Handley wins state championship

The Handley Tigers refused to lose after going undefeated all season. They had to play from behind to win the Class 3A state title in the closing minutes of the ball game.


Handley scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes and turned away a Madison Academy threat from the Tigers' 12-yard line in the final seconds to capture a 20-14 victory and the school's first state football championship in the Class 3A finals.

Handley trailed the entire game until the fourth quarter. The Tigers had fourth down and four for the touchdown, but Madison Academy's Kerryon Johnson (freshman and name to remember) came up big for the stop.

Handley forced a three-and-out giving them another chance with less than five minutes remaining in the game. Junior running back Duran Zachery made a big play scoring on third-and-six from the 27-yard line and his second time in the endzone in the title game. Score, 14-13. The two-point conversion failed when the freshman sensation Kerryon Johnson made another big hit and stopped Hunter on the goal line.

Handley head coach Mike Battles went for the onside kick. It was successful with less than four minutes remaining in the game. This is a running team which ate up the clock and gained yardage. The Tigers ran off 10 straight plays giving them a score on the last one. Handley up 20-14.

"We decided to go for two, and we came up short," Battles said. "We were fortunate to get the ball back and were able to get it into the end zone. It was one of those gut check times. It's all it is, a gut check. Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you. That's all there is to it."

Madison Academy wasn't finished, and Handley's kick-off only went to the 45-yard line. A successful running play and big pass play had them in a very good position to take the title from the undefeated Handley team. The last play of the game, with five seconds remaining, was a reception at the goal caught out of bounds.

Handley's Duran Zachery was the MVP of the title game who finished with 12 carries for 75 yards with two touchdowns.

Senior tailback Quay Hunter led the Tigers' rushing attack with 83 yards on 19 carries. The Handley defense was led by Anthony Foster with nine tackles and Chris Dillard and Bradley Bozeman with eight each.

Madison Academy's balanced attack was led by freshman running back Kerryon Johnson, who rushed 12 times for 59 yards and two touchdowns and caught five passes for 35 yards. Khyle Jackson rushed four times for 66 yards. Olive was 14-of-19 passing for 136 yards.

Players always emerge during the two-day event of state championship games. This first game saw Madison Academy's Kerryon Johnson, in the class of 2015, make his name known with his outstanding play. He finished the game with nine tackles, an interception, 59 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.

This is Handley's first state championship title. The Tigers played in the state championship game in 1977, but lost to Stevenson 17-16.

Alabama commitment Bradley Bozeman goes out a winner before heading to Tuscaloosa for his college career. His play on the offensive and defensive line all season helped Handley remain undefeated all year.


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