Upson Lee Knights (7-2) @ Veterans Warhawks (4-5)
When: Tonight (7:30 p.m.)
Where: Herb St. John Stadium, Perry GA
2014 Record: UL (7-3, 3-3), Vet (3-8, 3-3) (Lost 24-7 to Cairo in 1st round of playoffs)
Last Meeting: Veterans 28, Upson Lee 26 (2014)
Series Record: Vetrerans leads 1-0
Head Coaches: UL- Tommy Parks (14-5 in 2nd year at UL, 68-59 in 12th season overall) (David Bruce (24-38 in 6th season at Veterans, the only school where he has been a head coach)
#2 QB-Logan Byrd, (Sr.) (6’3, 235) Committed to North Carolina
#44 LB-Josh Lee, (Sr.) (6’1, 210) Lead team in tackles
#99 DE-Jermall Lucas, (Sr.) (6’1, 225) Leads team in tackles for a loss
#65 OL-Logan Hurless, (sr.) (6’3, 255) 1st Team All-Region in 2014
#78 OL-Devin Wingate, (Sr.) (6’3, 280) 2nd Team All-Region in 2014
#76 OL-Dawson Stephens, (Sr.) (6’3, 275) 2nd Team All-Region in 2014
#11 LB-Matthew Hearst, (Sr.) (6’0, 190) 2nd Team All-Region in 2014
#8 WR-Jeremy Horton, (So.) (5’9, 165) leads team in receiving
#22 RB- Desjuan Harris, (sr.) (5’7, 160) All-Region Honorable Mention in 2014. Leads region in rushing with 1,295 yards
Since Coach Tommy Parks came to Upson Lee last season, Upson Lee has a record of 14-5, and this season they are 5-0 at Matthews Field. Last season Upson Lee finished with a perfect record on the road, and the Knights have had two different running backs eclipse the 1,000 yard mark in each season.
Since Coach Parks has been at Upson Lee, the Knights have scored 533 point in 19 games, for an average of 28.1 points per game. Upson Lee has scored 40 or more points six times, and 35 points or more eight times. With all of these accomplishments, one thing has been absent, a trip to the State Playoffs. That trip will come this season, as Upson Lee clinched their berth two weeks ago with a 41-40 double overtime victory over Howard. Now Howard is hoping Upson Lee can defeat Veterans tonight. A victory by Upson Lee will knock out Veterans (granted Howard defeats Baldwin), and put Howard in the playoffs for the first time in school history. Last season Veterans defeated Upson Lee in the last game of the season, knocking the Knights out of the playoffs.
“Veterans is in just about the same boat we were in last season,” Parks said. “We needed to beat them to get into the playoffs (last year), and tonight they will more than likely need to beat us to get into the playoffs. I expect them to come out and play fast and physical. This is a big game for us, too. We have a chance to get better and improve our seeding in the playoffs.”
The reason Veterans is in a must win predicament, is because they lost to Howard last week. Courvoisier King passed for 302 yards and three touchdowns, sending the Huskies to a 36-27 victory over Veterans.
The Warhawks are led by senior quarterback Logan Byrd. The 6’3, 230 pound senior has committed to North Carolina, after decommitting from Virginia Tech over the summer. With that said, the quarterback has rushed for more yards than he has passed this season. Byrd has carried the ball 110 times for 738 yards and 10 touchdowns, while passing for only 589 yards, three touchdowns, and five interceptions.
“As Logan Byrd goes, so does Veterans,” Parks said. “He’s a really good football player. He has the ability to hurt you with his arm, but he is at his best when he is running down hill. He has really good speed for a kid his size, and he is a load to bring down.”
Joining Byrd in the backfield is the leading rusher in Region 2. Senior Desjuan Harris has rushed for 1,295 yards this season on 29 carries. The 5’9”, 170 pound running back hits the hole quick and has the speed to run past defenders.
“He’s a real shifty player,” Parks said. “He gets his pad level down and runs between the tackles really well, but he also has the ability to get out in space and make plays.”
Defensively the Warhawks run a 4-3 scheme, led by linebacker Josh Lee. The 6’1”, 210 pound senior leads the team with 72 tackles, while defensive end Jermall Lucas (6’1”, 225) leads the team in tackles for a loss.
“They play a very physical style of defense,” Parks said. “Coach (David) Bruce is a good friend of mine, and I know he will have those guys ready to play. They fly around to the ball and they tackle well.”
Not only is this a big game for the Warhawks, this is also a big fight for the Knights. A victory will ensure Upson Lee of their first 8-win season in nearly a decade. Upson Lee went 9-3 in 2005 under head coach Mike Majors, losing to Baldwin in the second round of the State Playoffs. A victory for Upson Lee will also clinch the No. 3 seed from Region 2, keeping the Knights from having to play the Region 3 Champion in the first round of the State Playoffs.
If Thomson defeats Burke County tonight, then they will be the No. 1 seed from Region 3, the region which Region 2 is matched up with in round one of the State Playoffs. If Burke County wins, there will be a three-way tie for first place between Thomson, Burke County, and Liberty County. As of press time, The Times has not received any information on what the tie breaking scenarios are for Region 2. Each region sets its’ own tie breakers. However, it is safe to say Upson Lee will have to travel one of those three teams in the first round of the playoffs.
Mary Persons will travel to West Laurens tonight, with the winner being crowned Region 2 Champion. The Region 2 Champion will host Wayne County in the first round of the playoffs.
Upson Lee will look to return the favor from last year and knock Veterans out of the playoff tonight. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.