Upson Lee Knights vs. Baldwin Braves
When: September 25, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Matthews Field
Last Season: UL- (7-3, 3-3) BHS- (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)
Coaches: UL- Tommy Parks (7-3 at UL in 2nd season, 61-57 overall in 12th season), 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), #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)
The Baldwin Braves have always been a thorn in the side of the Upson Lee Knights. In 2005 Upson Lee lost to the Braves by a 35-21 score in the second round of the State Playoffs. Then in 2006 Baldwin and Upson Lee were put in the same region. In 2006 Baldwin easily handed the Knights a 31-6 victory in Milledgeville, and then came to Matthews Field in 2007 and defeated the Knights by a 28-21 score.
Last season, the Knights and Braves were once again placed in the same region. This time around, the Knights got a little payback, beating the Braves in Milledgeville by a 14-12 score. UL leaned heavily on Kenderius Pennyman and his 123 yards rushing, while a majority of Baldwin’s yardage came on the legs of Kentavious Thomas and Felix Jones. Both Pennyman and Thomas have graduated, while Baldwin’s Jones will return for his senior season as the quarterback for the Braves.
“Baldwin has some of the best athletes in the region,” said UL head coach Tommy Parks. “We were able to escape with a big win over there last season, capitalizing on some turnovers. We can expect them to be one of the tougher teams on our schedule this year, and they should be in the playoff hunt.”
In the victory last season, the Knights took advantage of some miscues from the Braves. Upson Lee intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble by the Braves, and Baldwin also missed two PATs after scoring two touchdowns last season. Baldwin missed an extra point kick and failed on a 2-point conversion run.
The Knights took a 14-12 lead into the locker room at halftime, but it was a defensive struggle in the second half of the game, with neither team scoring a single point. Kentavious Thomas was an All-State running back for the Braves last season, and he rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries against UL last year. However, this year he is at Mississippi State for his freshman year in the SEC. On the other hand, Felix Jones returns for his senior season, and as a junior he rushed for 98 yards on 15 carries, while passing for 65 yards and an interception.
To get a sense of the athleticism that the Braves have had recently, last season they had nine players named either First Team All-Region or Second Team All-Region. They return three of those players this year. Jones was First Team All-Region as a quarterback, Cameron Jones was named First Team All-Region as an offensive lineman, and defensive end Malik Clark returns for his junior season after earning First Team All-Region honors.
In the game last season Kalen Puckett had some success through the air for UL, completing 10 of 18 passes for 104 yards, without throwing an interception. Quay Reviere, who started last season as a linebacker for the Knights, carried the ball just three times against the Braves last season, but racked up 36 yards for a 12-yard per carry average. Reveire should get a bulk of the carries this season for the Knights, along with junior Markevious Robinson. Upson Lee has even shown some two-back sets this summer.
The victory over Baldwin in 2014 gave UL a 4-0 record, and opened up some eyes around the region. This season expect the Braves and others on Upson Lee’s schedule to be ready for the Knights.
Upson Lee and Baldwin kick off the region portion of their schedule on September 25 at Matthews Field. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.