The cat is out of the bag for Upson-Lee’s offense. In Friday’s matchup against the McIntosh Chiefs, no one will be fooled when the Knights do not take the field in shotgun formation with a freshman quarterback. The main element of surprise is not going to be as much of a storyline as it was a week ago when Coach Justin Elder threw Jamie Fox and the Harris County Tigers a curveball.
The Knights are 1-1 and set to take on the 1-2 Chiefs. Both teams share a loss to LaGrange; Upson-Lee lost 24-6 in its opener and McIntosh lost 57-14 in its second game of the season. McIntosh fell to Luella 26-20 in its opener and beat Fayette County 34-28 last week.
Last season, Upson-Lee defeated McIntosh on the road 35-27 in a game in which the Chiefs turned the ball over five times, but rallied late to make it close.
“This is the best McIntosh team that they’ve had in a long time,” said Elder.
McIntosh will come out with a lot of weapons on offense. Tate Morris, a junior, will be under center and the Chiefs have thrown the ball well with Morris. Their weapons at receiver and tight end will have a massive size advantage over Upson-Lee’s secondary.
Emeka Iloh (6’8”, 225lbs) and Theo Elwell (6’6”, 225lbs) will be quite the tall task for Upson-Lee. The Knights have stopped the run at a solid rate, but have struggled early this season against the passing game. Elwell had multiple chunk yardage receptions late in last year’s edition of this matchup.
Upson-Lee lines up well in the trenches. With their heavy set package, the Knights will have to set the tone upfront in order to be successful in each game they play. The Knights’ size and athleticism should give them favor on both sides of the ball in the trenches.
The Knights ran a limited number of base plays against Harris County and due to their success and execution, it was all that was needed to win. However, as more teams know how to scheme the Knights, they will look towards opening up with more options.
With speedsters like KJ Rockemore, Jerius Braswell, Detravious Mathis Elder says “It’ll be a little more out wide trying to get the edge this week."
Since not many teams run a heavy-set Winged-T like Upson-Lee, it is difficult for the coaching staff to gather information on how opposing defenses will scheme the game.
“They still have to stop you,” said Elder. “If you do what you do better than they do what they do…[it will lead to success]”
Elder believes that if Upson-Lee can take the edge early on, the Knights will be able to wear down the Chiefs and exploit them up the middle later in the game. McIntosh runs a three-four defensive scheme with active linebackers. They feature two tall defensive ends; Ian Fisher (6’4”, 260lbs) and Elwell who plays both ways.
This game is likely to be a close one. Neither team has an overwhelming advantage to make one team look much better than the other. McIntosh has a polished and balanced offensive attack and Upson-Lee proved last week that they have the ability to dominate time of possession and wear down a defense. Upson-Lee’s run defense is likely to be their biggest advantage in the game; however, McIntosh’s ability to throw the ball to their tall receivers provides a strong rebuttal.
For the Knights, limiting big plays is the key to a win. Last week, three of Harris County’s touchdowns came on plays that went for 25-plus yards. The Knights will be in a good position to win if they can once again control the time of possession on offense and limit chunk yardage plays on defense.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Matthews Field on Friday, Sept. 10.