It was a game of long plays and short drives. A game where turnovers loomed large and a 35-yard extra point by an unsung senior kicker proved to be the difference.
Handley didn't do everything to perfection Friday night, but they did enough to beat Lanett 19-18 in a battle of highly-ranked heavyweights.
The win put Handley at 4-0 and almost certainly assured them of keeping their number one ranking in Class 4A.
Tae Meadows rushed for 191 yards and three touchdowns and Handley overcame four turnovers to score the final touchdown of the game, which fittingly came after Lanett's only turnover of the game.
With Lanett in possession early in the fourth quarter nursing an 18-12 lead, Handley's LaDarious Johnson disrupted a handoff in the Lanett backfield, which helped force a fumble, then scooped up the loose ball and rumbled down to the Lanett 6-yard line.
Two plays later Meadows was in the end zone for his third touchdown of the night to tie the score at 18 apiece. The only problem was that Handley drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for its celebration of the game-tying score, and that pushed the extra point attempt back to the 18-yard line. But Davey Towers, who missed his only other extra point try from the regular distance earlier in the game, earned his redemption by drilling the all-important 35-yard kick to give Handley the one-point lead.
Handley then came up with a defensive stop, took over possession with 4:46 left to play in the game, picked up a couple of first downs and drained the clock for the win.
Meadows also scored on runs of 81 and 8 yards in a back and forth contest in which Lanett running back D'Quez Madden was just as dazzling as his Handley counterpart. Madden rushed for 204 yards and three touchdowns on just 17 carries, including touchdown runs of 83 and 56 yards in the third quarter that helped Lanett build its six-point lead.
Handley threw two interceptions and muffed two punt returns, the first of which set up the first Lanett touchdown, a 16-yard run by Madden to tie the score at 6-6 in the first quarter.
Handley quarterback Ty Fetner went 9-for-15 for 142 yards, 95 of which came on four catches by Jamerqui Lewis.
Lanett came into the game as the No. 2-ranked team in Class 2A, and was every bit of Handley's equal for much of the night. The Panthers are now 4-2 on the season.
Wadley 56, RCHS 30
Ranburne 49, Woodland 6
Pleasant Grove 35, Clay Central 3
Look for full coverage of all of these game in next week's print edition of the Randolph Leader.