By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WINCHESTER -- Handley has been riddled with injuries throughout the season, and especially in the last few weeks. Handley coach Tony Rayburn wanted his kids to repsond to the challenge when they played Skyline, and respond they did.
The Judges played solid football from start to finish in a 56-24 win over the Hawks on Saturday afternoon at the Handley Bowl.
"I told them before the game that even though we've played two really good football teams the last two games, we beat ourselves in those games. ... I told told them no matter who we played, we needed to come out and execute in all facets of the game.
"Without a doubt this is the best we've played since we had the injuries."
The Judges (5-3, 1-1 Northwestern) were without several key players on both sides of the ball due to injuries. Rayburn said they switched their defense to a 4-3, and they played junior Dontae Mauck at both running back and receiver. Running back D.J. Frisby suffered an injury last week in a loss to Sherando.
Mauck finished the game with 114 yards rushing, and had eight catches for 92 yards receiving and five touchdowns combined.
The Judges needed only five plays to 60 yards on their opening dirve. Mauck finished it off with a 14-yard run to give the Judges a 7-0 lead with 9:55 left in the first quarter.
After a three-and-out, Handley used five plays to go 41 yards. Mauck ran it in from four yards out to give Handley a 14-0 lead with 6:12 left in the first quarter.
After another three-and-out, Mauck needed only one play to add to the lead. Mauck ran 92 yards for another touchdown to give Handley a 21-0 lead with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
"Dontae did a heck of a job," Rayburn said.
The Hawks (4-5, 1-2) put together a good drive aided by a 56-yard pass from Corban Ruch to Marcus Turner. The Judges' defense stiffened up to hold the Hawks to a 30-yard field goal by Dustin Weir with 3:34 left in the first quarter.
The Judges added four more touchdowns in the first half, all touchdown passes by Will Dearing.
The Handley junior quarterback went 20 for 22 for 331 yards against the Hawks.
This was the third game that the Judges have been without top receiver Justin Washington, who is out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"Will did a good job finding his receivers," Rayburn said. "I think Will did some good things in the last two games, but we may have played two of the top defenses in the state in Kettle Run and Sherando, so it wasn't as easy to see those things. Certainly, Will showed what he can do today."
The Hawks showed some signs of life at the end of the first half. They used six plays to go 69 yards, with Turner scoring on a 3-yard run with 2:14 left in the first half. After an onside kick was recovered by Skyline's Jamal Parker, the Hawks drove inside Handley's 30 before the drive stalled to end the half.
The Hawks scored on back-to-back possessions in the second half. Parker scored on a 49-yard touchdown run with 6:35 left in the third quarter. Skyline then put together a 10-play, 99-yard drive. Skyline's Jerrius Baltimore scored on a 43-yard touchdown run with 6:37 left in the game.
Baltimore ran for 93 yards on 16 carries, and Parker had 59 yards on five carries. Turner finished with 91 yards on four receptions. Ruch, who left the game with an injury in the fourth quarter, threw for 112 yards on 8 for 17 passing.
"I appreciate the kids for not quitting," Skyline coach Heath Gilbert said. "That's all you can do is to keep battling and keep trying your best.
"We're just physically out-manned up front against a team like Handley and like we'll see next week with Sherando."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd