No more waiting for the Upson-Lee Knights.
After watching over half the high school football teams in the state kick off their season a week ago, the Knights finally get to join them in the action as they travel to Peachtree City this Friday night to face the McIntosh Chiefs in the season opener.
And Upson-Lee head coach Mike Major's team couldn't be more ready.
"I know the guys are ready for this one," Coach Majors said. "We've been practicing for a while now and they are ready to line up across for somebody in a game that counts."
But just because the team is ready doesn't mean everything is in place for the 2003 Knights just yet.
Last year the Knights had an experienced offensive line that included five seniors and a junior to anchor the Knights' running attack. Not this year. The Knights are going to have to depend on one returning starter, center Robby Kelly, and five fresh faces to open holes for one of the most potent running attacks in the state.
"We still have question marks hanging over us," Coach Majors said Tuesday afternoon. "Our offensive line is the biggest of our focuses right now. We are having to replace five starters off of last year's line, and these guys just aren't where we want them to be yet. They are working hard and trying, they just aren't there yet."
The offensive line isn't the only position concerning Coach Majors' and his staff going into Friday night's game. The defensive secondary is young with the two starting safeties both being sophomores.
"Our secondary is young and inexperienced when it comes to games," Coach Majors said. "They are very athletic and talented, but it's raw talent. They have never had to start in a varsity game before and they are young. Anytime you have inexperience and youth in the secondary, you worry about blown assignments that might lead to a big play. But they are coming around. I feel like they have had a pretty solid week of practice and are getting better every day."
If the offensive line and defensive secondary are keeping Coach Majors up at night, the offensive backfield may help him rest a little easier.
The Knights return all three starters in the backfield which is led by senior running back Antroun McDaniel who rushed for 1451 yards last year. The Knights also return junior quarterback Fred Bussey and sophomore fullback Jesse Garmon from last year's team. Along with McDaniel and Garmon, the Knights have young depth that can step in and give the Knights' offense some fresh legs. Junior Mardale Petty and sophomore Terrell Terry will be used often in the Knights' backfield along with other talented youngsters.
"There is no doubt that our backfield is going to be our strength going into Friday night's game," Coach Majors said. "But if we don't block for them up front, they can't run. It all starts up front with the offensive line. If you watched the Auburn game last Saturday you saw that. Auburn has three or four great running backs but their offensive line wasn't giving them much of a chance. That's what we are going to have to focus on Friday night, getting our offensive linemen to open holes for our backs. If we can do that, we'll be OK."
As for the Knights' first opponent, McIntosh enters Friday night's game full of confidence after last week's 20-12 win over Eagles' Landing, but that first-week win doesn't have much affect on this week's outcome, especially if you consider last year when McIntosh won its season opener and the Knights spanked the Chiefs 53-7 the following week. But Coach Majors knows this is an improved McIntosh team from a year ago.
"They have a better football team that what we saw last year," Coach Majors said. "They are better offensively and they have a good running back that could cause us problems. I know they are going to be ready for us, especially after last year's game. They have probably been eyeing this game since last year. They are going to want to return the favor from a year ago."
"I hope we take a big crowd up there Friday night," Coach Majors said. "It's tough to go on the road, especially in your first game, and these kids need some support."
Friday night's kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Peachtree City.