Handley built a 35-7 lead in the third quarter against the No. 1 team in the state in Class 3A and then swapped scores long enough to outlast St. James 55-27 in Roanoke Friday night.
It was the home opener for Handley and the second leg of a three-part DI quarterback gauntlet that the Tigers face to start the season.
So far Handley has been up to that challenge as they knocked off Valley and future Missouri Tiger Cam Dooley last week, and then took care of business against Arkansas commit K.J. Jackson Friday night.
Jackson got his numbers, as he finished 16-for-35 for 307 yards and four touchdowns, but the one interception that he threw may have been the most pivotal pass of the entire game.
Handley led 14-7 late in the second quarter but Jackson had St. James knocking on the door to tie it with a first-and-goal from the Handley 4-yard line. On second down he took the shotgun snap and bobbled it slightly before slinging a pass toward the flat with pressure in his face. That pass went directly to Handley defensive back Jay Heath who returned it 97 yards for a touchdown. Instead of a tie game, Handle suddenly led 21-7 and St. Jame never seemed to fully recover.
With that lead, Handley went to work behind its vaunted offensive line and put the ball in the hands of some very capable running backs.
E.J. Goss had his second straight 100-yard games as he ran for 177 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries. Three of those four scores came in a third quarter that saw the two teams combine for six touchdowns and 40 points. Goss scored on runs of 1, 55, 49 and 3 yards and averaged over 10 yards per carry.
He was one of four Handley backs to find the end zone, as Nemo Askew got his first action in the Handley backfield and looked explosive on his five carries. He ran for 42 yards and a touchdown with that limited workload and could be in for a larger role on the Handley offense as the season continues.
Jamarcus Daniel and Cannon Kyles each added a touchdown run for Handley, which ran for 323 yards as a team.
That stood in stark contrast to St. James, which tried early on to establish a run game, with little success. For the game they managed just 23 yards on 24 rushing attempts. Jackson, who is known for his dual threat ability, was sacked multiple times and held to minus-11 yards rushing on 13 attempts.
Handley’s quest to defeat three straight teams with DI quarterbacks will continue next week as they host Jacksonville and Troy commit Jim Ogle in the first region game of the year for both teams.
Handley is now 2-0, while St. James falls to 1-1 with the loss.
RCHS 41, Woodland 0
RCHS won its season opener and stretched its winning streak against cross-county rival Woodland to 10 straight games with a 41-0 win in Wedowee Friday.
The Tigers did it on the ground against the Bobcats as starting quarterback Avion Willis completed just one pass for seven yards, while the Tigers’ run game amassed 376 yards and accounted for four of the Tigers’ six touchdowns.
The other two came on a pair of electric second-quarter punt returns by Mo Winston. He ran one back for 51 yards and a score, added another from 61 yards out and then added a 61-yard touchdown run, all in the span of less than three minutes of game time in the second quarter. It was part of a 27-point outburst for RCHS that essentially put the game out of reach.
Defensively RCHS held Woodland to minus-15 rushing yards in the first half and finished the game with four interceptions. Michael Robinson picked off two passes, while Gavin Wortham and Willis came up with one interception each.
Winston finished with 112 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. RCHS also got rushing touchdowns from Amari Molden, Terrance Scales and Willis, who took his only rushing attempt of the night 31 yards for a touchdown.
RCHS is 1-0 and will travel to Childersburg next week to begin region play.
Woodland falls to 1-1 and will go to BB Comer next Friday.
Wadley 49, Ranburne 21
Clay Central 30, Benjamin Russell 13
Look for full coverage of all four of Friday’s games in next week’s print edition of the Randolph Leader.