By Tommy Keeler Jr. -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- There's been a buzz going around Handley this week.
Today's home opener against Briar Woods isn't a typical first home game at the Handley Bowl. The Judges will play their first game on their new synthetic turf field and fans will get to experience the renovations to the Handley Bowl.
"We're real excited to play our first home game on the new field," Handley senior Jeremiah Wilson said. "I think it's going to make us come out more fired up and more intense.
"At school everybody's real excited."
Handley's student body isn't alone in its desire to see the new Handley Bowl.
"I think the whole community is interested in seeing it," Handley coach Tony Rayburn said. "The school put a lot of money into this, so, I think people are excited to finally see it."
There have been a lot of rumors as to whether the Judges would be able to play today at the Handley Bowl as the renovations continue. Handley athletic director Bill Stewart said on Thursday that the game was still scheduled to be played at the Handley Bowl today. Stewart did not return phone calls to The Northern Virginia Daily on Friday, however, the school confirmed that the game will be played at home today. Briar Woods athletic director Jerry Carter also confirmed on Friday that the teams would be playing at Handley today.
Rayburn said after practice on Wednesday that he hadn't be told one way or the other if the game would be played at home, but was assuming that it would be.
The Judges are coming off an impressive 21-17 win over Harrisonburg last week. Handley had to overcome a lot of adversity in the win. Offensive/defensive lineman Derek Dowrey had to leave the game with an injury in the first half, but did return in the second half. Handley running back/linebacker Leonard Grant suffered a sprained ankle during the second quarter and did not return.
Suddenly a 14-0 first quarter lead had disappeared as the Blue Streaks rallied to take a 17-14 fourth-quarter lead. Seniors Jeremiah Wilson and David Carter stepped up to save the day for Handley.
Wilson gave the Judges the lead with a little over five minutes left in the game. The University of Maryland-bound running back ran for 40 yards on a broken play, which resembled something from a video game. Wilson went left on the play, which was designed to go right. He was surrounded by five Harrisonburg players, but managed to go backwards and then cut back to his right until he found daylight and eventually the end zone.
"I was thinking 'this isn't going to be good,'" Wilson said. "Then their corner spun me around and I was able to get away. I just knew I had to make a big play."
On the Blue Streaks next possession it was Carter who made the big play. Harrisonburg running back Michael Holmes ran to his right and cut back to the center of the field where he appeared headed for the end zone. Carter was able to make a diving, shoestring tackle to keep Holmes to a 13-yard gain and keep the Judges in the lead.
"I saw [Holmes] cut back to the left and I was the only one there," Carter said. "I just tried to make a play any way I could."
The Judges will have their hands full with a solid Briar Woods squad. The Falcons are 0-2, but lost two close games to Millbrook and Liberty. The adversity Handley overcame last week could help them throughout the season. The Judges may be without Grant, who Rayburn said was doubtful for today's game. Rayburn did note, however, that he was making better progress than expected throughout the week.
Carter said the Judges won't overlook the Falcons.
"It was good that we had some adversity and came back against Harrisonburg, but now we have to be ready for Briar Woods," Carter said.