On paper, the Upson-Lee Knights and Stockbridge Tigers look like they are two teams headed in the opposite directions. The Knights are coming off three straight losses after a tough 15-3 defeat by the Jonesboro Cardinals last week. On the other hand, the Stockbridge Tigers have won four games in a row since their lone defeat of the season in a 35-14 loss to Griffin. Over the last four games, Sotckbridge is scoring just over 35 points per game, while allowing just 10 points per game. Last week they shutout Locust Grove by a 34-0 score.
With that said, the Tigers are not necessarily scoring at will on offense. In last week’s victory they scored three defensive touchdowns off of interceptions, and they had another interception return to the Locust Grove 1 yard line. The Knights enter the game with a 4-5 record, while the No. 8 state ranked Tigers sit at 8-1. However, none of that matters now. Nothing done so far in the 2013 season matters anymore. Win this game, and advance to the State Playoffs. Lose this game, and it’s basketball season.
“It’s a new season,” said UL head coach Tommy Watson. “We have had a couple of rough games in a row where we did not execute like we wanted, but all of that doesn’t matter now. We are 0-0, and they are 0-0. I feel like we have had some good practices and the kids are fired up about playing Friday night. According to rankings and records, or what have you, we are probably the underdogs, but our guys feel like they will win Friday night, and they have practiced that way all week.”
The Knights and Tigers squared off back in week 2, when the Knights traveled to “The Jungle,” as called by the Tiger’s “enthusiastic” PA announcer. In that game the Knights were held to just 68 yards of total offense, and only 10 yards rushing. However, it was a touchdown run with just over a minute left in the game which gave Stockbridge the 15-8 victory. The 15 points allowed by Upson-Lee, is the fewest points scored in a game this season for Stockbridge.
Even though the Tigers are 8-1 and ranked No. 8 in the state by the AJC, some think that the Knights match-up much better with the Tigers than any other team they could have played from the other side of the region in the crossover game. Stockbridge is a run heavy oriented team, running the triple-option. The Knights have had their problems defending the pass this season, allowing nearly 17 yards per catch, while opponents are completing passes at a 55 percent clip. However, the Knights defensive line led by seniors Chris Price, Chris Duncan, junior Adric Johnson, and sensational sophomore David Marshall, have limited the opposition to just over 3.5 yards per carry this season.
As far as the Tigers are concerned, the Knights may look different from what they saw in week two, while the Knights are expecting a little different Tiger team this time around. In week two, UL’s leading rusher Sontrell Perry had just 1 carry for -1 yards. This week, Perry enters the game needing just 23 yards rushing for a 1,000 yard season.
The Tigers defense will look much the same as the Knights saw in week two, with the exception of their middle linebacker Cameron Gordon. The senior is out for the season with an injury. The injury bug has also bitten the Tigers offense, even though the Tigers have scored at least 33 points over the last four games. When the Knights and Tigers played the first time, UL faced a sophomore quarterback and a junior wide receiver who connected on a 50-yard touchdown pass. However, tonight the wide receiver (#17 Devontae Hamilton) and quarterback (#3 Malachi Brown) will be on the sidelines in street clothes with season ending injuries. Stockbridge has moved senior defensive back (#2) Javon Brandon to quarterback. Brandon also still plays a lot at his safety position defensively. Reportedly the Tigers starting quarterback, a wing back, two tackles, and wide receiver are out for tonight’s game. However, Watson says that they are still a very dangerous team.
“They haven’t changed what they do one bit,” said Watson. “They have a running back that has been out for the last three weeks, but we expect to see him Friday night. They have a lot of injuries, but they are still beating teams pretty easily. They just have a ton of athletes over there, and they aren’t skipping a beat.”
The Tigers play a 4-3 defense up front, with multiple coverages in the secondary. AJC Super 11 player Kendarious Webster has played both the corner and safety positions of late. On Tuesday Webster committed to Ole Miss over Georgia and Florida State. The Tigers’ big defensive front, which allowed only 10 yards rushing to the Knights in week two, is also still intact.
Offensively the Tigers run the triple-option led by fullback Malik Bryan and wing back Maetron Thomas. Tonight’s game will be a battle of which team can impose their will. The Tigers want to run the ball and the Knights like to play the run.
With a win tonight, the Knights will advance to the State Playoffs and face Veterans High School in the first round. Kickoff for tonight’s battle to reach the playoffs starts at 7:30 p.m. at Stockbridge High School.