Wes McCard Sports Editor
November 1, 2013
If the 2013 Senior Night game isn’t enough incentive for Upson-Lee to come out and play well against the Jonesboro Cardinals tonight, perhaps the fact that with a victory they may be playing at home next week for a chance to go to the State Playoffs will be.
If scenarios play out the way many are projecting, then with a victory tonight, Upson-Lee should be facing Locust Grove at Matthews Field next Friday night for a chance to play in the State Playoffs. If the Knights lose their third game in a row, they will be the No. 4 seed and almost certainly travel to face the No. 8 state ranked Stockbridge Tigers next Friday night. Stockbridge defeated Upson-Lee by a 15-8 score in week 2, limiting the Knights to negative yards rushing.
“Make no mistake about it,” said Knights head coach Tommy Watson. “The guys know how important this game is, and they do not want to let their senior players and this community down. We have had a very good week of practice. After a tough loss last week, the guys could have come out with their heads down and not wanting to work, but they have answered the bell and continued to get better this week at practice.”
Last season Upson-Lee and Jonesboro competed in an offensive shootout which saw the Cardinals defeating Upson-Lee by a 44-35 score. UL’s Corey Moss rushed for a career high 265 yards in the game, scoring four touchdowns. The Cardinals were one of the highest scoring teams in the state a season ago, with current Division I players Taurean Ferguson (Vanderbilt) and Cameron Sutton (Tennessee) scoring on offense, defense, and special teams.
However, the 2013 version of the Cardinals and Knights both look very different from their squads a season ago. This year the Knights have a much more balanced attack and are utilizing their wide receivers and tight ends more in the passing game, while senior running back Sontrell Perry has had a great year carrying the ball with 888 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns.
Jonesboro lost perhaps the most seniors of anyone in the region last year. The Cardinals have revamped their wide receivers corps and secondary. Senior Mario Atkinson (#7) is the spark plug for the Cardinals offense, playing quarterback and flanking out to wide receiver. When Atkinson moves to wide receiver, the Cardinals bring in sophomore QB Zerrick Cooper (#11). According to coaches, Atkinson is more of the running threat and passing intermediate routes, while Cooper is the gunslinger, many times taking shots down the field for Atkinson. The Cardinals run a mixture of the spread offense, and they also run out of the “I” formation quite a bit.
Defensively the Cardinals play a 4-3 scheme up front, and several different coverages in the secondary. The Cardinals boast a huge defensive line, led by two sophomores (#54 Kali James 5’10”, 275 and #52 Kannon Banks 6’, 265). The Cardinals leader defensively is senior Isaiah Seise (#8), who leads the team in tackles. Seise (6’2, 210) also play tight end on offense.
The Knights have a few players that have a chance to etch their names in the UL history books. Toby Fuentes has 301 yards receiving this season and 573 yards receiving in his career, both good for top 10 in UL history. Upson-Lee Sontrell Perry has 888 yards rushing this season, and need just 112 yards rushing for a 1,000 yard season, while senior kicker Tyler Stewart has 64 career PAT field goals, just four away from tying the UL career record of 68 set by Jack Sisterson from 2000-2002.
The Knights and the Cardinals will square off with a possible No. 2 seed on the line at Matthews Field. Kick off is slated for 7:30 p.m. with Senior Night festivities to start prior.