FRONT ROYAL — Any concerns on how converted running back Malachi Imoh would adjust to becoming Handley’s quarterback this year, were quickly erased early in the Judges dominating 48-0 win over the Warren County Wildcats on Friday night.
There was never any doubt in Imoh’s running ability and breakaway speed, but the senior looked just as comfortable in the pocket as a passer against the Wildcats.
In all, Imoh rushed for 142 yards and two TDs on nine carries, and connected on 7-of-12 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Judges’ romp.
“We knew what he could do running the ball,” Handley coach Dan Jones said. “We’ve given him plenty of reps passing the ball and he’ll only get better.”
After each team went three-and-out on their opening possessions, the Judges then marched 78 yards on 12 plays as Imoh capped the drive with a one-yard run.
The big play on the drive was a fourth-and-16 from the Wildcats 27 when Imoh hit receiver Jayden Vardaro for a 26-yard pass play.
Handley tacked on three more touchdowns in the second quarter as Imoh rumbled 55 yards for the first score. Midway through the quarter, Miles Ashe scampered 40 yards for another TD.
Imoh connected with Vardaro again late in the half, this time for a 25-yard TD pass and reception.
“My offensive line did a great job and gave me plenty of time, they made it easy for me,” Imoh said. “We just wanted to start the season with a big statement. We came out with a lot of intensity.”
As Imoh and the Judges offense rolled, the Handley defense completely shut down the Wildcats offense.
The Wildcats made just one first down in the opening half (that was courtesy of a Handley penalty) and were limited to just 13 total yards of offense by the swarming Judges defense.
“Our defensive coordinator Jim Gaynor does an outstanding job and we are lucky to have him,” Jones said. “He puts together a great game plan and the kids know what to expect. He challenged the defense tonight and they stepped up.”
In all, Warren County managed just two first downs in the game and was held to just 35 yards of total offense.
The Judges also came up with a pair of interceptions in the second half and a fumble recovery touchdown by Stephen Daley.
Noah Hendrickson added a 33-yard run in the third quarter and Imoh capped the scoring with a 3-yard scoring pass to Mason Smith.
The Handley reserves played the entire fourth quarter with the continuous running clock.
The Judges rushed for 199 yards on 25 carries in the game and totaled 316 total yards of offense.
Handley, which next plays at Harrisonburg on Friday, has now defeated the Wildcats in 11 of their last 12 meetings.
The Wildcats lost a pair of one-point decisions the past two years against the Judges, and will have to figure out what went wrong before facing Timber Creek Regional (N.J.) on Sept. 7.
“We’ll get better,” Warren County coach Brian Bush said. “We will watch the film, learn from it and move forward.”