Holtville couldn’t do it. A whopping 16 penalty flags couldn’t do it either. In fact, the only thing that could stop Handley and running back Devontae Houston in their 34-6 win against 10th-ranked Holtville last Friday was Handley head coach Larry Strain.
With the game well in hand in the second half Strain began a steady stream of substitutions that finally put an end his team’s tour de force in their region opener.
Holtville had snuck into the top 10 earlier in the week thanks to some preseason buzz about them being a team on the rise followed by a blowout win over Central Coosa in week one.
But Handley put an end to that buzz and the team’s brief stay in the rankings with a dominant two-way performance Friday.
Houston was the centerpiece of a Handley offense that amassed 440 total yards. The senior running back had 202 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries, ran for a two-point conversion, caught two passes for 40 yards, and even threw a pass for a 19-yard completion on a fake punt early in the game.
He scored his team’s first three touchdowns in the first half on runs of 22, 47 and 9 yards, then put the game away with 35-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.
Amid all of that Dylan Brooks caught his second touchdown pass of the season, a 55-yarder from Evan Cofield with 7:48 left in the third quarter that gave Handley a 28-0 lead.
While Houston’s effort helped Handley to a 283-yard rushing performance as a team, Handley’s run defense was equally impressive. The Tigers held Holtville to minus-27 yards rushing and stopped the Bulldogs on 13 of 14 third down attempts, limiting them to just four first downs in the game. In all Handley forced a total of 14 negative yardage plays and limited Holtville to 29 total yards of offense.
Handley managed all of that despite drawing 16 penalties for 145 yards, while Holtville was flagged just five times for 40 yards. The last time these two teams played at Holtville Handley won despite being flagged 25 times.
Cofield finished 5-for-8 for 113 yards and a touchdown through the air and finished as the team’s second-leading rusher with 47 yards on six carries. Brooks finished with two catches for 74 yards.
Handley is now 1-1 overall and 1-0 in region play. The Tigers return to action on the road Friday in a non-region game against Booker T. Washington.