The last time Handley defeated Clay Central the Tigers went on to win the state championship. Only time will tell if history repeats itself this season, but Handley’s 26-15 win over the Vols at Wright Field Friday night was the kind of physical midseason battle that can prepare teams for the rigors of the postseason.
Jay Haynes ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries and also caught two passes for 29 yards and another score, and the Handley defense pitched a second-half shutout as the Tigers got their first win against Central since 2016.
The news wasn’t all rosy for Handley as Haynes went down awkwardly after a fourth quarter run and left with what appeared to be an ankle injury. But by that point the game was well within Handley’s control, and the Tigers’ defense wasn’t willing to cede it back to a determined Central squad.
Haynes was instrumental in getting Handley on the board early as he blocked a Central punt on the first Vols’ possession of game. That loose ball ended up in the end zone where Roc Holloway eventually covered it up for a touchdown and the first points of the night.
But Central claimed the lead on its next possession thanks to a 6-yard touchdown run by Terry Heflin. Haynes answered with an 8-yard score before the Vols took a 15-12 lead on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Darren Harris to Demauri Whetstone.
Handley then retook the lead when quarterback Cannon Kyles perfectly executed the team’s three-minute offense and bounced back from an earlier interception to direct an 8-play 66-yard drive that ended in a 20-yard pass to Haynes for six. The Tigers took a 19-15 lead into the half, added a 17-yard touchdown run from Haynes on their opening possession of the third quarter and then rode a physical defensive effort over the final two quarters to secure the win.
In terms of yards from scrimmage Heflin’s numbers were almost identical Haynes’s. Heflin ran 17 times for 97 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 72 yards to give him 169 total yards to Haynes’s 175. And Harris, who came into the game completing 70 percent of his throws through the Vols’ first three games, ended the night 10-for-20 for 115 yards and a touchdown, without an interception.
Handley is now 5-0 on the season and will travel to Lanett for another non-region game next week.
Central falls to 2-2 on the year, and will host Alexandria in a non-region contest next Friday.
RCHS 20, Weaver 0
RCHS managed just 191 yards of total offense, but the defense forced four turnovers and pitched a shutout as the Tigers won 20-0 to remain unbeaten on the season.
RCHS got single touchdowns in each of the final three quarters of the game. But it was Avion Willis’s 5-yard pass to SanDavion Hardnett with 5:24 left before halftime that broke the stalemate and gave the Tigers all the points they would need.
RCHS got another touchdown pass from Willis to Zack Caldwell in the third quarter, then put the exclamation point on the win with a 55-yard scoring run from Johnathan Wilson. With 6:53 left in the game.
Willis finished 7-for-14 for 73 yards and two touchdowns and still has not thrown an interception through four games. Wilson finished as the Tigers’ leading rusher with 62 yards on five carries.
RCHS is 4-0 to start the season and 2-0 on region play going into next week’s non-region meeting against county foe Wadley.
Ragland 32, Wadley 25
Ranburne 40, Woodland 0