The term “must win” is often used even when unnecessary. Friday night for head coach Tommy Watson and his Knights did not classify as a “must win” game, but it sure was one the Knights needed to get things on track in 2012.
Upson-Lee faced off with the Golden Eagles from Eagles Landing, another team looking for their first win of 2012. The Knights used a balance attack on the ground and through the air to keep the Golden Eagles defense in limbo, and keeping the Eagles’ high powered offense on the side lines. Freshman running back Kenderius “K.D.” Pennyman and senior quarterback Corey Moss each rushed for over 100 yards, as the Knights held off a late rally from Eagles Landing, earning the 31-29 victory.
“It was definitely good to get the victory,” said Watson. “I felt like we played well for three quarters, except for a couple of plays here and there. They have a very good offense, and for the most part, we played pretty well defensively against them. I felt like we lost the game defensively in the fourth quarter, and finishing the game is something we take pride in. That’s something we have to work on.”
The Knights came out of the gate throwing the football, and running the ball up the middle with Pennyman. Quarterback Corey Moss completed passes to C.J. Kirschmann and Toby Fuentes, with Pennyman capping off the opening 10-play 65-yard drive with a six-yard TD run.
With a 7-0 lead, the Eagles and their vaunted offensive attack took to the field. The Golden Eagles entered the game as the top scoring team in their sub-region. On their third play of the game, EL running back Corey Holloway scooted for a 66-yard TD run, breaking three tackles along the way. The extra point tied the game, 7-7.
The Knights had more scoring opportunities early in the game. As the second quarter started the Knights’ Tyler Stewart attempted what would have been a school record long 47-yard field goal, but Stewart’s attempt was no good, and the score remained tied. Stewart had a tough night early on, missing three field goals in the first half, but the junior made a key field goal in the second half, which proved essential in the Knights’ 31-29 victory.
The Golden Eagles took control of the game, using their size on the perimeter. The Golden Eagles completed passes of 17 yards, 21 yards, and eventually a 30-yard TD pass to take the lead. The Eagles PAT was no good, and EL led UL 13-7 with just over a minute in the half.
In a turning point in the game, the Golden Eagles tried for an onside kick, but the Knights recovered at mid-field, a move that would cost Eagles Landing late in the half.
With just 1:06 left before halftime, the Knight mounted a drive behind the legs and the arm of Moss. The senior completed passes to Kirschmann and Fuentes on the drive, including a 9-yard TD pass to Fuentes to tie the game up. Stewart’s PAT was good, and the Knights led 14-13 at halftime.
In the second half of the game, the Knights defense stepped up to hold the Golden Eagles scoreless in the third quarter. The Knights defense forced the Eagles to punt deep in their territory, and sophomore linebacker Joey Choy blocked the punt, giving the Knights the ball at the EL-15 yard line.
The Knights were forced into trying yet another field goal,and this time Stewart came through in the clutch, giving the Knights a 17-13 lead with a 35-yard field goal.
“I felt like we had a better game plan offensively,” said Watson. “We have seven new starters on offense, and we are starting to add more of our playbook for them. They are catching on, but we missed out on some opportunities to put points on the board when we had chances.”
As the fourth quarter started, a 64-yard scamper from Moss gave the Knights a 24-13 lead. Moss took off out of the pocket after a pass rush, making two players miss and out running everyone in the Golden Eagles secondary for the TD run.
The Golden Eagles offense went to work trailing 24-13, and senior tight end Bill Teknipp capped off a six-play, 64-yard drive with a six-yard TD catch. Eagle’s Landing also scored on a two-point PAT and trailed Upson-Lee by three, 24-21.
The Knights’ K.D. Pennyman took over on the next drive, finishing the game with 30 carries for 176 yards and a touchdown.
“He is really starting to come into his own,” said Watson. “As a freshman he has had a lot to learn, but he is getting more comfortable, and we are getting more comfortable giving him more carries. He isn’t the fastest player on the team, but he runs low, hard, and is a load to tackle. That’s what makes him a good running back.”
Pennyman was a big part of the Knights’ 12-play, 65-yard drive, which was capped off by a 1-yard Moss TD run. Stewart’s PAT was good, and the Knights led 31-21.
Eagles Landing gave the Knights their best shot, and added another touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but their on-side kick went out of bounds. The Knights got the ball with the clock winding down. Moss took the snap and a knee three times, and the Knights headed home with a 31-29 victory.