Kettle Run blanks Judges 34-0
NOKESVILLE — It’s not often that a coach finds pride in a shutout loss, but Handley coach Tony Rayburn couldn’t help but praise his team Friday night.
Going up against the defending Region II, Division 3 champs in Kettle Run, the Judges’ defense gave the Cougars all they could handle on a night when they donned pink gloves and wristbands in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Handley (2-4) forced four turnovers in the first half and played a bend-but-do-not-break style of defense that twice produced stands inside the 10-yard line before wilting in the second half.
The final score may have been a 34-0 loss, but Rayburn felt his Judges had more than a few reasons to hold their heads up high on their walk to the locker room.
“I think we did take a step, believe it or not,” Rayburn said. “Offensively we didn’t, but defensively we definitely did. We had our backs against the wall all night [on defense] but we were in it and we were giving them a battle there for quite a while.”
An offense that managed just 129 total yards and never got inside the Cougar 30-yard line put the Handley defense in a bind for most of the night, but you would never know it from the way they played, especially in the first half.
A 47-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage by Kettle Run star running back Joshua Tapscott seemed to hint at a long night for the Judges, but they would hold the Cougars (6-0) to just three points over the next 28 minutes of play.
With the offense sputtering — Handley managed just three first downs in the first half and 57 yards, 29 of which came on a pass from quarterback Will Dearing to wide receiver Brian Thomas late in the second quarter — the defense made play after play to keep the game close.
On Kettle Run’s second possession of the game, Thomas picked off a wayward pass by Cougar quarterback Carlos Vegerano at his own 20-yard line. After Handley’s ensuing drive was halted when Dearing lost the ball on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-two, junior defensive back Andrew Lins stepped in front of a Vegerano pass down the right sideline to give the ball right back to the Judges.
A 22-yard field goal by Cougar kicker Evan Szklennik made it 10-0 early in the second quarter, but the Handley defense held the rest of the way thanks to fumble recoveries by Justin Washington and Skylar Wotring to keep it a two-score game heading into halftime.
“A lot of credit has to go to Handley, and I mean that sincerely,” said Kettle Run coach Jeff Lloyd. “Their kids played extremely hard in the first half and the turnovers we made, they’re responsible for those. They had kids putting the hat on the ball and bringing the ball out.”
Unfortunately for the Judges their extended time on the field began to show in the second half.
After forcing a three-and-out on the Cougars’ opening possession of the third quarter, Handley began to tire and Kettle Run took advantage.
Junior running back Dee Jackson appeared stopped on a run around the right side, but managed to break four tackles on his way to a 46-yard touchdown run to make it 17-0.
On their very next possession, the Cougars needed just one play as Tapscott burst threw a huge hole in the middle of the line for an 81-yard scoring scamper. A fumble by Wotring on the ensuing Handley possession gave Kettle Run a first-and-goal from the 7-yard line, and although the defense would hold, Szklennik’s 30-yard field goal pushed the lead to 27-0 to put the game out of reach.
A 1-yard run by fullback Josh Wicka early in the fourth quarter capped the scoring for Kettle Run.
“We made some mistakes in the third quarter that kind of let the game get away, but I was real proud of our defense, that was by far our best defensive effort and it came against a very talented offensive football team,” Rayburn said.
— Contact Kevin Trudgeon at firstname.lastname@example.org
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