Eagles Landing came into Friday night's game with Upson-Lee as a big underdog, but the Eagles nearly shocked the Knights on Homecoming night at Matthews Field in front of an over-capacity crowd.
"It was a great crowd on a great night with a great atmosphere," said UL head coach Mike Majors. "That's great for our kids and great for our program, but I was disappointed that we didn't put on a better show for them."
The Knights had to drive with time running out in the fourth quarter to score the go-ahead and eventual winning touchdown, going up 14-7.
Upson-Lee received the ball to start the game and the offense took the field at the 32 yard line.
The Knights drove straight down the field, making short work of the Eagles defense. The running combo of Corderro Montgomery and Jesse Garmon carried the ball a majority of the way and with 7:17 remaining in the first quarter Montgomery scored from 15 yards out to get the Knights on the board.
Jared Brown's extra point split the uprights and Upson-Lee was on top 7-0.
The Upson-Lee offensive line was without senior starting guard Chis Huie, who tore ligaments in his ankle last weekend in an off-the-field accident. He is expected to miss a few weeks.
"You always miss somebody that's been starting for two years," said Coach Majors," but (junior) T.J. Norman came in and did a really good job for us. We're really proud of him and the whole offensive line. They had a great game."
Chris Hill's following kickoff went into the endzone for no return and the Upson-Lee defense took the field. The Eagles Landing offense could find no running room, and they were forced to punt after just three plays.
The punt rolled dead at the UL 36 and the Knights began their next drive.
Sophomore running back Adonis Colquitt carried the ball on a speed sweep for big yardage to the Eagles Landing 45, but on the next play the Knights fumbled and lost possession. Eagles Landing was given another chance to score from their own 37.
The Eagles slowly worked down the field, primarily working the weak side of the UL defense. After several runs and a fasemask penalty, Eagles Landing stood at the Knights five yard line with first and goal.
With under a minute to go in the quarter the Eagles scored on a quarterback sneak. The extra point tied the game at seven.
The following kickoff was downed at the UL 26. Jesse Garmon followed with two impressive runs of 10+ yards. By the end of the first quarter the Knights were at midfield, but early in the second quarter fumbled again and Eagles Landing recovered at their own 13 yard line.
The Eagles converted on a big third and long from the UL 17 to move the chains to the 37 yard line, but would not move them any further. The Knights held on the next three plays and forced another punt.
A bad punt gave Upson-Lee good starting field position at their own 39, but followed trend by fumbling on the first play of the possession. Eagles Landing was given excellent field position at the UL 42.
Big plays in the backfield by Josh Smith and Juantez Hartsfield forced a third and sixteen. A pass attempt failed and the Knights defense saved the day again.
"Our defense had plenty of opportunities to fold up throughout the game, but they never did," said Coach Majors. "We're really proud of the way they bowed up."
The Knights offense would be stopped on the next drive, however, and after three plays were forced to punt. Eagles Landing took over just outside of UL territory at their own 49.
A deep pass was soon intercepted by Eldrid King at the 26 yard line and the Knights had one more chance before halftime, but the clock ran out with Laquenton Lamar and the offense standing at the line of scrimmage.
"We didn't want to take a chance right there of giving them good field position again," said Coach Majors. "We just wanted to get into halftime so we could correct some problems."
Eagles Landing received the ball to start the second half and started at their 15. They were held again by the UL defense and forced to punt. A good kick and a block-in-the-back penalty forced the Knights to back up to their 26 to begin the next drive.
On a third and long Lamar went up top to Eldrid King on a fade route, but overthrew him. The Knights were forced to punt again. Eagles Landing regained possession at their own 35.
The Knights defense remained stingy and forced another punt from the Eagles. The punt rolled dead at the UL 19. At the end of the third quarter, which seemed to fly by, the Knights were still in a surprisingly close game, tied 7-7.
"I thought we moved the ball well," said Coach Majors. "We rushed for over 300 yards, but we can't keep shooting ourselves in the foot. You can't turn the ball over that many times and expect to win a lot of games."
Another fumble at the UL 32 gave Eagles Landing a golden opportunity to score and go ahead with time running out in the game.
On third and long they threw to the endzone and a receiver dropped a touchdown pass that hit him in the hands. Next they decided to try a 47 yard field goal attempt, which fell plenty short of the uprights, but they were given yet another chance when they recovered the fifth Upson-Lee fumble at the UL 32.
Another big play came from the defense on third and long when Jarvis Price sacked the Eagles quarterback, forcing a fourth and twenty. This time they elected to play the field position game and try to pin the Knights deep in their own territory with time running out. Terrell Terry received the punt at the 15 yard line and almost broke loose, returning the ball to the 39.
Jesse Garmon busted a big run a couple plays later to the Eagles Landing 43 yard line.
On the next set of downs the Upson-Lee was forced into the biggest play of the game, a fourth and five just outside of the the Eagles 30 yard line. Laquentin Lamar dropped back to pass, scrambled and made a tough run to pick up the first down.
Jesse Garmon followed with a couple runs, the first to inside the Eagles Landing ten yard line, the next to the four yard line.
Finally, with 3:37 to play in the game Jesse Garmon found the endzone for the Knights. Brown's extra point gave the Knights a 14-7 lead with the clock working against Eagles Landing, but the Eagles would not quit.
They returned the kickoff to the 29, then got a little help from the Upson-Lee defense. A roughing-the-passer penalty followed by a late hit out of bounds moved them into Knight territory at the 43 yard line, but they would move the ball no further.
Upson-Lee's defense bowed up and the Knights took over on downs at their own 43. We picked up the one required first down and ran the clock out.
The Knights offense piled up rushing yards in the game, but without the help of senior Terell Terry, who saw minimal time on the offensive side of the ball. He started and played most of the game at strong safety. Usual starter Chris Carter is out with a concussion.
"Terrell may not get the touches that everybody thinks he should get," said Coach Majors," but he can do so many more things for us. "We've got two other backs and we needed him in the secondary, so that's where we played him."
Upson-Lee will enjoy an open week this week and be back at Matthews Field next Friday night when they host Luella.
"We'll take Monday off, use a couple days this week to get back to fundamentals and have a few light practices at the end of the week," said Coach Majors. "We've got some time to heal some folks up and correct some problems so that we're ready for our next game against Luella."