The tide may have turned for the Upson-Lee Knights on Friday night. Hosting the Spalding Jaguars on for Homecoming, the Knights posted 31 points on one of the top 10 defenses in all of AAAA.
Heading into Friday night’s game, the Jags were only allowing 11 points per game as a defense, but with nearly 400 yards of total offense, the Knights easily cruised to a 31-10 sub-region victory, and moved their record to 3-2 with a third victory in a row.
“This was a huge victory for us,” said Knights head coach Tommy Watson. “We knew coming into the game that they had a good defense and a lot of athletes on that side of the ball. I though our offensive line came off the ball well, and our running backs ran tough. Corey got loose some, and our freshman runningback (K.D. Pennyman) was a load to bring down tonight. It was just a good game overall for us offensively. We are 1-0 in the sub-region and that is the most important thing we accomplished tonight.”
To open the game, the Jags came out in some odd formations, flanking out four receivers wide to the same side and switching quarterbacks on each play. The Knights were able to keep the Jags out of the end zone on their first drive of the game, but the Jags did take an early 3-0 lead with a 34-yard field goal.
The Knights came out in their first possession of the game, which ended with a 65-yard TD run from senior quarterback Moss. The Knight’s leading rusher made two Jags miss tackles and took off down the west sideline, going untouched into the end zone. Stewart’s PAT was good, and the Knight led 7-3 with 3:13 remaining in the first quarter.
The Knights defense played well in perhaps their best game defensively all season. Upson-Lee gave up only 146 yards of total offense, but even more impressive was the fact they only gave up 17 yards of total offense in the second half of the game.
“We got after it defensively tonight,” said Watson. “We were able to force three turnovers, and kept their running attack in check. That’s the type of defensive effort we need to give night in and night out.”
In the second quarter, the Knights suffered their only turnover of the game, which led to the Jags’ only touchdown of the game. Following a TD-saving interception by Toby Fuentes at the two-yard line, the Knights took over deep in their own territory. Scrambling to his right, looking for C. J. Kirschmann, Moss threw a pass near the side line, which was tipped twice before falling into the hands of a Jags’ defensive back just before he went out of bounds.
Spalding took over on the Knights’ 10-yard line, and four plays later scored on a one yard run on fourth and goal. The Jags PAT was good, and with 7:22 left in the second quarter, the Jags took the lead 10-7.
The Knights next offensive possession was perhaps one of the best drives of the season. Spalding got a heavy dose of the Moss and Pennyman duo on a 15-play, 80-yard drive,which ended in a one yard TD run by Pennyman. Stewart’s PAT was good, and with 1:35 left in the first half, the Knights led 14-10.
After Lauren Harrell was named the 2012 Upson-Lee Homecoming Queen during the halftime festivities, the Knights and Jags took to the field for the second half, which was dominated by Upson-Lee offensively and defensively. Spalding’s offense only had the opportunity for 10 plays in the last two quarters of the game.
The Knights added their third TD late in the third quarter. Moss scored on an eight-yard run, capping off an 11-play, 91- yard drive. A key play in the drive was a 62-yard pass to senior tight end =Kirschmann, who rumbled down deep into Spalding territory. Stewart’s PAT was once again good, and the Knights led 21-10 with 3:06 left in the third quarter.
The Knights defense continued to stifle the Jaguars, causing more turnovers, including fumble recoveries from Justin Shaw and Shamare Bailey.
Leading 21-10 as the fourth quarter began, it was Moss again who wowed the packed out stands on the home side of Matthews Field. After nearly being brought down for a minimal gain, Moss kept his balance, broke a tackle and out ran defensive backs to the end zone for a 27-yard TD run.
“That was just an unbelievable effort,” said Watson. “It’s plays like that which really get our team going. The players were celebrating, the coaches were celebrating, and the fans were going crazy. It was a great atmosphere. I want to thank the fans for coming out. That was a great crowd, and that is the way it should be every Friday night in this town, a town which only has one high school. The crowd was great tonight, and I hope they continue to come out and support their local high school football team.”
With a 28-10 lead, the Knights added three more points on the board from Tyler Stewart’s 19-yard field goal. Stewart’s field goal was the 11th of his career, adding to his school record for field goals made in a career.
With a 31-10 lead, the Knights were able to get players in the game who sometimes do not see much action other than practice. Players smiled from ear to ear seeing their teammates such a Trey Lewis getting to play in a varsity game, and Lewis did not disappoint, rushing for five yards on his only carry of the game.
The Knights will have a chance to secure a spot in the Region 4 play-in games in week 10 with a victory over North Clayton on Friday night. The Knights will host the Eagles at Matthews Field and kick-off for the all important game is slated for 7:30 p.m.