After a week off, the Upson-Lee Knights will strap on the armor again tonight at Matthews Field, in front of many who have walked the halls of Upson-Lee before them. The Knights will take on the Spalding Jaguars for the first time since 2005, when they defeated the Jags by a 34-14 score. That game was a non-region contest, but this game holds much more importance, and not just because it’s Homecoming.
This is game is between two sub-region teams, with both vying for a top 4 seed in the sub-region, making the week 10 crossover game meaningful with a chance to advance to the State Playoffs. The Knights started the season with two losses, but have won their last two games, scoring a combined 73 points in their last eight quarters of play. The Jags, on the other hand, are coming off of two losses in a row, although they nearly squeaked out an upset victory over Dutchtown last Thursday in a 24-21 defeat.
“It’s an exciting time to be an Upson-Lee Knight,” said UL head coach Tommy Watson. “It’s Homecoming Week, and a lot is going on around the school. The students are excited, and the players are excited, but with all of the excitement can come distractions. I feel as a team that we have grown since the beginning of the year, and I believe that the maturity and senior leadership of this team will keep our team focused on the task at hand. The guys have one thing in mind, and that is the Spalding Jaguars. We are all excited about Homecoming, but we will save our celebration until after the game.”
The sub-region showdown will take place between two teams who are drastically different statistically. The Jags’ defense has been one of the best in the sub-region, giving up an average of only 11 points per game, placing them in the top 10 in all of AAAA. The Jags also have a tie on their record, allowing only three points to Lamar County in their season opener, with the game ending in a 3-3 tie. There in part lies what may be the weakness of the Jags team. The Jags lead the sub-region in defense, but they also are dead last in points scored per game, averaging only 13 points per game. The Jags scored a season high 21 points in a loss against Dutchtown last week.
“They have a really good defense”, said Watson. “They have three or four really good players on that side of the ball, and they all play hard, run to the football, and tackle well. They have an outside linebacker in #50 (Jevaris Jordan), who is about as good as anybody we have seen this year at that position. Offensively, they will show multiple looks, but their go to guy is their running back #14 (Brandon Thomas).”
Defensively, the Jaguars run a 3-3-5 scheme, playing cover three and quarters coverages in the secondary. On offense Spalding likes to run the Wing-T, and when they need to open up their play book, they can go three or four receivers wide in a spread formation.
On the Knights side of the ball statistically, Upson-Lee is averaging 28 points per game, scoring at least 30 points in three of their four games. However, the Knights are giving up the most points per game of any team in the sub-region, allowing an average of 25 points per game. So this statistically should be a battle between one of the better defenses and one of the better offenses in the sub-region.
Unfortunately, the Knights missed practice on Monday due to a tornado watch, but according to Watson, the Knights can’t let that effect the way they play tonight.
“We were forced to call Monday’s practice because of the weather,” said Watson. “Mother Nature had her own ideas, so that put us back a day. We had a bye week last week, so that helps a little, but we just had to make up for it in the other days we had to practice.”
Kick-off for tonight’s Homecoming game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Come out to Matthews Field to watch the Knights and Jaguars battle for a victory which could possibly have playoff implications for later in the season.