Best season ever

Handley running back Devontae Houston now holds the school single-season records for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns after his 235-yard, 5-touchdown performance in Friday's 50-14 playoff win over West Blocton.

Devontae Houston etched his name in the Handley record books, and the Handley Tigers won a playoff game for the first time since 2016 with a 50-14 win over West Blocton in Roanoke Friday night.

Houston put in a dominant performance as he scored six of his team's seven touchdowns, rushed for 235 yards on just 14 carries and added two receptions for 39 yards.

His rushing yardage total in the game put him at 2,270 yards for the season, easily eclipsing the previous Handley record of 2,052 set by Stacy Garrett in 1991. It's also the highest rushing total for any player in the county since Wadley's Terrance Wilkes ran for 2,884 in 2005.

And Houston's five rushing touchdowns gave him 29 on the season, which also surpasses Garrett's 28 from 1991.

The night belonged to Houston from the game's first possession. West Blocton got a long return on the opening kickoff and had a first down at the Handley 15-yard line. They moved to first-and-goal from the five and looked like they were going to seize an early lead. But Kahleb Bennett forced a fumble in the West Blocton backfield, and Houston scooped the ball up near the sideline and raced 88 yards for a touchdown and an 8-0 Handley lead.

Handley's Tae Snead picked off a pass on the next West Blocton possession, and that's when Houston went to work on the rushing record. Needing 18 yards to set the record, he rushed for four yards on his first carry of the night, then added a 13-yard run that tied him with Garrett. It was a 3-yard run, his shortest carry of the night, on a first-and-10 from the West Blocton 19-yard line that put him past Garrett. Then for good measure he capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run that put Handley up 15-0.

The rest of the night was more of the same as Houston added touchdown runs of 15, 85, and 1 yard in the first half to send Handley to the locker room with a 36-6 advantage. He carried just twice in the second half, but the second of those was a 47-yard touchdown that earned him the rest of the night off.

The win also featured a shuffled defensive lineup for Handley that saw defensive ends Dylan Brooks and Jake Cottle move off the line of scrimmage to outside linebacker spots.

The move worked like a charm.

Cottle and Brooks finished as the team's two leading tacklers, and Handley's defense allowed a total of 129 yards on the ground.

The Handley victory was the school's first playoff win since it defeated Madison Academy in the 2016 4A state championship game. Handley missed the playoffs in 2017 and was eliminated in the first round last season.

Handley now advances to take on unbeaten Catholic Montgomery on the road in the second round next Friday.

Other scores

Ranburne 44, Cold Springs 0 – Ranburne advances to a second-round date on the road against No. 1 Fyffe.

RCHS 43, Midfield 8 – RCHS wins in the first round for the sixth straight season. The Tigers will travel to Westminster Christian in the second round.

Clay Central 47, Sardis 14 – Central holds up its end of the deal and sets up a crucial second-round matchup at No. 1 Jasper. Central lost to Jasper in double overtime in week five of the regular season.

Isabella 46, Wadley 20 – The Bulldogs were eliminated in the first round by unbeaten Isabella.

We'll have full coverage of all five of these games and previews of all the second-round matchups in next week's print edition of the Randolph Leader.

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