Upson Lee Knights (3-0) vs Baldwin Braves (3-1)
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Matthews Field
Last Season: (7-5, 4-2), Baldwin lost 41-10 to Cartersville in the 2nd round of State Playoffs (Defeated Worth County 17-7 in round one)
Last Meeting: Upson Lee 14, Baldwin 12 (2014)
Searies Record: Baldwin leads 3-1
Head Coaches: UL- Tommy Parks (10-3 at UL in 2nd year, 64-57 in 12th season overall) BHS- Lee Hannah (7-5 in 2nd year at BHS, 7-5 overall in 2nd season)
Key Braves: #10 QB-Felix Jones, Sr. (6’3, 205) 1st Team All-Region
#3 DE-Malik Clark, Jr. (6’4, 225)
#22 LB/RB-Ty’Christian Henry, Jr (6’0, 200)
#32 DB-Malik Waller, Jr. (5’10, 170)
#71 OL-Cameron Jones, Sr. (6’0, 265)
#25 RB-LaTravious Saulsberry, Sr. (5’10, 180)
#79 DT-James Walker, Sr. (5’10, 270)
There will be some firsts for the Upson Lee Knights in 2015 tonight at Matthews Field. For the first time this season, Upson Lee will face a Region 2 opponent. Also, for the first time tonight, Upson Lee will face a team with a winning record, as they host the Baldwin Braves (3-1).
Last season, Upson Lee escaped Milledgeville with a 14-12 victory over the Braves. The Braves will look a little different tonight than they did last season. The Braves lost All-State running back Kentavious Thomas, who is now at Fullerton College, a junior college in California. Quarterback Felix Jones was named First Team All-Region last season, but the 6’3”, 205 pound senior has yet to step on the field this season, due to an injury. It is unknown if he will make his 2015 season debut at tonight’s game.
“We’re excited to get region play started,” said Upson Lee Head Coach Tommy Parks. “Coach Hannah will have those guys ready to go, but for us it’s about playing within ourselves and letting the chips fall where they may. We beat Baldwin last season, but missed the playoffs, so this game, while important, will not define our season. I’d much rather be playing well come weeks eight, nine, and ten.”
According to Parks, Baldwin runs multiple schemes offensively, and they like to get the ball into the hands of their many athletes.
“No. 25 (LaTravious Saulsberry) is a really good running back,” said Parks. “He is a lot like the Watts kid we saw last week in Columbus. They do a lot of things offensively, and are very multiple with their schemes. We just have to be ready to play solid defensively.”
Defensively, the Braves run a 4-3 scheme up front, something that Upson Lee has not seen this season. All three of the Knights opponents so far played a 3-3-5 defense. According to Parks, the Braves defensive front is a strength of their team.
“They have a really good front seven,” said Parks. “They are really big on the defensive line, and No. 79 (James Walker) is a really good player. They also have some really good and athletic players in the secondary.”
Last year Upson Lee rushed for 168 yards in their victory over Baldwin, while Kalen Puckett threw the ball 18 times, completing 10 passes for 104 yards. One of the biggest factors in last season’s victory for the Knights were turnovers. Upson Lee forced two turnovers by the Braves, while Upson Lee did not turn the ball over in the game.
So far this season, Upson Lee is averaging just over 375 yards of total offense a game. Defensively the Knights have been stingy, allowing just over 128 yards of total offense a game. The Knights have only allowed their opponents to reach the red zone this season six times, and even more impressively, the Knights are allowing just 2.0 yards per carry this season. Upson Lee is allowing just 5.7 points per game, and on the flip side, Upson Lee averages 39.9 points per game.
Baldwin has been a team of shutouts so far in 2015. Up until last Friday when they defeated Thomasville 34-19, every game they played was a shutout. The Braves shutout Hancock-Central 12-0, then defeated Alcovy 27-0. Two weeks ago the Braves traveled to Tifton to take on the class 6A Tift County Blue Devils and were defeated by a 52-0 score.
Upson Lee and Baldwin will both look to get that all important Region 2 victory tonight at Matthews Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
In other Region 2 games, the No. 4 state ranked Mary Persons Bulldogs (4-0) will host the Perry Panthers (1-3) at Dan Pitts Stadium in Forsyth tonight. Mary Persons escaped with a 16-13 victory over LaGrange last week, moving to 4-0 on the season. The Perry Panthers have been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team in 2015. The Panthers played Peach County to a close 13-7 defeat and knocked off the previously ranked Macon County Bulldogs from 2A by a 34-33 score. However, last week Perry traveled to Brooks County, another 2A school, and suffered a 34-7 loss
The surprising Howard Huskies are sitting at 4-0 for the first time in school history. Howard will welcome the Blue Raiders (3-1) from West Laurens to the Ed Defore Sports Complex in Macon tonight. The Huskies have won every game on their schedule, which is all any team can do. However, they get their first real test tonight with the Blue Raiders. Howard’s four victories have come against a class A team, two class AA teams, and one class AAA team. If Coach Barney Hester can take care of business against West Laurens, teams around the region will definitely take notice that Howard is for real.
The Veterans Warhawks (1-3) are on a much needed bye this week. Veterans has faced some of the stiffest non-region competition in the state. Veterans only victory came against a rebuilding and winless Washington County team, while their losses have come No. 2 ranked Houston County (5A), powerhouse Valdosta (6A), and previously ranked Macon County (2A). Expect to see coaches from Veterans at Matthews Field tonight, since Veterans travels to play Baldwin next Friday night.
Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.