After a tough grueling showdown with the No. 4 state ranked Stockbridge Tigers the prior, which saw the Knights lose by a 15-8 score, Upson-Lee looked to get back in the win column on Friday night against the Golden Eagles from Eagles Landing High School.
Unfortunately for the Knights, the uphill battle started with two keys players missing the game with injuries and ended with five Upson-Lee players getting tossed from the game in the third quarter. Somewhere in the middle of that rock and a hard place, were the 300 yards passing the Knights gave up to Eagles Landing in a 34-7 defeat.
It was the first time since 2005 (Luella 303 yards passing) the Knights have allowed 300 yards passing, and the second game in a row in which the Knights were held to under 150 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles accumulated 458 yards of total offense and earned their first victory in school history over Upson-Lee.
Bradley Dewberry started the scoring off for the Golden Eagles with a one yard TD run, capping off a 12-play, 87-yard drive, and with 7:27 still left in the first quarter, Eagles Landing led 6-0 after their PAT kick failed. Dewberry, who passed for over 2,000 yards last season, scored one touchdown on the ground and two through the air on Friday night.
For the Knights, their first two possessions of the game looked similar to those of the week prior at Stockbridge. The Knights struggled to catch the ball, and though they had a little more success on the ground, Upson-Lee’s Kenderius Pennyman was held to just 17 yards rushing on six carries. Pennyman is the leading returning rusher from 2012 after tallying over 800 yards on 151 carries.
On the Golden Eagles’ next offensive possession, Dewberry began to find tight end Tyler Guice over the middle and senior wide out Warren Wright on the perimeter. Dewberry found the 6’4, 215 pound Guice over the middle for a 15-yard TD reception. The Golden Eagles’ 2 point conversion failed, and with 2:16 left in the opening quarter, Eagles Landing led the Knights by a 12-0 score.
The Knights entered the game with both Pennyman and Upson-Lee senior Sontrell Perry in the backfield together, but it wasn’t until UL went to a single back formation with Perry they could find any success on the ground. A fumble by the Knights proved to be costly later in the second quarter. The Knights were forced to turn the ball over five times in the game, twice on the ground and three times in the air.
Last season Eagles Landing’s Corey Holloway rushed for over 1,300 yards and has a big night against Upson-Lee. On Friday night, Holloway picked up where he left off. The only difference was this season the 5’11, 200-pound running back is a senior with an offer from Syracuse University. With just under nine minutes to go in the first half, Holloway broke loose on the edge of the Knights defense, spinning his way out a tackle and blazing down the field for a 46-yard TD run. This time the Eagles Landing kick was good, and the Knights trailed by an 19-0 score.
The two teams headed to the locker room at the half, with Eagles Landing leading 19-0. After one half of play, it was obvious that the Knights were missing perhaps their best wide receiver and their best player in the secondary in senior Toby Fuentes. Fuentes was held out of the game after having concussion-like symptoms after the Stockbridge game. Little did the Knights know that later in the night they would be missing much more than Fuentes.
Upson-Lee received the ball to start the second half of play, but again they were not successful moving the ball. One bright spot for the Knights in the game was senior Tyler Stewart. The All-Region Punter from 2012 boomed a season high 56-yard punt in the game, and finished with four punts for 173 yards and a nice 43.3 yard average.
With 5:50 to go in the third quarter, it was Holloway who once again found the end zone for Eagles Landing, this time capping off a five-play, 68-yard drive with a 4-yard TD run. The Golden Eagles’ two-point conversion pass was good, and all of a sudden the Knights were down 27-0.
Upson-Lee would rally later in the third quarter, as Sontrell Perry began to find some running room against the Golden Eagles defense. Perry capped off a seven-play, 62-yard drive with a 13-yard TD run. Quarterback Kalen Puckett ran the speed option to the left side of the field, and pitched the ball to Perry, who went into the end zone untouched. Stewart’s kick was good, and the Knights started to get a little momentum, trailing 27-7.
Upson-Lee’s defense stepped up on the next possession for Eagles Landing, forcing the Golden Eagles to punt out of their own territory. The Knights took over and after a couple of nice runs by Perry, UL looked as if they were headed down the field on another scoring drive to get back into the ball game.
Perry broke off a 27-yard run up the middle, but soon it was a skirmish behind the line of scrimmage which caught the eye of fans, coaches, and unfortunately players. UL’s Dravian Ivey and an Eagles Landing player where tangled up and soon the small incident turned into a big pool of players at mid-field. After coaches, officials, and school officials broke up the skirmish, five Upson-Lee players and two Eagles Landing players were ejected. After the dust had settled, Upson-Lee wide receivers O’Qualon Harris, K.J. Hutchins, offensive lineman Dravian Ivey, linebacker Jacob Gross, and back up quarterback Matt Crews were ejected from the game. Crews and Gross were ejected for leaving the bench, even though both players were trying to get other players off the field. The five players will all be forced to sit out this Friday’s game against Central Macon.
Eventually the Knights were forced to punt the ball away. Stewart put the ball on the Eagles Landing 1-yard line with a 56-yard booming punt. Upson-Lee’s defense stepped up and forced Eagles Landing to punt the ball out of their own end zone. After barely getting the punt away, the Knights were looking at good field position at the Golden Eagles’ 28-yard line, but before the ball could come to rest, an Upson-Lee special teams player attempted to pick the ball up and run. He was immediately knocked to the ground and the two teams scrambled for the ball. Unfortunately for UL, Eagles Landing came away with the ball and eventually added another touchdown later in the fourth quarter.
Dewberry found Warren Wright on a 20-yard TD pass after scrambling from the pocket. The Eagles Landing PAT was good, and that sealed their 34-7 victory.
Perry led the Knights with 114 yards rushing on just 13 carries and a touchdown. So far in 2013, Perry has netted 314 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns, with an excellent 12.1 yards per carry. Perry and the Knights will look to get back on the right track against the winless Central Macon Chargers on Friday, but they will have to do it short handed. Kick off is slated for 7:30 p.m.