The Upson-Lee Knights traveled to Stockbridge on Friday night for the second time this season, hoping that the second time around would be better than the first. In the first match up between the Knights and Tigers earlier this season, the Tigers scored a late touchdown to defeat the Knights by a 15-8 score.
However, on Friday the No. 8 state ranked Tigers offense was much better than the first time around, as Stockbridge ended the Knights season with a 31-7 victory. The Tigers scored in a variety of ways, by the conventional pass, the run, and even the reverse pass. The Tiger’s defense also contained the Knights once again. In the first meeting, UL only managed 10 yards rushing, and Friday night’s 28 yards were not much better.
“We knew going into the game that we needed it to be a low scoring game,” said Knights head coach Tommy Watson. “We really had a lot of problems running the ball last time, and we felt like we would have to pass the ball in order to move the ball down the field. They have the best defensive front we have seen all year, and they are just a bad match up for our offensive line.”
The Knights were hoping to get the ball first in order to take control of the pace of the game, but the Tigers won the toss, and proceeded to drive the ball down the field for an incredible time-consuming 16-play, 80-yard drive, capped off by a two-yard TD run from Malik Bryan. The Tigers added the PAT to take a 7-0 lead. At the end of the first quarter the Knights had run a total of three plays on offense.
After a Tyler Stewart punt at the end of the first quarter pinned the Tigers deep in their own territory, Stockbridge turned to their bag of tricks, and the Knights went for the trick: hook, line, and sinker. After the Tigers quarterback rolled out and handed the ball to the wide receiver for what looked like a reverse run, the Knights secondary came up to stop the play, but the receiver squared himself up and threw the ball down the field to a wide open Maetron Thomas for an 87-yard TD pass.
On the ensuing kickoff, Upson-Lee senior Toby Fuentes returned his second kickoff for a touchdown this season. Fuentes caught the ball at the 11-yard line and split two defenders, while following the block of Quay Reveire. Fuentes hit the sidelines and blazed down the field for an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Stewart added the Knights’ PAT, which would be the last of his career, and gave him 65 for his career, the second most in UL history. (Jack Sisterson- 68)
The Knights kicked the ball back to the Tigers, trailing by a 14-7 score, but once again the Tigers stuck to their game plan of running the football. The Tiger converted several third downs and one fourth down on their way to an 8-yard TD from Bryan, capping off another long 13-play, 80-yard drive. Once again the Tiger’s PAT was good, and the Tiger led the Knight by a 21-7 score at halftime.
The Knights were unable to get much going in the second half of the game, on the ground or in the air. One bright spot on the night for Upson-Lee was when Sontrell Perry crossed the 1,000 yard barrier on the season. The senior rushed for 36 yards in the game. giving him 1,013 this season. Perry’s 1000-plus yard season was just the 12th time in UL history a player has rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season.
Stockbridge added another touchdown late in the third quarter and a field goal late in the fourth quarter, sealing the 31-7 victory over the Knights.
As far as the state of Upson-Lee football, the Knights lose 23 seniors, but according to head coach Tommy Watson, the future can be bright for the Knights.
“This senior class wasn’t the most talented, but they played hard and never gave up on themselves or their teammates. We started six sophomores this season, and had some juniors step up and play well. Also, our ninth grade team was in the Championship Game, and we look for many of them to help out next season. I think the future of Upson-Lee football is a bright one.”