Last week both the Upson-Lee Knights and the Eagles Landing Golden Eagles had their troubles getting in the end zone. Upson-Lee’s lone score in a 15-8 loss to the No. 4 state ranked Stockbridge Tigers came on an 84-yard fumble return for a touchdown, while Eagles Landing scored only one touchdown in a 28-7 loss to the Lamar County Trojans.
This week both teams will be looking to put more points on the board, and fans can expect to possibly see another shootout like the game last season, in which Upson-Lee escaped McDonough with a 31-29 victory.
“They definitely have the ability to score points in bunches,” said Knights head coach Tommy Watson. “They have some of the best skill players in the region. They have a quarterback who can throw or run the ball well, two running backs who hit the holes quickly, and a wide out and tight end that can go up and get the ball in traffic. Their skill players can play for any team in the state. Defensively we will have our hands full, but I think our guys are up for the challenge.”
While the Knights were holding on to a 28-21 victory over Pike County in week one of the season, the Golden Eagles were putting up 41 points on the Mustangs from Ola High School in a 41-10 victory. The Knights and the Eagles have already seen each other in action this season in some capacity. The two teams squared off in a 7 vs. 7 passing game at the Middle Georgia Passing Invitational over the summer. The two teams played a close game, with Eagles Landing squeaking out a one score victory. The two teams also had a few extra curricular skirmishes in the game, with the two teams jawing back and forth. This is something which Eagles Landing did in the game last season as well.
“We have to control ourselves after the whistle is blown,” said Watson. “We can’t be baited into anything that can cost us a penalty. That’s something we haven’t been able to do over the first two weeks. Players got worked up in the big rival game against Pike County and then in a tight game with Stockbridge we let our emotions get the best of us on a play which cost us a chance at a defensive stop. I want the guys to play with intensity and emotion, but we have to be smarter.”
Offensively the Golden Eagles run the spread offense, at times having both of their running backs in the backfield at the same time. They also like to get in “Trips” formation and throw screen passes to their speedy receivers. Last season quarterback Bradley Dewberry threw for over 2,000 yards and rushed for another 570 yards on the ground. Senior running back Corey Holloway returns after rushing for 1,320 yards in his junior season. Holloway trailed only Upson-Lee’s Corey Moss (1,501 yards rushing) a season ago in the region rushing standings. The Golden Eagles also welcome transfer Sedrick Palmer from Henry County High School. The 5’10, 210 pound senior has shown reckless abandon for his body, both offensively and defensively. Palmer goes both ways, leading the Golden Eagles in tackles so far this season from his middle line backer position.
Palmer has received attention from schools such as Mississippi State, Tennessee, Georgia State, and is being heavily recruited by Michigan State. Holloway has an offer from Syracuse, while Dewberry and tight end Tyler Guice have drawn the attention of Georgia State. Dewberry is also being recruited by Indiana.
If the two running backs were not enough fire power, Dewberry also has weapons on the perimeter. Senior wide out Warren Wright led the Golden Eagles with 870 yards receiving in 2012. The 6’3, 180 pound senior has shown a great ability to go up and get the ball in traffic. Eagles Landing also utilizes their 6’4, 210 pound tight end Tyler Guice.
Defensively the Golden Eagles play an eight-man front in the box and cover three in the secondary. Defense has not been a strong point for Eagles Landing in the past, as last season they allowed the most points in the region. Upson-Lee scored 31 points on the Golden Eagles in 2012. The Golden Eagles have several players which play both ways, including running backs and their quarterback. Dewberry plays free safety on defense, while another key player for Eagles Landing defensively is 6’4 230 pound defensive end Geno Fabrizio.
The Knights will look to get their running game going this week after tough sledding running the ball last week. UL only rushed collectively for 10 yards on 17 carries against Stockbridge last week.
“We need to establish the run game,” said Watson. “If we can run the football, we can control the clock and help set up our play action passing game. We’ve made some adjustments this week in practice, and we will see Friday night if they have made a difference. We will not see many defensive fronts like we saw last week. Sometimes playing a defense that good helps our offense down the road.”
Last week it was freshman quarterback Kalen Puckett who led the Knights in rushing with 14 yards on 10 carries. Sophomore Kenderius Pennyman and senior Sontrell Perry were each held to negative yardage last week against Stockbridge. Last season Pennyman had a career high 176 yards rushing and a TD on 31 carries against Eagles Landing. Hopefully for the Knights, history can repeat itself and UL will get back on track tonight.
Kick off for tonight’s game is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Matthews Field.