With 25 seconds remaining in the game, and the Knights trailing 29-23, the Upson-Lee Knights found themselves in contention to pull off an upset win over Riverdale Friday night.
The Knights were driving down the field after completing three passes in a row. However, on their next pass attempt, the Knights’ wide out fell while running his route, and the Raiders picked off the UL pass, returning it 50 yards for a touchdown and sealing the Knights 36-23 loss.
“That was a tough loss against a tough team,” said Knights head coach Tommy Watson. “I thought we battled back there in the second half, giving ourselves a chance. We just did not play very well defensively. Our line backers and secondary struggled to make tackles, and that cost us in the end. They hit some big plays on us, but we were there to stop them for little gain. We just did not wrap up, and they took advantage of that.”
The Knights jumped out on top of the Raiders with 7:29 left in the second quarter. Upson-Lee’s junior kicker Tyler Stewart booted a 32-yard field goal, giving the Knights a 3-0 lead. Stewart’s field goal was his sixth of the season, tying him for the most field goals made in a single season in UL history. The 32-yard field goal also extended his UL career record, giving him 12 field goals as a Knight.
The Knights defense was able to hold down the Raiders offense in the first quarter, but in the second quarter the Raiders offense hit their stride. After the Knights took a 3-0 lead, the Raiders answered on their first play of the ensuing drive. Riverdale scored their first touchdown of the game on a 61-yard screen pass. The Raiders PAT attempt was tipped at the line of scrimmage, but fluttered through the goal post, giving them a 7-3 lead with 7:10 remaining in the first half.
The Raiders added another touchdown in the quarter just three minutes later. The Raiders quarterback found one their tall receivers down the middle of the field on a 77-yard TD pass, and with 4:41 left in the first half, the Raiders led the Knights 14-3.
Trailing by 11 points with little time remaining in the first half, Upson-Lee went on a nine-play, 74-yard drive to end the first half. Upson-Lee senior quarterback Corey Moss found his favorite target in Toby Fuentes down the middle of the field for a 49-yard TD pass. Stewart’s PAT was good, and the Knights cut the Raiders’ lead to 14-10 at halftime.
The Raiders took the ball first in the second half of the game, and their offense continued to slash the Knights’ defense for big yardage and big plays. The Raiders added to their lead with a 54-yard TD run up the middle with 11:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, and the Raiders led the Knights 21-10.
Upson-Lee answered back with a score of their own in the third quarter. Corey Moss capped off a nine-play, 59-yard scoring drive with a 4-yard TD run. Upson-Lee attempted a fake field goal for a two-point conversion, but the play was called back because the Raiders jumped offsides. The ball was placed at the 1 yard line, and the Knights decided to go for two in a more conventional way, but the Raiders stuffed the Knights’ run at the line of scrimmage. As it turns out, a Raiders penalty actually took points off the board for the Knights, as they trailed 21-16.
On the Raiders next offensive drive, the Knights Toby Fuentes picked off a Raiders pass. The Knights, trailing 21-16, began to embark on a possible game changing drive. However, down deep in Raiders’ territory, Upson-Lee fumbled and the Raiders recovered.
Riverdale scored six plays later on a 29-yard TD run, taking a 29-16 lead with 4:52 seconds remaining in the game. On the Knights next drive of the game, Upson-Lee showed they have plenty of fight still left in them. Upson-Lee’s Moss scored on a three-yard TD run, capping off a 15-play, 59-yard drive. Stewart’s PAT was good, and the Knights trailed 29-23 with 2:20 left in the game.
The Knights attempted an onside kick and recovered, but the ball only traveled nine yards instead of the 10 yards required for a kicking team to recover an onside kick. The Raiders took over on the Knights 49-yard line. Upson-Lee was able to force the Raiders to punt, but the Knights were forced to use all of their timeouts.
Upson-Lee took over on their own 15-yard line, trailing 29-23 with zero timeouts. Upson-Lee freshman running back K.D. Pennyman rushed for 68 yards in the game, but was injured and never returned after the third quarter, so the Knights were forced to turn to Moss and the passing game. The Knights completed three passes in a row, moving the ball up the field.
With 16 seconds, the Knights were trying to complete their fourth pass in a row, but an UL wide out fell down while running his route, and the Raiders intercepted the pass and returned it for a game-clinching touchdown.
Upson-Lee will welcome their arch rivals the Griffin Bears to Matthews Field Friday night. Kick-off is slated for 7:30 p.m.