several Knights came up big on defense, but none shone brighter than junior Rodney Greene, who intercepted two passes. He actually had picked another, but the play was nullified due to a penalty.
Chuckey-Doak was especially hard on Unaka runners, holding the visitors to only 35 yds. on the ground, and much of that came in the final period.
Greene's first pick off Unaka quarterback Eli Rasnick came in the first period and set up another C-D touchdown. Starting at the 29, C-D got a 19-yd. run from Nick Sandstrom down to the 5, and three plays later Alexander scored his first TD on a 2-yd. blast. The PAT failed but C-D was up 13-0.
The hosts lost another opportunity to score early in the second period when they drove down to the 18 before the drive stalled. After an exchange of punts, Unaka got a brief drive going after quarterback Michael Nave hit Austin Anderson on a 38-yd. pass. But Chuckey-Doak's Trandon Ottinger stopped the threat with a pass interception at the C-D 22.
Unaka squandered a golden chance to score after a punt attempt by the Knights broke down on a fumble on the snap from center, and O'Bryan Cox was left running for his life. Unaka took over at the C-D 18, but an interception in the end zone by Greene again stopped Unaka.
Chuckey-Doak made another turnover just before halftime when quarterback Hinkle lost the handle after being sacked by Brett Crawford, with Crawford recovering at the 14. This time the Rangers converted when Nave hit Anderson on a 14-yd. TD pass. The PAT attempt failed, but the teams went to the half with C-D up 13-6.
The two fumbles on kickoff returns gave the Knights some breathing room, and it was a good thing as the refs' laundry littered the field constantly in the third quarter. Nine of those flags were against C-D.
Unaka scored with 4:16 left in the third when Nave again found Anderson on a 30-yd. strike across the middle. The conversion pass failed as the Rangers chopped the lead to 26-12.
Chuckey-Doak responded with their best drive of the night, a 67-yarder in 13 plays. Only one pass was used, a 21-yd. strike from Hinkle to Josh Lamb.
The score came on a 1-yd. plunge by Alexander with 8:53 left in the fourth to build the lead to 33-12, after the PAT by Crews.
Chuckey-Doak used second stringers much of the rest of the game after Dillon Brown intercepted a pass near the C-D 20 and ran it all the way back to the Unaka 11.
The Knights finished with 277 yds. of offense, 256 yds. on the ground. Unaka had 145 yds. of offense, 110 of those yards through the air.
Chuckey-Doak plays at Unicoi County next Friday.