Seven Upson-Lee seniors played their last high school football game Friday night, and as they walked off the field for the final time, they walked off as winners.
The Upson-Lee Knights used a 202 yards rushing performance from senior quarterback Corey Moss, and played stingy defense on their way to a 23-11 victory over the Woodland Wolfpack in Stockbridge. The victory gave the Knights a 4-6 record for 2012, a record which could have easily been 6-4 or better, if things had gone the Knights’ way in other games. Upson-Lee will return starters at many positions in 2013, but according to head coach Tommy Watson, tonight was for seven special players.
“We wanted to send these seniors off with a victory,” said Watson. “They are some of best kids I have ever been around. They have a tremendous work ethic on the football field and in the classroom. They will be outstanding leaders in their communities one day. I thought we really played well tonight, and it was great to send these guys out as winners.”
The Knights and the Wolfpack started in a defense grudge match. The Knights were not able to sustain long drives, and the Knights defense kept the Wolfpack passing attack in check. It wasn’t until nearly mid-way through the second quarter before either team got on the scoreboard.
With 6:22 remaining in the half, Moss found senior wide out Danquarius “Flash” Hamilton in the end zone on a slant pattern for a 10-yard TD catch. The catch was the first of Hamilton’s career, and came in his last game. After Tyler Stewart booted the Knights’ PAT, Upson-Lee led the Wolfpack 7-0.
Woodland would answer late in the second quarter, driving 64 yards in 14 plays. However, the Knights defense bowed up and the Wolfpack had to settle for a 27-yard field goal, and as the two teams headed to the locker room at half time, Upson-Lee led 7-3.
After the Pack kicked off to start the second half of play, Upson-Lee’s Corey Moss did something that he has done many times this season and in his career. Moss took the snap out of the shot gun, and headed around the end of the line and down the field for a 79-yard TD run. Moss blew past everyone and went into the end zone untouched, giving him 19 rushing touchdowns on the season. Stewart added the PAT, and the Knights led 14-3 with 11:45 to go in the third quarter.
The Knights defense bent a little in the game but never broke. With the Pack driving down the field and threatening to score, Upson-Lee freshman cornerback Shamare Bailey picked off a Woodland pass in the end zone, preserving the Knights 14-3 lead. The interception was Bailey’s second of the season.
The Knights would then go on one of their longest and most impressive drives of the game. Upson-Lee used the power running combo of Kelton Raines and senior Marcus Bussey to pound the ball up the middle. Bussey had a career high in carries (16) and rushing yards (66) in the last high school game of his career.
The Knights’ drive started on their own 3 yard line, but 16 plays and 97 yards later, Corey Moss would score his 20th rushing TD of the season. Stewart added his 29th PAT in 29 attempts of the season, and the Knights led 21-3. Moss’ 20th rushing TD of the season, tied him for the most all-time rushing touchdowns in a single season in UL history (Tyrone Perry had 20 rushing TDs in 1993).
With the Knights leading 21-3 in the fourth quarter, the Wolfpack, a team which heavily depends on the pass, started passing the ball even more. The Wolfpack added a one yard TD run early in the fourth quarter, capping off a 6-play, 26- yard drive. The Wolfpack went for a two-point conversion, and it was good, cutting the Knights lead to 21-11.
Upson-Lee would add two points on a safety late in the game, as senior line backer Nick Kennedy brought down the Woodland quarterback in the end zone. The Pack’s quarterback was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a safety due to the tremendous pressure from Kennedy.
Neither team would add another score, as the Knights and their seven seniors ended 2012 with a 23-11 victory.