For the fifth time in nine games, the Upson-Lee Knights scored over 30 points in a game on Friday night. Unfortunately for the Knights, the No. 9 state ranked Jonesboro Cardinals scored 44 points, including 12 points in the fourth quarter, to come from behind and deflate any hopes the Knights had of an upset victory.
The game came down to two superb athletes in Upson-Lee’s Corey Moss, who finished the game with 261 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and Jonesboro’s soon-to-be Tennessee Volunteer, Cameron Sutton, who finished the game with four touchdowns. Sutton scored on two TD receptions, a kick return for a score, and a rushing touchdown.
“Those two guys put on quite a show,” said Knights head coach Tommy Watson. “They really hurt us in the return game, and on some deep passes. We knew they were a special team offensively. Unfortunately we could not hang on in the fourth quarter. I thought our team played their hearts out. We had the lead on the No. 9 ranked team in the state, at their place on their Senior Night. We just could not stop them late in the fourth quarter, but I’m proud of our team for the war they fought out there.”
The two teams totaled over 700 yards of offense and combined to score 79 points. Needless to say the two defenses struggled Friday night.
Upson-Lee took the lead on their longest drive of the game. Freshman running back K.D. Pennyman capped off a 14-play, 75-yard drive with a 24-yard TD run. Tyler Stewart added the PAT, and the Knights led 7-0 with 4:15 left in the first quarter. Upson-Lee’s first drive of the game took 7:45 off the clock in the in the opening quarter of play.
“That was our game plan and has been our game plan the entire year,” said Knights Offensive Coordinator Gus Condon. “The offensive line has been controlling the line of scrimmage and getting better each week, and we return all of them next season, so the future is bright for the Knights offense.”
The Knights are averaging 25 points per game, which is the most they have averaged per game since 2003 when UL averaged 28 points per game, although that season they were in a region in which five of the teams had losing records.
The Cardinals scored on their first play of the game, as Cameron Sutton got behind the Knights defense and scored on a 65- yard TD catch. The Jonesboro PAT was no good, and the Knights led 7-6 with 4:02 still left in the first quarter.
With 11:11 left in the second quarter, the Knights were able to add to their lead. Tyler Stewart booted a 29-yard FG, giving the Knights a 10-6 lead. The Knights ran 22 plays in the first quarter, compared to the Cardinals’ one play, proving Coach Condon’s philosophy of ball control.
The Knights defense stepped up on the Cardinals next offensive possession, thanks in part to a forced fumble by Upson-Lee freshman defensive lineman David Marshall. The 6’3”, 270-pound freshman has really come into his own over the last few weeks, and should provide the Knights with a big run stopper over the next three years.
The Knights then went on another long scoring drive, but this drive did not end in a touchdown. Instead, the Knights were forced to settle for a Tyler Stewart 26-yard FG, capping off a 13-play, 54yard drive. Stewart’s eighth field goal of the season gave the Knights a 13-6 lead, and all of a sudden the Cardinals’ faithful was very quiet with 4:40 left in the first half.
What would prove to be the downfall of the Knights reared it’s ugly head on the very next play. This time Sutton would score on a 77-yard kick off return for his second TD of the game. The Cardinals’ PAT was good, and the game was tied 13-13 with 4:29 remaining in the half.
The Knights would be forced to punt on their next drive, and the Cardinals took over on the Knights 21-yard line. Jonesboro went to their two-minute offense, spreading out the Knights with the passing game. Jonesboro took the lead on the Knights with a one yard TD run with just six seconds left before half-time. The two teams went into the locker room, as Jonesboro led Upson-Lee 19-13.
The Knights suffered another blow to start the third quarter, as the Cards returned yet another kick off, this one starting the second half, for a score. This time it was Patrick Petty, who returned the Knights’ kick 80 yards for a score. The Jonesboro PAT again was no good, but Jonesboro led the Knights 25-13.
Trailing by 12 points to the No. 9 ranked team in the state, the Knights fought back. It could have been easy for a team to lay down at that point, especially a team which already had their destiny for the rest of 2012 set with no trip to the playoffs looming. However, as has been the case all year, the tough Knights fought back in the third quarter, with Corey Moss scoring on a five-yard TD run, capping off a nine-play, 59-yard drive. Stewart’s PAT was good, and the Knights trailed 25-20 with 8:47 left in the third quarter.
The Knights attempted an on-side kick after cutting the Cards lead, and junior defensive back Thomas Dawson recovered the ball. After the successful trick play, the Knights side line and fans were rejuvenated. The Knights also took advantage of a Jonesboro personal foul penalty. Corey Moss scored on the Knights’ first play of the drive, out running Sutton and Taurean Ferguson, both who have committed to Division I schools. The 28-yard TD run by Moss and Stewart’s PAT gave the Knights a 28-25 lead with 4:54 left in the third quarter.
The Knights held the Cardinals to just seven yards rushing in the first half of the game, but the Cardinals compiled 116 yards rushing in the second half. Their next score came on 28 of those yards, as Jonesboro’s Kenneth Hillman scooted for a rushing touchdown. The Cards PAT was good, and Jonesboro regained the lead 32-28 with just 4 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
On the Knights’ ensuing drive, Corey Moss broke loose up the middle, and out ran everyone, showing his sub 4.5 speed on a 72-yard TD run. Jonesboro’s Sutton was in hot pursuit but couldn’t catch Moss. After Stewart’s PAT, the Knights again had the lead against the No. 9 team in the state, leading 35-32 with 11:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals answered with a four-play, 52-yard drive, capped off by a 31-yard TD catch by Sutton. The Cards PAT was no good, and Jonesboro led the Knights 38-35 with 9:55 to go in the game.
Trailing by three points, the Knights were looking to go on another long scoring drive. Upson-Lee moved the ball all the way down into Jonesboro territory, looking to regain the lead. On a fourth down and inches to go, Upson-Lee went to the quarterback sneak, but the Cards stuffed Moss behind the line forcing the Knights to turn the ball over on downs.
“We had the right play called,” said Condon. “From looking at the tape, it just seems there was a little trouble between the center and quarterback exchange on the snap.”
The Cardinals would run out the clock and score with just over two minutes remaining, sealing Jonesboro’s 44-35 victory.
The Knights will finish off thier 2012 campaign against the Woodland High School Wolfpack in Henry County next Friday night. Look in Friday’s edition of The Times for a game preview.