Randolph County has a new coaching king, and the Handley Tigers have the first win of the 2021 high school football season after a dominant 55-21 win over Guntersville in the Kickoff Classic in Montgomery Thursday.
Handley scored in ways traditional and non-traditional, and the Tigers did it often in the first two quarters as they built a 48-0 lead at the half.
The Tigers scored on their second offensive play of the game, they scored on special teams, they scored on defense and they defended in smothering fashion to make an emphatic statement against the No. 5-ranked team in Class 5A.
The win made Handley head coach Larry Strain the all-time winningest coach in the history of coaches at schools in Randolph County. He entered the game tied with legendary RCHS coach Ron Watters – who coached Strain in high school – at 147 wins in the county. Strain now has 148 wins while coaching a Randolph County school, one ahead of Watters.
It also was Strain's 150th win overall to tie him with current RCHS head coach Pat Prestridge in the career-win category. Two of Strain's wins came outside the county at White Plains, while 17 of Prestridge's wins came at Oakman.
In its first game of the regular season, Handley looked much more focused and displayed a lot more firepower than in its preseason contests a week ago.
After the Tigers rotated quarterbacks throughout last week's preseason jamboree, Cannon Kyles took all of the first-team snaps and looked sharp doing so. He completed 9-of-10 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns and made a handful of dynamic plays.
Guntersville helped fuel the Handley onslaught with a couple of short punts that put Handley in short-field situations early, and Handley took full advantage.
Handley needed less than 50 yards combined to close out its first two drives. The first ended in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Kyles to Jordan West. The second culminated with a 1-yard touchdown run by Tae Meadows, and Handley was up 14-0 with just over five minutes left in the first quarter.
That's when Handley got creative with its touchdowns. Guntersville forced Handley to punt for the first time in the final minute of the first quarter. But Handley ran a fake, and Kyles connected on a screen pass with Quadae Lewis who took it 63 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 Handley lead.
On the ensuing possession, defensive end Brian Joiner wrapped up Guntersville running back Logan Pate, stripped the ball, snatched it out of mid-air and then ran 14 yards for a touchdown and a 27-0 Handley lead.
Handley added touchdown runs by Jay Haynes and Kyles before Strain temporarily sat his starters and began playing his backups. That didn't slow down the Handley offense at all against a shell-shocked Guntersville squad.
Nehemiah Askew added a 7-yard touchdown run to close out the first-half scoring with 1:30 left and Handley was on cruise control.
Guntersville scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter that prompted Strain to reinsert his starters. And Handley tacked on a fourth-quarter touchdown on a fourth-down pass from Kyles to Jamerqui Lewis with just under five minutes left in the game to make the score 55-14 and put the icing on the cake.
Third-string running back E.J. Goss led the Tigers' rushing attack with 121 yards on 19 carries. He got the bulk of the workload after Tae Meadows left with an injury in the first half.
Quadae Lewis finished as Handley's leading receiver with three grabs for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Handley now has a week off before returning for its region opener at Munford on September 3.
Look for more coverage of this game in next week's print edition of the Randolph Leader.