Football fans got a little taste of what is to come this season for the Upson-Lee Knights. On Friday at Matthews Field, the Knights, in new all black uniforms and matte black helmets, took on the Troup County Tigers in a scrimmage game. It was Coach Tommy Parks’ first game at the helm of the Knights, as he was on the sideline coaching at Matthews Field, a place where he once played.
Upson-Lee’s varsity scored three times in the first quarter, forcing Troup County into four turnovers in the first quarter. Kenderius Pennyman scored on twice on one yard TD runs, and Kalen Puckett found Keenan Hutchins in the end zone for a 31 yard TD reception. The Knights led the Tigers 20-14 after the first half, which were played by starters by both teams.
“I felt like we came out strong on defense and forced some turnovers,” said Parks. “Offensively we were given a short field after forcing a couple of fumbles and an interception. We were able to convert a fourth down on offense, and I thought our special teams coverage was really good. Our kicks were not great, but our coverage was really good.”
Senior Jay Moss recorded the first tackle of the season on the opening kickoff, and just two plays later Coleman Dumas recorded an interception. The Knights took over with 10:35 left on the clock, from their 31-yard line. Upson-Lee opened up with some zone read runs from Kenderius Pennyman, and Kalen Puckett also found Keenan Hutchins on some out patterns. Pennyman capped off the drive with a one yard TD run, with 7:24 left in the first quarter. Rich Stewart booted the PAT, and the Knights led 7-0, even though no official score was kept in the game.
On Troup County’s next possession, Joey Choy forced a fumble, which was recovered by UL’s David Marshall. After the Knights were forced to punt, it was Antoine Miller who forced yet again another Tiger’s fumble.
With 1:02 left in the first quarter, Puckett rolled to his left, finding Hutchins standing all alone in the end zone for a 31-yard TD pass. Stewart’s PAT was no good, but unofficially the Knights had a 13-0 lead.
The Knights defense remained stiff against the run, as the Tigers were bound and determined to get their veer-option offense going. However, Adric Johnson stripped the Tiger’s ball carrier inside the Tiger’s own 20-yard line.
The Knights once again had a short field, as they headed into the second quarter. Four plays later, Pennyman rumbled in for a one yard TD run. Stewart’s PAT was good, and unofficially the Knights led 20-0. At that point, Troup took over on offense once again, but this time they were able to hold onto the ball and get their running game going. The Knights seemed to struggle a little on the defensive side of the ball, as Troup County scored two rushing touchdowns in the quarter. However, with Troup forcing the Knights to punt late in the second quarter, it was junior Logan Gulley who rushed down the field to recover a fumble on the punt return, keeping the Knights in the lead 20-14 as the two teams headed into the locker room at the half.
“In the second quarter we turned the ball over a couple of times and they were able to capitalize,” said Parks. “We lost our focus, and that falls back onto us as coaches. We have to do a better job of having our guys ready. I felt like we got up on them early in the game, and we let off a little, which again as coaches we can’t let that happen.”
In the second half, the two teams played their back-up players, their junior varsity players, and their ninth grade players. In the third quarter Upson-Lee’s Bo Cummings recovered a fumble, and Markevious Robinson scored on a 64-yard TD run. Robinson scooted to the outside, and ran past everyone for the score on his first carry of the game.
The Knights added another touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 30-yard TD run by freshman Ashton Reveire. On the 30-yard run, Reveire broke five tackles to get into the end zone. After four quarters, unofficially the Knights lead 32-14.
“It was really good to see some of those guys who run our scout team offense and defense have success,” said Parks. “Those guys went in there and competed, and it was good to see them get rewarded. We have some pretty talented ninth and tenth graders. Robinson and Reveire had some pretty impressive touchdown runs, which is a good sign for the future of our program.”
After the game, there were smiles all around, on the faces of players, coaches, and fans. Parks, says that Thomaston deserves a competitive football team.
“This town has had its ups and downs, and they deserve to have a quality, competitive football team taking the field on Friday nights,” says Parks. “This is a blue collar town and we are a blue collar team. There is such a rich history of all sports in this community. Upson, R.E. Lee, and Yatesville all had great athletes through the years, and we want to keep that going with Upson-Lee. I want to do my part as the football coach to make sure this team comes out and competes. We just want to represent the people of this town. Hopefully they will show their appreciation and come out to watch us play.”
The community will have their next chance to see Coach Parks’ Knights in action on Sept. 5, when they travel to Pike County to take on the Pirates in the Upson-Lee season opener. Upson-Lee’s first home game will come on Sept. 12 against Northside-Columbus.