The time has finally come for the Upson-Lee Knights football team and their new head coach Tommy Parks. All of the work in the spring, the hot days of practice during summer camp, the time spent watching film, and the time spent practicing after school, has all pointed to 7:30 p.m. tonight in Zebulon.
The Upson-Lee Knights will make their season debut as they travel to face the Pike County Pirates. Last week Upson-Lee was not in action, as they had a bye in week one. Meanwhile, this time last week Pike County was getting dominated by Lamar County in their season opener by a 44-16 score.
Even though the game between Lamar County and Pike County was essentially over at halftime with the Trojans leading 44-0, do not expect that same Pirates team to show up tonight to face Upson-Lee. Last week Pike County virtually gave Lamar County three touchdowns with blunders on special teams. The Pirates had five turnovers in the first half last week and one first down.
The Upson-Lee coaching staff, along with many players were on hand to see the game, but that should not give them any reason to think that they should waltz through the Pirates tonight. In the last two years, the Pirates defeated Upson-Lee 40-39 in double overtime two years ago, and nearly came from behind to beat Upson-Lee at home last season, although the Knights were able to hold on for a 28-21 victory.
In that game, Sontrell Perry rushed for over 200 yards and two rushing touchdown, along with returning a kick for a touchdown. However, Perry graduated last season, and tonight Upson-Lee will need others to step up to take down the Pirates.
Expect Pike County to get a heavy dose of Kenderius Pennyman (6’1, 205) and the Knights’ running attack. The running game was something that Pike County seemed to have trouble with last week against Lamar County. The Knights can also lean on their wide receiving corps, which has some nice size targets with Kaleb Allen (6’2”, 195), Keanan Hutchins (6’1, 185), and O’qualon Harris (6’1, 175).
One advantage that Pike County may have will be with their current coaching staff. Not that their coaches are any better than Upson-Lee’s, but the fact that there are two coaches on the Pirates’ staff who coached at Upson-Lee last season and may be able to offer the Pirates any familiarity or tendencies they think they know about Upson-Lee players. Former Upson-Lee head coach, defensive line coach, and athletic director Eddie Payne, now coaches on the defensive side of the ball for the Pirates, along with Jef Murchison, who coached at ULMS last season and coached the ULHS Knights defensive line two years ago.
Offensively, Pike County will have to try and contain the Knights’ defensive front. Defensive linemen David Marshall (6’4, 260), and Adric Johnson (6’1, 250) will definitely be on the Pirates radar. Last season Marshall led the Knights in sacks, while Johnson led the Knights in fumble recoveries.
The Knights can expect to see Pike County in a few different formation offensively. The Pirates have shown to run their offense out of the “pistol” formation and the I-formation. Defensively Pike County has played a 3-5-3 on defense, something they may take a look at changing, knowing the Knights will surely try and pound them with inside and outside zone rushing plays.
This will be the third contest between the two teams, with each team winning one game. Tonight, Upson-Lee will try and break the tie and take a series lead in a match-up that will hopefully become a rivalry for years to come. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. tonight in Zebulon.