The Handley Tigers have entered the final stretch of their regular season, and it’s a stage of their schedule where all of the good things that they have left to accomplish pre-playoffs are starting to feel inevitable.
Handley put together a minimum-effort-required 51-13 win over Talladega Thursday night. It was the second time in the past three games that almost all of Handley’s starters took their final snaps in the first quarter.
Handley led 27-0 after that first quarter and 41-0 at halftime. With the win the Tigers will clinch a playoff spot if Jacksonville defeats Munford on Friday.
And with two regular season games remaining against 3-3 Cleburne County and 1-5 Munford, Handley has a clear path to a region title that will set the stage for what they hope is another deep playoff run.
Thursday’s game was an opportunity for the starters to get their reps and for the subs to get their moment in the spotlight. Among the former, running back E.J. Goss ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries and in so doing went over the 1,000 yard mark for the season. Goss now has 118 carres for 1,017 yards and 16 touchdowns through eight games.
His fellow backfield starter Cannon Kyles completed 2-of-4 pass attempts for 19 yards, all of which came on a 19-yard touchdown pass to Makavian Allen in the first quarter.
Handley defensive lineman T’Marion Phillips fell on a first-quarter fumble in the Talladega end zone after a fumbled snap from the 1-yard line, giving Handley the first of its two defensive touchdowns in the game.
That’s when the next wave of Handley players got in the act. Nemo Askew took the opening play of the second quarter 45 yards for a touchdown to give Handley a 34-0 lead. Then backup quarterback Cordan Patterson connected with Reid Giardina for a 50-yard touchdown pass that gave Handley a 41-0 cushion.
By the start of the third quarter Handley was deep into it bench and was relying on running back Riley Watkins for most of its offense. Their only points in the third came on a 36-yard field goal by Landon Bozeman. Handley capped its scoring with its second defensive touchdown of the game, an impressive 82-yard interception return by sophomore Jamison Vowell in the fourth quarter. Watkins finished with 10 carries for 75 yards.
Handley, which entered the game ranked No. 6 in the state in Class 4A, goes to 7-1 on the season. The Tigers will host Cleburne County next Friday in their final regular-season home game.