The Spalding Jaguars had every reason in the world to come out and play their best game of the season against the Upson-Lee Knights. When the winless Jags ran onto the field at Memorial Stadium Friday night, there were not many seats to be found on the home side of the stadium. The big crowd turned out to see the Jags get their first victory of the season for their 2013 Homecoming Game.
Unfortunately for the Jags, by the midway point of the fourth quarter the stands, which were once full, were now nearly empty except for just a few faithful Jaguar fans, as their team trailed 24-10 to the Knights. Upson-Lee’s defense stifled the Jags in the fourth quarter, and held on to defeat the Jags on their Homecoming by a 24-10 score.
“We got a really big win tonight,” said UL head coach Tommy Watson. “It’s always great to get a win on the road and when it’s a sub-region game, a victory is just a little sweeter. I thought we came out a little rusty in the first half, and maybe that is because we had not played in two weeks, but the fact is we played much better and with more energy on both sides of the ball in the second half.”
The start of the first sub-region contest for each team was anything but fast paced. Both teams tried desperately to get their running games going early in the first quarter. The Knights were able to move the ball down the field, but each of their first three drives of the game stalled.
The Jags also attempted to run the ball, but as many teams have found this year, the Knights defense plays the run pretty well. On the season, Upson-Lee’s defense is giving up less than four yards per carry. In the second quarter of the game, the Jags tried to turn to their passing game, but Toby Fuentes intercepted a Spalding pass with 11:16 left in the first half of the game.
Unfortunately for the Knights, after driving the ball deep into Jags territory, UL’s Kenderius Pennyman had the ball stripped and the Jags recovered. Spalding made their way down the field and looked as if they were primed to score the first touchdown of the game. However, the big Knights defensive front kept the Jags out of the end zone, and Spalding settled with a 26-yard FG with just 29 seconds left before halftime.
The Jags attempted a squib kick, which was picked up by UL’s Dre Web. The senior quickly ran for 20 yards and got out of bounds with 19 seconds still left in the half. Upson-Lee freshman quarterback Kalen Puckett found Toby Fuentes on two pass completions on the drive. With just two seconds left in the first half, Upson-Lee senior Tyler Stewart booted his first field goal of the year from 24 yards out. Stewart now has 15 field goals in his career, an Upson-Lee record. The Knights seemed to grab some momentum as the two teams went to the locker rooms tied 3-3.
In the second half of the game, the Knights offense woke up, and the defense continued to keep the Jags in check. The Jags were forced to punt on their first drive of the second half of the game, and the Knights went on a 5-play, 50-yard drive. Sontrell Perry capped off the drive with a 21-yard TD run up the middle. Perry made two players miss tackles and went into the end zone untouched. Stewart added the PAT, and with 8:50 left in the third quarter, UL led by a 10-3 score.
The Jags still had a little fight left in them, and they were finally able to get their running game going to the outside. Spalding consumed nearly six minutes of clock, as Jabril Reid scored on a 1 yard TD run, capping off a 14-play, 76-yard drive. The Jags’ PAT was good, and with 3:39 left in the third quarter, the game was once again tied 10-10.
The Knights retook the lead in the fourth quarter of the game, and this time the lead would stick for good. In the first 100- yard passing game of his young career, Puckett found tight end Dre Web streaking down the middle of the field for a 35-yard TD reception. Stewart added the PAT, and with 8:11 left in the game, Upson-Lee led by a 17-10 score.
Upson-Lee once again forced the Jags into a fourth and long situation, and after a Spalding punt, the Knights took over on their own 16-yard line. Just five plays later, Upson-Lee’s Sontrell Perry scored his second touchdown of the game. Perry took the hand off from Puckett and followed two great blocks from Dre Web and Justin Ellis on his way to a 61-yard TD run. Stewart remained perfect on the season with another PAT and the Knights led 24-10. Upson-Lee senior Justin Shaw intercepted a Spalding pass on the next possession of the game, sealing the Knights’ 24-10 victory.
The victory give the Knights a 3-2 record on the 2013 season, but more importantly put the Knights at 1-0 in the sub-region. The Knights will play the 0-5 North Clayton Eagles on Saturday night. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Southern Crescent Stadium.