The song “Eye of the Tiger” is a constant around the Handley football program on Friday nights, and a lyric from that song helps explain how Handley was able to come away with a 41-0 preseason victory Friday over RCHS.
So many times, it happens too fast.
Handley scored four unanswered touchdowns in the game’s first 13 minutes, and each time the points came as if they were shot out of a cannon. That created what proved to be an insurmountable 28-0 lead for Handley in the first game between these two teams since a 2015 preseason contest.
Handley needed just four plays to find the end zone on its opening possession of the game, thanks to an impressive 37-yard touchdown run by Tae Meadows.
Then the home team got busy on defense, harassing RCHS freshman quarterback Avion Willis into interceptions on three straight possessions.
“The biggest thing I thought was we played extremely well on defense tonight,” said Handley head coach Larry Strain. “We had people flying around to the ball. I feel like the secondary made great improvements tonight. People were around the ball when the ball gets deflected or tipped, I think it always landed in our hands tonight.”
Willis is a promising talent who was making his first career start, and he almost certainly has brighter days ahead of him after facing what will probably be the best defense RCHS sees all season.
“We’re forcing teams to have throw [quickly] and it plays into the quickness and speed that we have back there in the back end,” Strain said.
That process starts with a menacing defensive front, and one of those big guys in the trenches reaped the rewards on the first interception of the night.
Defensive tackle Ahmad Staples came away with a pass that was batted up in the air, and he was able to break free for a 55-yard pick six to put Handley up 14-0.
On the next RCHS possession, defensive back Tae Snead snagged the second interception of the game and returned it to the RCHS 9-yard line. After Handley was backed up five yards due to a penalty, Snead was rewarded for his defensive efforts with a 14-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Evan Cofield to give Handley a 21-0 cushion.
On the following possession, RCHS moved into Handley territory for the first time, aided by a roughing the passer penalty. But that momentum was short lived, as Quadae Lewis hauled in Handley’s third interception on the first play of the second quarter and turned it into their second pick six of the game.
After that, Handley went to its bench as RCHS was unable to muster any sustained offense.
The Tigers got a couple of second-half touchdown runs from sophomore Jamarius Haynes to give them the final margin of victory.
Hagan Bailey finished as RCHS’s most productive player on offense after he rushed for 26 yards on seven carries.
Meadows didn’t play after the first quarter but still led Handley with 52 yards and a touchdown on four carries.
It was the first high school sporting event for either school since the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring sports back in March. And that fact wasn’t lost on Strain.
“I thought that our community needed something coming through this pandemic, to be able to come out here and get to experience football again and get to play one of your old rivals that you haven’t played in a while,” he said.
Handley will open its regular season Friday at Beauregard, while RCHS will host Woodland in its first regular-season contest.