Handley did what it was expected to do in its game on Friday, then got a healthy dose of the unexpected Tuesday morning.
Handley dominated every statistical category in a 32-0 win over Cleburne County Friday, but the bigger news came yesterday when one of the Tigers’ biggest challengers in the region made a major announcement.
Handley, which has only played two games that were originally on its schedule, will once again see its schedule altered next week after Jacksonville canceled its next two contests due to a positive COVID-19 test for one of its players.
Those cancellations take Handley’s game against Jacksonville, which was unbeaten in region play, off the schedule and will give Handley a 1-0 forfeit victory in what may have been a crucial region contest.
“We obviously were wanting to play that game,” said Handley head coach Larry Strain. “Nobody wants to get wins by forfeit. There are some teams that are avoiding playing, no doubt. But that ain’t the case with Jacksonville.”
Jacksonville coach Clint Smith called Strain Tuesday to notify him of the decision.
“He said, ‘Our kids have played ourselves into this position to play for a region championship. We would have liked to at least have the opportunity to get to play for it to see if we were going to win or not. We might not, but at least we would have had the opportunity,’” Strain said. “So coach Smith is not avoiding this. What’s he got to gain by it?”
Jacksonville played in the 4A state championship game last year, and was coming off of a 44-20 win over Munford Friday.
Jacksonville also canceled this week’s non-region game against Piedmont.
“I felt like we were really starting to play well and really starting click and things like that,” Smith told EASportsToday.com. “At the same time from a region standpoint its one region game and not two. It’s bad because the game with Piedmont is such a big game every year, but it is a non-region game, and of course big region game with Handley. It’s tough at any point of the year. These kids work hard, but our kids are resilient and we’ll bounce back from it and get to the other side.”
As for Handley’s game against Cleburne County, the Tigers pitched their first official shutout of the season and got another huge game from running back Tae Meadows.
Meadows ran for 205 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries in just over two quarters of play.
Strain stuck with his first string offense through the first possession of the second half, which ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Evan Cofield to put Handley up 32-0. After that Strain allowed his bench players to close out the game.
Cofield went 8-for-11 for 104 yards and an interception while also rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Handley out-gained Cleburne County 424-98 in total yardage and held Heflin to an average of 2.1 yards per play.
“It was a one-sided ballgame,” Strain said. “They were having a hard time moving the ball on us. Our defense was really playing well. Our offense was really going pretty well too.”
Defensive linemen Jake Cottle and Brian Joiner did the heavy lifting defensively as Cottle led Handley with six total tackles and Joiner had two tackles for loss.
Handley will travel to Lanett Friday to take on the No. 5 ranked team in class 2A.