With momentum clearly in Vigor's corner and the game possibly hanging in the balance, Handley turned to its star running back to restore order. And Tae Meadows gladly complied.
The clutch performance on Handley's final possession sent the Tigers to a 32-20 victory in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.
Handley saw what was once an 18-point lead dwindle down to five points after Vigor blocked a Handley field goal try and scooped up the loose ball for a 68-yard touchdown return. That play cut the Handley lead to 25-20 with just over six minutes to play.
In need of at least a first down in order to burn some clock, Handley got that and more from Meadows.
Meadows carried four times on the drive, the last carry going for 45 yards and back-breaking touchdown with 4:51 left to play.
That play snuffed out any hopes of a Vigor comeback and sent Handley to the second round of the playoffs, where they will travel to Montevallo next week.
Meadows's clutch fourth-quarter run wasn't the only big play for Handley Friday. The Tigers got two long pass plays that led to two touchdowns as Handley built a 25-7 lead early in the third quarter.
With Handley trailing 7-6 early on quarterback Evan Cofield connected with Quadae Lewis on a quick slant that Lewis took 60 yards to the house to put Handley back on top 12-7.
Then, with Handley leading 18-7 the Tigers took the opening possession of the third quarter 61 yards on four plays. The key play in that drive was a 51-yard completion over the middle from Cofield to fullback Ayden Robertson, who was tackled at the 4-yard line after the long gain. Meadows punched it in from there, and the Tigers had their biggest lead of the night.
Meadows finished with 178 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries. He was the only Handley running back to take a handoff the entire game and accounted for all but two of Handley's rushing yards
in the game. (Cofield had the other two yards on five carries.)
Cofield finished 5-of-11 passing for 137 yards and a touchdown, while Lewis was the team's leading receiver with three catches for 63 yards.
Defensively Handley gave up a handful of big plays, including a couple of long touchdown passes to Vigor receiver Kristopher Agee. But Vigor managed just 224 yards of total offense, only 74 of which came on the ground. Handley's Jake Cottle was all over the field defensively and led the team with 11 tackles.
Handley is in the second round for the second straight season. The Tigers were eliminated by Montgomery Catholic in round two a year ago.
Clay Central 45, Satsuma 14 - Central keeps Danny Horn's playoff record perfect in his time as head coach at the school. The Volunteers will host Andalusia in round two next week.
Woodland 30, Waterloo 6 – The Bobcats get their first playoff win since 2014 and return home to host Berry in the second round.
Decatur Heritage 48, Wadley 37 – Wadley put a scare into Decatur Heritage, taking a 31-28 lead early in the third quarter before eventually falling in the first round. Wadley's season ends with a record of 3-8.
Clarke County 43, RCHS 21 – RCHS lost in the first round for the first time since 2012. The Tigers end their season with a record of 7-4.
Read about all of these games, and the upcoming second-round matchups in next week's print edition of the Randolph Leader.