HARRISONBURG — If he didn’t realize his night was going well, Malachi Imoh had to know so when he pranced into the end zone on the same play that began as a broken one late in the third quarter.
“I just had to assess the situation,” the Handley senior quarterback said. “I saw a hole on the other side and a cut-back lane, so I was able to cut back.”
Imoh flashed a handoff to one side, but his running back went the other way leaving the signal-caller to navigate a defense pursuing him all on his own.
After skirting a defensive lineman, Imoh sidestepped a linebacker while advancing the ball forward. The only defender left to beat was a safety, and Imoh used a high stride. With the lunge, Imoh had his fourth and final rushing touchdown in the Judges’ 31-13 non-district win over Harrisonburg on Friday at HHS to claim the Sullivan-Potts Trophy as part of a rivalry matchup that began in 1922.
“He was our running back last year,” Handley coach Dan Jones said. “One of the reasons we moved him to quarterback is because we can get the ball in his hands every play.”
Imoh tallied 178 rushing yards on 14 carries and his three other rushing scores were from 7 yards, 1 yard and 23 yards.
“I’m not going to say we couldn’t tackle the guy,” Harrisonburg coach Chris Thurman said. “When you put your defense on the field for 40 of 48 minutes, they’re going to eventually wear down. We had so many turnovers.”
Three of Imoh’s four touchdowns came on possessions following Harrisonburg giveaways.
The Blue Streaks (0-2) had seven turnovers — six fumbles and an interception — in total and Imoh’s Judges (2-0) didn’t have any problem taking advantage.
“Our defense got so much momentum for us on offense,” Imoh said. “And we had to capitalize on the hard work that they had done.”
Thurman said: “You can’t win a little league game with seven turnovers.”
Harrisonburg senior quarterback Kwentin Smiley fumbled three times and so did Streaks junior wide receiver Jazen Walker. Backup HHS quarterback Keenan Glago threw an interception.
All of those mistakes came after an opening series that resulted in a score for Smiley. He took an option keeper 79 yards for a touchdown on the second snap of the contest to give the Blue Streaks a fast 7-0 lead.
“That kid, I think, was quicker than we were expecting,” Jones said of Smiley’s early sprint for six. “We were fortunate that our defense had to go against Malachi in practice, and so I think we were a little smarter and took better angles on the next ones.”
Imoh completed eight of 20 throws for 144 passing yards and his 63-yard strike to sophomore tight end Stephen Daley set up kicker Adam Pollack’s 27-yard field goal that helped the Judges to a 17-13 halftime edge.
“[Imoh] missed some passes that we could’ve had,” Jones said. “But he mixed it up with his feet, so sometimes I’m willing to give up the passing game when he can do what he does in the running game.”