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Before this season, the last time Wadley won a region championship the Bulldogs went on to play in the state finals. Judging by their subdued reaction to clinching the 2023 region title with an emphatic 42-8 win over Winterboro Friday, these Bulldogs also have their eyes on a much bigger prize.
“These guys right here, in their mind they want to do it all,” said Wadley head coach Shenan Motley. “This right here is just another game to them. They’ve had a little taste of it, so that’s their destination. But we’ve just got to take it one game at a time because our road could be very tough.”
Wadley can start thinking about that playoff road now that they know that they will enter the bracket as the number one team from Region 4.
And they got the win that put them there thanks to a brilliant night from sophomore running back Jaquez Wilkes, who rushed for 302 yards and four touchdowns on just 18 carries and was virtually unstoppable all night.
“Tonight he looked next level,” Motley said. “He was hard to bring down. He had some hard runs, and then when he got in space he turned it on to another gear.”
Motley made it clear that the offense was in Wilkes’s hands early on. Wadley’s first offensive possession turned into an 11-play drive in which Wilkes ran the ball on nine of those 11 plays. He crossed the goal line from 9 yards out to put Wadley up 7-0.
Wilke’s final run of the first half was a 70-yard touchdown that gave Wadley a 14-0 lead. His first run of the second half was a 61-yard rumble that stretched that lead to 21-0. And after that, the yards came in chunks for both Wilkes and backfield mate Cortavion Lynch.
Lynch finished with 94 yards and two second-half touchdowns on 10 carries in a game in which Wadley attempted just two passes, without a completion.
“It’s hard for me to throw the ball when we’re getting eight or nine yards a carry,” Motley said. “That’s just my mentality.”
Wilkes’s final run of the night was an 18-yard touchdown that put Wadley up 42-0.
Winterboro scored a meaningless touchdown on a 68-yard pass play with 34.3 seconds left in the game to spoil the shutout.
And now Wadley will watch and wait to see how the rest of the 1A North bracket fills out. With powerhouse teams like Coosa Christian and recent nemesis Pickens County vying for their spots in their respective regions, Wadley will have a vested interest in where those teams and other land over the next two weeks.
Wadley is now 7-1 and will take on Talladega County Central on the road next week.
Handley 38, Cleburne County 14
Handley also took care of business Friday and clinched its fourth region championship under head coach Larry Strain with a 38-14 win over Cleburne County on senior night in Roanoke.
Cannon Kyles threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as part of a 35-point first half for Handley. The Tigers led 35-0 at the break and were never seriously threatened over the final two quarters.
Kyles went 3-for-4 for 84 yards and hit Daquavian Slaughter for a 48-yard touchdown and Montrevious Black for a 33-yard score in the first quarter.
Kyles also took his only rushing attempt of the game 75 yards for a touchdown at the start of the second quarter.
Handley got 64 yards and touchdown on eight carries from E.J. Goss, and Jamarcus Daniel added a 7-yard touchdown before the break.
Landon Bozeman kicked a field goal for the second straight week, this time from 24 yards in the fourth quarter to round out the scoring for Handley.
The Tigers are 8-1 and will close out their regular season next week at Munford. The Tigers will start the playoffs on November 10 at home and will be the number one seed from Region 4.
RCHS 50, Beulah 29
RCHS trailed Beulah 29-28 late in the fourth quarter before exploding for 22 points in the final 3:18 of the game to secure a 50-29 win.
It was a landmark victory for head coach Pat Prestridge, who became the all-time winningest coach in school history, giving him one more win at the school than his predecessor Ron Watters.
Victory number 148 did not come easily for the future hall-of-famer. The Tigers were deadlocked in a back-and-forth game for most of the first three quarters and found themselves trailing by a point after a Beulah touchdown with 6:21 left in the game.
Amari Molden’s 1-yard touchdwon run with 3:18 to go put RCHS up 36-29, and that’s when sophomore sensation Mo Winston came alive and almost single-handedly put the game away. Wintson had interception returns for touchdowns on back-to-back Beulah possessions to thwart any notion of a Bobcats rally. The first went for 65 yards and gave RCHS some breathing room at 43-29 with 1:44 remaining. The second came moments later, an 85-yard pick six that sealed the game with less than a minute to go.
Winston finished with five of the Tigers’ seven touchdowns in a do-it-all game for the first-year starter. He ran 19 times for 123 yards and three touchdowns, caught four passes for 55 yards to go along with the two pick-sixes.
Molden added 69 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, and Austin Terrell ran five times for 92 yards as RCHS racked up 332 yards on the ground.
The victory keeps RCHS in line for the number-two seed out of 3A, Region 4. If the Tigers defeat Dadeville next week, they will earn that number two spot at least and get a first-round playoff game at home.
RCHS is now 7-1 for the season.
Woodland 35, Fayetteville 27 (Thursday)
Clay Central 49, Beauregard 7
Thorsby 22, Ranburne 12