Handley surges in 2nd half to beat James Wood

By Robert Niedzwiecki The Winchester Star
Oct 28, 2017
WINCHESTER — An offensive formation that offered a glimmer of hope in the first half helped the Handley football team assert itself in the second half on Saturday at James R. Wilkins Jr. Stadium.
Christian Moten had a 54-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in the second half for the game’s first points, and Malachi Imoh had a 41-yard touchdown run with 10:06 left in the fourth quarter for the game’s final score as the Judges defeated James Wood 24-8 in a Class 4 Northwestern District game.
Both touchdowns came out of a Wildcat look in which a running back took a direct shotgun snap and two other players lined up on the same side of each other while slightly in front of the running back taking the snap.
Handley (4-6, 2-4 Class 4 Northwestern) first went to the formation on its third drive of the game, and it picked up 19, 7 and 7 yards, respectively, on the first three plays of the drive.
But two holding penalties led to a second-and-36 from their own 36 and an eventual punt with 5:27 to go in the second quarter, and the Judges didn’t get the ball back until there were 16 seconds left in the first half.
“We felt like we had an advantage there,” Handley coach John Davis said. “We put our numbers somewhere where we knew we could dictate their front. To get numbers to one side and run opposite or get numbers to one side and run at ’em, we felt like we had some success with that. We knew we’d have what we liked if we stayed with it.”
The Judges’ ability to mix up where they were going on their runs kept James Wood (2-7, 0-5) on its toes.
On Moten’s TD run, Handley positioned its backfield blockers to Moten’s left, but Moten ran right and picked up a full head of steam. After breaking a tackle at the James Wood 40, he went in the rest of the way untouched for a 6-0 Handley lead. Jorden Davenport's 34-yard kickoff return preceded the play.
“It was one of those things where it was a guessing game,” James Wood senior two-way lineman Dominic Revetta said of the Judges' Wildcat look. “Are they going to try the counter out of this? Are they going to run the power? Are they going to try and fake us out? The types of guys they have, you get them out in space, it’s hard to catch them.”
Handley gained 192 of its 303 yards in the second half. Moten (13 carries for 128 yards) had seven carries for 74 yards in the last 24 minutes.
“I think that touchdown lifted us,” Moten said. “We were kind of nervous going into this, because it’s our last game. We didn’t know what was going to happen, and we weren’t expecting James Wood to be as good as they were in the first half. We got the jitters out and started playing our game after that.”
Imoh (11 carries for 71 yards) was bottled up on the ground for three quarters, but broke out in the fourth to give Handley control.
After a 19-yard run by Imoh to the 41, Handley started the next play from the right hash mark with his two backfield blockers to the right of him before the snap. Imoh took the direct snap and followed his teammates into open space down the right side.
After tip-toeing just inside the sideline for several yards, Imoh left a defender grasping at air with a juke inside at the 15 and continued into the end zone untouched. Moten’s two-point run made it 24-8 with 10:06 left in the game.
That wasn’t Imoh’s first huge play of the game.
With leading receiver Kevin Curry out because of an injury he suffered last week against Sherando, Jacob Parker (4 of 7 for 59 yards) and Imoh made Ra’Shaad Morris (five catches for 97 yards) their prime target.
On third-and-15 from the James Wood 43, Imoh threw a deep pass to the left toward the 6-foot-2 senior. Morris cut in front of 5-10 James Wood cornerback Luke Esparza and jumped to make the catch at the James Wood 12.
With Morris timing his leap to keep his monentum going forward, he hit the ground running and scored easily. Imoh then connected with Morris on the two-point conversion to make it 16-0 Handley with 2:15 left in the third quarter.
“I had to step up today,” Morris said. “That was a great pass by Imoh.”
Morris made a huge play earlier on the defensive side of the ball. With James Wood at the Handley 10, Morris slammed into Colonel quarterback Carson Hoberg on an option run to the left and popped the ball out.
Another deflection sent the ball flying back toward James Wood’s end of the field, and the ball was finally recovered by Handley at the Judges’ 48-yard line with 7:33 left in the third quarter, keeping Handley’s lead at 6-0.
James Wood was able to move the ball at times on the ground (84 rushing yards in the first half) against the Judges, but the fumble was one of several ill-timed mistakes that cost them on Saturday.
After driving 30 yards to the Handley 21 on its first drive of the game, Hoberg (3 of 14 for 37 yards, two interceptions) was intercepted by Quentin Newman, who was on underneath coverage and not near a receiver.
With 4:19 to go in the third quarter, James Wood snapped the ball over punter Jacob Sortino’s head and out of the end zone from its own 16 to give Handley an 8-0 lead. Imoh returned Sortino’s ensuing free kick 27 yards to the Handley 47, and that short field led to Imoh’s touchdown pass.
Down 16-8 following William Crowder’s 55-yard kickoff return for a TD (Handley kicked from its 25 after an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Morris’ TD), James Wood forced Handley into a fourth-and-3 punting situation from the Judges’ 27 in the final seconds of the third quarter.
But the Colonels were penalized five yards for having too many men on the field — James Wood coach Ryan Morgan’s timeout attempt was ruled to be after the snap — and Handley used that first down to springboard itself to the TD that made it 24-8.
“One or two plays can make a big difference when it’s a tight game like that,” Morgan said. “Our guys were hustling and working hard, but it just didn’t go our way today.
“We thought we could run the ball, and we were doing a decent job running the ball downhill on them. But we can’t have the turnovers and penalties we had today.”
Overall, Handley’s defense had four takeaways, four sacks and held the Colonels to 151 yards on 60 plays. Sam Adkins had 40 yards on five carries and Mark Cisler had 38 on 12 to lead James Wood.
Davis said he was glad to see his senior class finish their careers in style. The group includes Moten, Morris, Tyrese Dudley, Jorden Davenport, Brent Gaymore, Austin Brown, Joe Mammano, Ian Ganey, Bobby Teahan and Bryce McDole.
The group helped Handley improve from 0-10 in 2015, the year before Davis arrived, to 2-8 last year, and now 4-6 this year.
“We always remind ourselves of that 0-10 season, and use that as motivation,” Moten said.
“Every coach’s goal here is to continue to build on our success and get a little bit better every year,” Davis said. “This group knew they weren’t going to get the instant gratification, but they knew they had to help get the program back on solid footing. They believed in what we were doing.”
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