Tae Meadows returned to the Handley lineup and reestablished himself as one of the best 4A running backs in the state, and the Tigers' defense was ferocious against a pair of skilled Cleburne County players, as Handley claimed a 26-7 homecoming win over Heflin Friday in Roanoke.
Handley harassed Heflin quarterback Kyler McGrinn into his most limited performance of the season statistically and held the opposing Tigers to just one big play – a 49-yard touchdown from McGrinn to Beau Clay in the third quarter.
Outside of that play Handley held McGrinn, running back Devante Cantrell and company to just 139 yards on 44 plays. Cleburne County – a team that averaged over 37 points per game during its 4-0 start - managed only eight first downs in the game and McGrinn was picked off twice – once by Quadae Lewis and once by Jamerqui Lewis.
The play along the Handley defensive line by T'Marion Phillips, Ladarious Johnson and Brian Joiner gave McGrinn fits all night. Phillips led the defense with with 8 total tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss.
That defense gave a somewhat rusty Handley offense plenty of time to find its groove. Meadows, who had just six carries in the season opener and missed the second game against Munford due to an ankle injury, made a triumphant return to the starting lineup with 23 carries for 197 yards and a touchdown.
The two teams seemed to be feeling each other out early when Meadows exploded for a 64-yard touchdown run that staked Handley to a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Handley quarterback Ty Fetner accounted for three touchdowns – two passing and one running – and his first TD throw went for 7 yards to Amajah Williams and put Handley ahead 12-0 in the second quarter.
Fetner added a three-yard touchdown run before halftime, and Handley held a comfortable 20-0 advantage at the break.
That lead became a lot more uncomfortable after McGrinn and Clay hooked up for their fourth touchdown connection of the season on Heflin's opening possession of the third quarter.
Things started to really swing Cleburne County's way after they came up with a fourth down stop near midfield and drove the ensuing possession inside the Handley 10-yard line. But Jamerqui Lewis cut in front of a slant route intended for Clay in the end zone for a game-swinging interception, and Cleburne County never fully regained its momentum after that.
Fetner added a 34-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Cameron in the fourth quarter to put it away. Cameron caught five passes for 73 yards and a score and had another long touchdown pass negated due to a Handley penalty. The senior has emerged as Handley's most reliable receiving threat as he now has 14 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns in three games.
Fetner finished 12-for-20 for 178 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
Meanwhile Handley held McGrinn to 4-of-10 passing for 82 yards and 17 carries for 44 yards.
Cantrell, who came in averaging over 115 yards per game and 7.4 yards per carry, was held to 68 yards on 17 runs.
Handley is now 3-0 and successfully defended their No. 1 ranking in class 4A with the win.
Heflin falls to 4-1 with the loss.
Woodland 50, Donoho 27
Wadley 43, Winterboro 22
Horseshoe Bend 38, RCHS 8
BB Comer 55, Ranburne 28
Clay Central 35, Beauregard 0
Look for full coverage of all of these games in next week's print edition of the Randolph Leader.