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By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- For most of the first half, it appeared Handley might go toe-to-toe with undefeated Kettle Run.
Despite a dismal showing on offense, the Judges were tied with the Cougars. However, Kettle Run scored three touchdowns in the last four minutes of the first half en route to a 34-0 win over the Judges on Saturday in nondistrict action.
"It's the same story," Handley coach Tony Rayburn said. "We just keep making mistakes. And we couldn't do anything at all on offense in the first half."
The Judges had minus 16 yards of total offense in the first half, and finished the game with only 45 yards.
Even though the offense was struggling, Handley's defense performed well throughout most of the first half.
The Cougars (6-0) finally put a drive together late in the half. Kettle Run went 52 yards on six plays. Kettle Run quarterback Mac Graham connected with receiver Conner Adams for a 30-yard touchdown pass with 3:22 left in the opening half.
"I thought in the first quarter that this was going to be a defensive slugfest," Kettle Run coach Jeff Lloyd said. "Once we got that first touchdown we were able to roll."
On Handley's next possession, freshman quarterback Will Dearing was intercepted by Michael Parker, who returned it to the Handley 5.
Two plays later, Graham threw a touchdown pass to Parker to extend the lead to 14-0 with 1:40 remaining in the first half.
A fumble by Dearing on the next possession set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Graham with 41 seconds left in the half.
"We've been good at getting turnovers all season," Lloyd said. "That's what good teams do to win football games."
The Cougars added to their lead in the third quarter with an eight-play, 59-yard drive. Graham again connected with Adams, this time on a 37-yard touchdown.
On both touchdown receptions, Adams was able to leap over the smaller Jawaun Goynes for the score.
"He's a kid that when he goes up for a ball, if he has a chance to come down with it, we feel like he's going to come down with it most of the time," Lloyd said of Adams.
Kettle Run is only in its fourth year of existence, and Lloyd said he's glad to see the program finally have success.
"It's nice to see the hard work the kids have made has paid off," Lloyd said. "This is the fourth year and I knew we had a chance to be good this year."
The Judges (2-4) lost starting quarterback Harrison Bayliss to a concussion earlier in the season, and have used four different signal callers. They've also had three different offensive formations. They are now using the double-wing formation. Rayburn said there's a lot of improvement that needs to be made on offense in many different areas.
Handley will begin its Northwestern District season Friday at Sherando, and if it's going to turn the season around, it needs to start this week.
"Our backs are against the wall," Rayburn said. "We've got to get better."