Upson Lee Knights (2-2, 5-2) vs. Howard Huskies (1-2, 5-2)
When: Tonight (7:30 p.m.)
Where: Matthews Field
2014 Record: 3-6-1 (lost 4 games by 7 points or less)
Last Meeting: Upson Lee 28, Howard 20
Series Record: Upson Lee leads 1-0
Head Coaches: UL- Tommy Parks (12-5 in 2nd season at UL, 66-59 in 12th season overall), HOW- Barney Hester (10-16-1 in 3rd year at Howard, 332-151-9 overall in 41st year. Head Coach of Tattnall Square Academy in Macon for 30 years)
Key Players: #13 WR-Alphonso Stevens, (Sr.) (6’1, 185) 2nd Team All-Region in 2014
#34 RB-Jiquan Stinson, (Sr.) (5’11, 215) All-Region Honorable Mention in 2014
#4 QB-Courvoisier King, (Sr.) (6’3, 205)
#71 DT-Tyjae Lockett, (Sr.) (6’3, 305)
#1 WR/CB- Jerin Means, (Jr.) (5’7, 150)
Last season the Upson Lee Knights finished with record of 7-3, but did not make the state playoffs. However Veterans, who UL will play on Nov. 6, did make the playoffs with a 3-7 overall record. The difference was both teams finished with 3-3 region records, and the tie breaker was Veterans’ win over Upson Lee.
This frustrated many Knights’ fans, but Upson Lee has the chance to make up for last season tonight at Matthews Field. Upson Lee is currently 2-2 in the region and will take on the much improved Howard Huskies from Macon, who are 1-2 in the region . Last season Upson Lee escaped Macon with a 28-20 victory over Howard, earning their first ever victory at the Ed DeFore Sports Complex. Last season’s victory over Howard helped keep the Knights playoff hopes alive, but a victory tonight and Upson Lee will clinch a spot in post season play.
“It’s definitely a big game for both teams,” said UL Coach Tommy Parks. “Both teams are fighting for a spot in the playoffs, and a win will pretty much put that team in post season play. We’ve been on Fall Break this week, and that’s something that every team has to deal with. We’ve been practicing in the morning, giving the boys a break and some time off to enjoy their break. They deserve it, and haven’t really had much time off since our bye week back in August. We’ve had some good practices and the guys are looking forward to Friday.”
Under Barney Hester, the Huskies have made huge strides in their football program. This season they are guaranteed to finish with a .500 or better record for the first time in school history. Hester has totaled 332 victories (6th most in Georgia High School football history) over his 41-year career, most of those coming at Tattnall Square Academy in the GISA. Since his departure from the private school, Tattnall had moved to the GHSA and is having success as the Class A level.
This season Howard has turned some heads with the offensive statistics they have been putting up on a weekly basis. Senior quarterback Corvoisier King leads the region in passing, throwing for 1,409 yards in seven games. King’s favorite target is 6’1” Alphonso Stephens, who has 35 catches for 732 yards and seven touchdowns. Stephens is averaging 104.6 yards receiving per game, also leading the region.
“They have a potent offense,” said Parks. “It worries me with the way they throw the ball around. They like to get their guys out in space and make plays. We are going to be in a situation where we have to put pressure on the quarterback, and keep him contained on the backside. He can hurt you with his legs just as much as his arm.”
King has been a big part of the Huskies running attack over the last few games. Senior running back Juquan Stinson was injured a few weeks back and has yet to return. Stinson still leads the Huskies in rushing even though he has only played in six of the Huskies seven games. Howard was on a bye last week.
The Huskies have turned to a “running back by committee” approach. King has 331 yards rushing on 64 carries, while Antonio Jones (No. 25) has rushed for 354 yards on 60 carries. Howard also has Jerin Means (No. 1) who can cause havoc on defenses. Means has carried the ball only six times this season, but has rushed for two touchdowns. He also has 16 receptions for 345 yards and four touchdowns.
Defensively Howard runs a scheme with a three-man front. Defensive lineman Tyjae Lockett (6’3, 305 pounds) leads a very big defensive front, something that Parks says can cause problems for their running game.
“They are really big and strong up on the defensive line,” said Parks. “Games are won and lost up front on the lines of scrimmage, and we’ve got to control those lines. We also have to limit our turnovers and keep field position in our favor, that’s something that has hurt us in our two losses this season.”
Upson Lee and Howard will battle for a spot in the playoffs tonight at Matthews Field. Kickoff for the pivotal Region 2 clash is set for 7:30 p.m.
Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.