Upson Lee Knights (2-0) @ Northside-Columbus Patriots (1-1)
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Kinnett Stadium (Columbus, at Shaw High School)
Last Season: UL (7-3), NSC (4-7)
Last Meeting: Upson Lee 21, NSC 13 (2014)
Series Record: Upson Lee leads 1-0
Head Coaches: UL- Tommy Parks (9-3 in 2nd season at UL, 63-57 in 12th season overall), NSC- Morgan Ingram (7-16 in 3rd season at NSC, 17-26 in 5th season overall)
Key Patriots: #1 DB-David Apiag, Sr. (5’7, 140)
#2 RB-Kalan Watts, Sr. (5’9, 185)
#16 QB-Stephen Parker, Jr. (6’1, 180)
#12 K/P-Nathan Robertson, Jr. (5’10, 165)
#7 OLB/DE-Christian Johnson, Sr. (6’3, 225)
#33 NG/DE-Dayshun Johnson, Jr. (5’11, 215)
The Upson Lee Knights currently have the No. 1 defense statistically in all of class 4A, and statistically have the No. 1 points margin per game. Upson Lee has not allowed a single point this season, and they are averaging 39 points per game.
However, numbers can always be deceiving. The combined record of Upson Lee’s opponents are 0-6. Pike County has scored a grand total of eight points in three games, while giving up 104 points so far in 2015. Northeast-Macon is also 0-3, and while they have scored 20 points per game (60 total this season), they have given up 113 points (37.6 points per game).
This week, Upson Lee may get their first test against the class 5A Patriots from Northside High School in Columbus. Even though they finished the regular season last year with a 4-6 record, they went to the state playoffs. In 2014 Upson Lee escaped Matthews Field with a 21-13 victory, in a game that statistically was better for the Patriots.
In that game, Northside ran a total of 74 offensive plays, 22 plays more than the Knights. Neither team committed a turnover in the game, but it was Upson Lee’s ability to score touchdowns from the red zone that made the difference, whereas Northside had to settle for two field goals from the big boot of All-Region kicker Nathan Robinson.
The Patriots return their standout kicker, along with their starting quarterback and running back from last year. Running back Kalan Watts rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and finished 2014 with over 1,300 all purpose yards. In their loss to Upson Lee last year, Watts had 32 carries for 125 yards. Northside rushed 61 times last season against Upson Lee (the most rushes ever against the Knights in school history) for 236 yards, compared to UL’s 145 yards rushing. Northside also finished the game with 19 first downs in the game. They finished with 266 yards compared to Upson Lee’s 225 yards of total offense.
“They have a really good team over there, and they return seven starters on offense and seven starters on defense,” said UL Head Coach Tommy Parks. “I’ve played them several times, and one thing is for sure, they will play hard for a full 48 minutes. Coach Ingram is a great coach, and he will have them ready for battle. It should be a great test for our football team.”
This season Northside is 1-1, with a 35-0 victory over Kendrick and a 21-0 loss to an upstart Spencer team. Last week the Patriots traveled to Albany to take on Westover, but the game was called in the second quarter due to lightning. At the time of suspension, Northside held a 10-0 lead. According to Coach Parks, Upson Lee can expect to see plenty of running back Kalan Watts.
“They have a really good running back than can break loose at any time,” said Parks. “They have a really good power running game out of the pro set, and we have to be ready for that. We need to do a good job of tackling and keeping their gains at a minimum. They really love to pound the ball behind their big offensive line.”
Defensively the Patriots will run a 3-3-5 defense, something Upson Lee has seen against Pike County and Northeast-Macon last week, but the Patriots seemingly have better pieces defensively.
“They have a really good linebacker in No. 7,” said Parks. “He really flies to the ball and has great size and athleticism. No. 33 is also a really good football player on the defensive line. He is very quick and will be a challenge to block.”
The Knights will look to improve their record to 3-0 for the second season in a row, as they travel to Kinnett Stadium to face the Patriots tonight. Kick off is set for 7:30 p.m.
In other games around the region, Mary Persons will be hitting the road to face a team that is in the same region as Northside-Columbus. The LaGrange Grangers will host Mary Persons at Callaway Stadium. The MP Bulldogs from over in Forsyth hit the polls this week at No. 4 in class 4A after their 20-7 victory over Lamar County last week in Barnesville.
Perry is coming off of a huge upset victory on the road last week. The Panthers went down to Macon County and upset the No. 10 team in class 2A with a 34-33 victory. Before earning their first victory last week, Perry was 0-2 with a 13-6 loss to Peach County and 11-0 loss to Monroe-Albany.
The Veterans Warhawks are also coming off of their first victory of the season. Last week Veterans went into the “House of Pain” in Sandersville, and defeated Washington County by a 38-21 score. This week they will hit the road again, traveling to Valdosta to face the Wildcats from class 6A, ending a brutal stretch of non-region games.
The Baldwin Braves started the season 2-0, with two shutout victories. Baldwin defeated Hancock-Central 12-0 and Alcovy by a 27-0 score. Last week Baldwin continued their streak of playing in shutout games, but this time they were on the receiving end of a 52-0 thumping by the undefeated Blue Devils from Tift County, a class 6A school.
West Laurens and Howard are on a bye this week before starting region play next week.
Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.