The good news for RCHS and freshman quarterback Avion Willis is this: they probably just faced the best defense they will see all season long.
Handley's experience and talent on defense overwhelmed RCHS in the first quarter and the visiting Tigers never recovered as Handley earned a 41-0 preseason win over its cross-county rival in Roanoke Friday.
It was the first time the two teams had met since a 2015 preseason contest in Wedowee, and Handley played like it had something to prove. The home team picked off three passes in the first quarter and returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns as they built a 28-0 lead.
They built that 28-0 lead despite running just eight offensive plays in the first quarter.
Handley fans got a glimpse of the promise that running back Tae Meadows embodies as Meadows opened the scoring with a 38-yard touchdown run on his third carry of the game.
Handley then got its first pick-six on a batted ball that popped up into the air near line of scrimmage and landed in the hands of defensive tackle Ahmad Staples. Staples then rumbled 55 yards to paydirt to stake Handley to a 14-0 lead.
On the next RCHS possession Tae Snead snagged the Tigers' second interception of the quarter and returned it to the RCHS 9-yard line. After a procedure penalty backed Handley up, quarterback Evan Cofield lofted a perfectly placed ball to Snead in the back corner of the end zone to give Handley a 21-0 advantage.
But Handley's defense wasn't quite done in the takeaway department. This time it was Quadae Lewis who jumped on a Willis pass on the first snap of the second quarter. Lewis was able to shake a couple of tackles and break free down the sideline for a 78-yard return for a touchdown.
Handley's offensive starters played just one more series after that before backup running back Ja Haynes scored a pair of rushing touchdowns from 8 and 28 yards out.
Handley's ability to score seemingly at will was the polar opposite of RCHS's offensive frustrations. The Tigers from Wedowee managed just 74 yards of total offense and averaged just 1.9 yards per rush attempt. Hagan Bailey led RCHS on the ground with 31 yards on seven carries.
Meadows led the way for Handley despite not playing after the first quarter. He finished with 52 yards and a touchdown on four carries. Haynes wasn't far behind as he added 47 yards and two scores on eight rushes.
RCHS will start its regular season at Woodland next week, while Handley will travel to Beauregard for its season opener.
Woodland 20, Fayetteville 16 – Woodland scored the go ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, then iced it with a Brock Edwards interception on Fayetteville's final possession, giving Woodland a season-opening victory in year two under coach Blair Armstrong.
Horseshoe Bend 25, Wadley 16
Clay Central 35, Chilton County 0
White Plains 37, Ranburne 21
Be sure to check out next week's print edition of the Randolph Leader for full coverage of these games.