Knights down KIPP 33-10 to open season

Archer Streelman and Devin Tabourn

In the first game of the season, and the first home game played in two years, the Knights beat KIPP Atlanta Collegiate 33-10 with play-action passes, strong running and dominant red zone defense.

The 2021 varsity season was cancelled after an opening 67-0 loss at Fayette County due to lack of participation and injury concerns to a young roster against older varsity players.

With an opening kickoff return to KIPP’s 28-yard line, sophomore Dean Paulson put the Knights in a great position. Traevan Jones finished the drive with a 7-yard touchdown reception from junior Ezekiel Teffere, putting the Knights in the early lead, 7-0.

On the next drive, sophomore cornerback  Kenari Tigner intercepted the ball at the Warriors 40-yard line. Soon after, Teffere threw an interception. The Knights responded immediately, with sophomore Carter Hill scoring a pick-six, putting the Knights ahead 14-0 with 5:52 left in the first quarter.

“We came out banging; we came out doing the things we wanted to do,” head coach Darrell Howard said. “We lost our composure and the energy went down and changed tides. We tried to hold it together. There were a lot of mistakes, a lot of mental mistakes as a young team. I was not happy with that, still not happy with that. We have a lot of things to fix.”

The rest of the first quarter and all of the second quarter were filled with penalties, missed field goals, turnovers, and 4 and outs by both teams.

“It was so unorganized that it was so messy; that was so not me, not classy, not Midtown like, so not coach Howard like,” Howard said.

However, senior Jordan Taylor, freshman Kentrell White, sophomore Jude Paulson, and Hill led the defensive effort sending the Knights to halftime leading 14-0.

“Our strengths are just perseverance,” Howard said. “I mean, y’all saw that. It was chaos on the field; we overcame that. The strengths are that we had some guys that flew around with energy. We had some young guys step up, and our athletic ability. We had a young guy, Kentrell White, save a touchdown. That was awesome, excellent.”

KIPP opened the second half with a drive that stalled inside the Warriors 15-yard line. After a bad snap and a dropped punt, the Knights recovered the ball at the 2 yard line. Jones ran in for his second touchdown, and after kicker and senior Roswell Bond made his third extra point, the Knights led 21-0 early in the third.

After a head-to-head hit and a facemask penalty knocked Teffere’s helmet off, the Knights had first and 10 at their own 31. Winston Vega replaced Teffere at quarterback and fumbled, leading to a KIPP touchdown. After a two-point conversion,  KIPP got on the scoreboard, 21-8, with 4:30 left in the third.

With 1:06 remaining in the third, the Knights started at their own 6 yard line. Teffere, forced into the end zone, threw the ball away, resulting in intentional grounding and a safety. The Warriors pulled within 11 points, 21-10.

The Knights started the fourth quarter at KIPP’s 8 yard line after recovering a dropped punt as the third quarter came to a close.

Vega, back at quarterback, scrambled for an 8-yard touchdown, expanding the Knights’ lead to 27-10.

With 5:33 left in the game, and a scramble and pitch from the third quarterback of the night, sophomore Ethan Ward, White scored a 35-yard touchdown, ending the scoring, 33-10.

Following KIPP’s kickoff return, a fight started between the teams, delaying the game with only 5:30 left.

“One of my kids, great kid, five kids were on top of him,” Howard said. “I just pray they review it and look over it, and see that my kids tried to keep class. I did have some kids that acted out of character, but we are going to take care of that in-house. I don’t feel good about it; it’s shameful, and that is not how I wanted to end my night tonight.”

Teffere says that moving forward the players must focus on controlling themselves.

“Going into the next game, we need to focus on keeping our heads,” Teffere said. “We can’t be getting in fights like this against KIPP. We have to control our emotions and be bigger people.”

The rest of the game was played by JV players, and ended with a loud eruption of cheering from both the crowd and the team.

“I feel excellent; it was a big headache, but like I said, I told everyone at school, ‘You just have to believe,’” Howard said. “I believed from day one. It’s going to take a lot of people to buy in. My kids have bought in; now we just need to try and get the community and school to buy in, as well.”

Taylor, who last played as a sophomore in an empty home stadium in 2020, said having fans in the stadium made a difference on the outcome of the game.

“This is my first time really experiencing it,” Taylor said. “Because freshman year, I didn’t play, sophomore was Covid season, and last year, we didn’t have a team. So, it was an amazing feeling to have the fans out here cheering us on. It was the best feeling in the world to be able to entertain them.”

Howard believes the win was a step in the right direction, but because of the young roster and inexperience, the team still has a lot to learn and room to grow.

“When you got kids who have not played a full season since their ninth grade, when you have kids, like Jordan Taylor, who came back his senior year to play, these guys have been out of shape, been out of the know of football; so, we all got to get them back into shape,” Howard said. “I also just want everyone to know we are coaching with four coaches; we are coaching our butts off. I have a handful of kids who have never played football. They came out because they believe in the program. Farris Duwayri is one of them. The kid has never played football in his life, but I put him on the field because I believe in them. First time playing football, first game, there are going to be a lot of jitters, but I am proud of them and they showed that they can step up when we need them too.”