Thursday, October 27, 2011

Handley proves that seeing is believing

As I sat at my desk and later at a table Saturday afternoon witnessing Auburn get dismantled in Baton Rouge by LSU, the comparisons to the contest I’d seen the night before began to flow through my mind.

There was Auburn, the defending national champions, getting absolutely blasted on the road much in the same way Leeds, the 2010 Class 3A state champions, got it handed to them in a 46-0 loss to Handley in Roanoke. But Auburn’s beatdown was somewhat expected. (Note: Those of you who thought the outcome would be impacted by the absence of those three suspended players were tripping — hard.) Leeds going into Handley’s Wright Field was supposed to be the AHSAA’s version of what everyone is anticipating in November 5th’s matchup between LSU and Alabama will be in Tuscaloosa, or at least somewhat close to it.

It wasn’t. And it had more to do with how good Handley (9-0) is than it did with how Leeds (7-2, 5-2) played.

Witnessing the manner in which Handley handled or “manhandled”, as Green Wave coach Keith Etheredge described it, you got the sense that if the two teams squared off 100 more times the outcome wouldn’t be that much different.

The Tigers have a stable of backs, including Breyon Deberry, Duran Zachery, Quay Hunter, Chris Dillard and Herbert Staples who could compete for a starting job most anywhere in The Star’s coverage area.

That’s not to mention quarterback Trae Kyles, who’s just as good a runner as anyone he hands the ball off to. And they’ve all got gaping holes to run through with an offensive line led by 2013 Alabama commitment 6-foot-, 315-pound left tackle Bradley Bozeman.

I knew they were good but seeing them in person opened my eyes to their potential greatness. A radio show called me after the game and asked me how I thought a matchup between Handley and top-ranked Piedmont might go in the state title game if it happens. It’s something I’ve pondered before.

I couldn’t come to a conclusion: “Whoever gets Handley in the playoffs is going to have their hands full and whoever gets Piedmont in the playoffs is going to have their hands full,” I said.

• DEBERRY’S STATUS: Deberry, Handley’s leading rusher, carried the ball nine times for 91 yards in the first half against Leeds but went down with an injury on the first play of the second half and didn’t return.

Monday, Handley coach Mike Battles said Deberry saw a doctor on Saturday and the diagnosis was a sprained right ankle. Battles said he wasn’t certain that the 5-foot-8, 183-pounder would play Friday against Class 2A Lineville (7-2) but added “He’s going to be OK.”

• SCHEDULING CHANGE: Alexandria’s Week 10 matchup at Lincoln, originally scheduled for Thursday, has been moved to Friday. Alexandria (6-3) principal Ronald Chambless called The Star Monday to inform us of the change.

But don’t fret football fans.

There will still be plenty of action on deck Thursday.

Here’s Thursday’s local slate.

Briarwood Christian (8-1) at Anniston (7-2); Coosa Christian (2-6) at Weaver (6-3); Clay County (8-1) at Saks (6-2) Ranburne (4-5) at T.C. Central (3-6) and Spring Garden (2-7) at Sand Rock (5-4).

Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.

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