On a night when the scores were not favorable for many of the county teams, the Handley Tigers continued their three-week romp through the back end of their schedule with a 49-14 win over Munford in their regular season finale.
RCHS lost to Dadeville in a game that decided the region championship, Wadley saw Ragland lose to Spring Garden in a game that likely knocked the Bulldogs down to third place in their region, and Woodland took another lopsided loss to Isabella.
But while all that was going on, for Handley it was short fields and wide open spaces early on as Handley’s first three possession all started inside the Munford 40-yard line and ended in the end zone.
That was more than enough for Handley to overcome a first-possession hiccup when Munford’s Sylvester Smith ran 65 yards for a touchdown on the game’s second play from scrimmage. That staked the Lions to a brief 7-0 lead before Handley produced more of its first-quarter, first-team magic.
Jay Haynes ran for 98 yards and three touchdowns on six carries in the opening quarter, and Jamerqui Lewis added a 36-yard touchdown run on an end around as Handley quickly built a 28-7 lead. The Tigers’ first string offense played one possession in the second quarter, and that ended in a 54-yard touchdown pass from Cannon Kyles to Ayden O’Neal.
It was fitting that all of Handley’s first five touchdowns were scored by seniors on a night when the seniors were honored in a pre-game ceremony before their final regular-season home game.
It won’t be the last game for those seniors at Wright Field, however. With Friday’s win the Tigers clinched the No. 2 seed out of 4A, Region 4 and will play at home against West Blocton in the first round of the playoffs on November 4.
The Handley starters turned things over to the backups for the vast majority of the final three quarters against Munford, and those backups made the most of their time in the limelight. E.J. Goss finished as Handley’s leading rusher with 129 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries. His 67-yard touchdown run on Handley’s opening play of the third quarter gave Handley their final points of the night. In all Handley averaged over 10 yards per play and piled up 431 yards of total offense.
Handley’s cause was helped by the absence of Smith, Munford’s four-star senior who is committed to Tennessee as a defensive back. Smith, who is also the Lions’ starting quarterback, exited the game after a first-quarter injury just minutes after his electric opening run gave his team their only points in the game to that point. Without Smith in the game, Munford’s hopes of hanging with Handley were dashed.
Handley has won its last three games by an average score of 48-10. The Tigers finish the regular season with a record of 9-1.
Dadeville 49, RCHS 7 – The Tigers’ perfect record comes to an end in a lopsided loss to Dadeville. That result gives Dadeville the region championship, while RCHS will have to settle for the No. 2 seed. RCHS will close out the regular season next week against Ranburne before hosting a home playoff game in the first round against either American Christian or Southside, Selma.
Clay Central 26, Russell County 14
Ranburne 64, Central Coosa 14
Isabella 48, Woodland 14
Wadley 1, Talladega County Central 0 (forfeit) – Wadley was idle after TCC did not have enough players to travel for their scheduled game and forfeited. Wadley was scoreboard watching the Ragland-Spring Garden contest but did not get the result that they wanted. The Bulldogs could have been the No. 2 seed if Ragland had defeated Spring Garden. As it is, Spring Garden won, which created a three-way tie for first place in the region. Spring Garden should win that three-way tie based on tiebreakers, which means Wadley would fall to third based on its head-to-head loss against Ragland.