Defense sparks Judges past Wildcats

WINCHESTER –Handley’s defense set the tone early and kept the momentum going the whole way on Saturday.

The Judges shut down Warren County’s offense in a 29-2 non-district football victory. The win snapped an 11-game losing streak for the Judges.

“I think this is everything,” Handley coach John Davis said. “For every kid that was not sure if they wanted to get on the boat or not. Mentally this was a big step in the right direction for our mental psyche of just understanding that we do have a team that’s good enough to win a football game. And I think that it will carry over.”

Both teams struggled on offense to start the game. The Judges fumbled on the fourth play of the game, and Warren County’s Brett Dickerson recovered it at the Handley 30.

The Wildcats were unable to move the ball and take advantage.

Warren County quarterback Robert Keeney threw two interceptions in the first quarter, but the Judges were unable to convert either turnover into points.

On the first play of the second quarter Keeney was hit by Handley’s Tyrese Dudley in the end zone and the ball popped out and was recovered by Handley’s D’andre James for a touchdown. Handley’s Aiden Marshall ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.

“I said at the beginning of the season that we were going to be a more physical defense, and I think it showed today,” Davis said. “Our defensive line and our linebackers they just do a great job of understanding our scheme, and you see that we really just fly to the football.”

On Handley’s next possession the Judges moved the ball 49 yards on just four plays. Handley quarterback Jacob Parker connected with Christopher Bockey for 30 yards. Two plays later, Parker found Jeffrey Walker for a 3-yard touchdown pass for a 15-0 lead with 8:57 left in the first half.

Warren County’s struggles on offense continued. The Wildcats didn’t pick up a first down until four minutes was left in the half. Keeney ran for 12 yards, and then two plays later a pass interference call moved the ball to the Handley 46-yard line. However, the drive stalled and the Wildcats were forced to punt.

“We were not consistent offensively in any phase of the game,” Warren County coach Steve Crist said. “They got the jump on us, and they were playing faster than we were, especially early. They kept it up the whole game. We picked it up a little bit and got some plays going, but we never got anything going consistently.”

Warren County appeared to grab some momentum to start the second half. Warren County sophomore Ronald Dodson ran 23 yards to the Warren County 39 on the first play. A penalty on Handley moved the ball to the Handley 36-yard line, but on the next play Handley’s Michael Brown intercepted a pass by Keeney to end the threat.

The Judges responded with a nine-play 80-yard drive. Parker connected with Errance Fusco-Grant for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 8:17 left in the third quarter.

Handley scored again on its next drive. The Judges went 47 yards on six plays, and Parker connected with Brown for a 22-yard touchdown pass and a 29-0 lead with 4:54 left in the third quarter.

Warren County scored a safety with 1:15 left in the third quarter when a bad snap on an attempted punt went out of the end zone.

The Judges held the Wildcats to only 137 yards of offense.

“I feel like we got the athletes out, and six of those guys were making their first defensive start in the career,” Davis said of his defense. “To see those guys play that way and to play that fast and play that aggressive. I was very proud of that group.”

The Wildcats turned the ball over five times. Dodson led Warren County’s running game with 64 yards on 19 carries.

Crist said that his team just needs to keep working hard and fix the mistakes they made in the season opener.

“It’s going to hurt,” Crist said. “It should hurt. They put in a lot of work, but you can’t give up. You just got to keep fighting through it, and every day you got to try to get better.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com