The Upson-Lee Knights headed into their annual rivalry game with Pike County on Friday night with a 2-2 record, after suffering back to back losses to Northside-Warner Robins and Perry. The Knights were able to get back to .500 with a 6-4 win over Morgan County in the Lamar County Trojan Cup back on Feb. 22, and was looking to get back to having a winning record with a victory over the Pirates.
The Knights accomplished their goal and moved their record to 3-2 on the season with a 6-0 shutout victory over the Pirates. Dylan Marshall scored four goals, while freshmen Michael Newman and Kody Wall also added goals for the Knights in the victory.
“I thought it was our best executed game of the season so far,” said Knights head coach Matt Bentley. “We were able to take aspects of the game we have been working on at practice to the field during a game. We just need to keep improving everyday and working to get better as a team.”
For perhaps the first time in team history, the Knights have two captains, both juniors. Players voted on Junior Jake Sayer and Dylan Marshall to be their team captains for the 2014 season.
Upson-Lee has five seniors on this year’s team, including goal keepers Will Eubanks and Tyler Knight. Wing players Payton Smith and Brady Joiner and defensive back Eric Peaden round out the senior class.
The Knights have four new faces on the varsity squad this season, all four being freshman. Michael Newman transferred to Upson-Lee from Lamar County and has proven early on to be a key player in the Knights’ offensive attack. Kody Wall, Dalton Richmond, and Dalton Duke are also ninth graders on the varsity this season. Coach Bentley stated, “All four of our young guys are contributing already this season which add to the strength to our team and our bench.”
Bentley says that the Knights biggest strength this season is the depth of the 2014 Upson-Lee squad.
“This is definitely the deepest team I have coached here at Upson-Lee,” said Bentley. “I think our depth will really come into play as the season goes along. It’s nice to see quality players on the bench when you look for someone to go into the game. I have the utmost confidence in my bench this season. That’s a huge plus for any coach in any sport.”
With a 3-2 record, the Knights will face off with a future region opponent today. Upson-Lee welcomes the Mary Persons Bulldogs (3-1-1) to Matthews Field tonight for a non-region contest. However, next year the Knights and Bulldogs will both be a part of Region 2, and tonight could be the start of a new rivalry for the Knights and Dawgs.
The Bulldogs suffered their only loss of the season to Northside-Warner Robins by a 3-0 score, the same NSWR team which defeated Upson-Lee by a 4-1 score. Mary Persons played to 4-4 tie with Upson-Lee region foe Spalding. Last season, Mary Persons finished with a 16-3 record, losing to Northwest Whitfield 5-1 in the Elite Eight of the State Playoffs.
According to Coach Bentley, this season the Region consists of many team which could vie for a playoff spot.
“We will have our hands full again this season,” said Bentley. “I expect Spalding, Woodland, Dutchtown, Eagles Landing, and Jonesboro to all be tough games this season.”
Last season the Knights were the No. 3 seed from Region 4, with Spalding winning the Region Championship and Woodland earning the No. 2 seed. Jonesboro was the No. 4 seed from the Region.
The Knights and Bulldogs are slated to start tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Matthews Field, and on Thursday Upson-Lee will start their region play when they play host to the Riverdale Raiders (1-1).
Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.