It was pretty much over after the first half.
With the Elmore County Panthers already down by six touchdowns to Handley, the head official offered to keep a running clock after halftime, ECHS coach Jordan Cantrell said.
“The ref said, ‘You want to end this thing?’ and I said, ‘No, we’re going to come out and fight,’” Cantrell said, “and we did.”
The region-leading Tigers stayed undefeated on the season behind tailback Devontae Houston’s four first-half touchdowns in a 42-14 road win at Elmore County. The Panthers were dominated on both sides of the ball early and managed only 34 yards of offense in the first half.
Houston, by comparison, gained 190 yards and scored four touchdowns on nine carries before the halftime break. Handley outgained Elmore County, 353-144, for the game.
“I thought came out extremely focused early in the ballgame, ready to be physical, the offensive line especially,” Handley coach Larry Strain said. “Our kids played hard, and the Houston kid is pretty phenomenal. He can go.”
Matched up against subs and youngsters, the Panthers managed to put a couple of touchdowns on the scoreboard in the second half.
Fullback Ethan Geer scored his first of the season in the third quarter, finishing off the Panthers’ opening drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. And in the fourth quarter, Lapatrick Brown scored on a 10-yard run. Kicker Zac Jones hit both point-after attempts. Keshawn Benson was the Panthers’ leading rusher with 62 yards. Brown added 31 yards, and Geer 28.
Quarterback Brody Ward had a rough game, completing just three passes for 18 yards and three interceptions. One of those picks, in the first quarter, was run back 30 yards for a touchdown by Handley’s Nathaniel Pike.
Houston, a senior, scored on Handley’s first four possessions, with touchdowns of 35, 22, 52 and 29 yards. Dontavious Snead added a 7-yard touchdown.
Cole Boothe led the Panther defense with 5.5 tackles. Cornerback Zion Reed added four tackles.
“We got beat down pretty good tonight,” Cantrell said. “We’ve just have to keep working. That’s all I know how to do and that’s all these kids know how to do.”
Next week the 1-5 Panthers travel to a struggling 2-4 Childersburg, coming off a big loss to Sylacauga. Handley likely plays for the region title, facing also-undefeated Lincoln at home in Roanoke.