E.A. Sports Today

Etched in stone

Meadows’ 264 yards, 4 TDs lead Handley to Class 4A state title, 35-20 over Gordo; Tigers have played fewest games by a state champion in 35 years

Handley players race to grab the Class 4A state championship trophy from coach Larry Strain after the Tigers beat Gordo for the title. (Photo by Dennis Victory/cover photo by Mark Almond)

CLASS 7A: Thompson 29, Auburn 28
CLASS 3A: Fyffe 21, Montgomery Catholic 16
CLASS 1A: Linden 32, Pickens County 8
CLASS 5A: St. Paul’s Episcopal 29, Pleasant Grove 21
CLASS 4A: Handley 35, Gordo 20
CLASS 2A: Mars Hill Bible 56, Abbeville 14
CLASS 6A: Pinson Valley 23, Spanish Fort 13

By East Alabama Sports Today

TUSCALOOSA — Tae Meadows rushed for 264 yards and four touchdowns to lead Handley to its second Class 4A state title in five years and third since 2011, 35-20 over Gordo Thursday at Bryant Denny Stadium.

“Obviously it means the world, but it means the world to those kids who didn’t get to go with us in ’16,” Handley coach Larry Strain said. “It’s not about me. It’s about the look on these kids’ faces and you see the awe on their faces.

“They’ve dreamed about it, talked about it, all their lives and now they’re state champions. That’s what it’s about for me. If you want to be remembered you’ve got to put your name in stone. Now we get to have another stone.”

Meadows, the game’s MVP, scored on runs of 1, 2, 23 and 1 yards. The Tigers’ defense, meanwhile, held Gordo scoreless in the second half after the Green Wave scored with one second left in the second quarter to pull within 21-20 at halftime.

“It’s a blessing,” Meadows said. “This trophy doesn’t really belong to me. This trophy goes to my O-line.”

With their punishing ground game, the Tigers (12-1) held the ball for more than 31 minutes, keeping it out of the hands of Gordo major-college prospect quarterback Tanner Bailey as much as possible. Bailey was 16-of-36 for 222 yards and two touchdowns passing.

There hasn’t been a state champion play as few games in a season as the Tigers in nearly 35 years. They actually played only 11 games having lost several off their schedule this season due to COVID-19 concerns of their opponents. Lowndes Academy played only 10 games in winning the 1986 1A title.

All the games the Tigers lost due to the pandemic would have been played at home.

“Every high school football team in the state went through this because of the COVID issue,” Strain said. “We had eight players on one school bus because we had to be socially distanced. That’s the sacrifice. They committed to it and we knew the sacrifice it took. I thought our kids did a great job handling that situation.”

Handley head coach Larry Strain (L) and defensive coordinator Chris White, two former White Plains head coaches, direct their team in the Class 4A championship game. (Photo by Dennis Victory)

Handley 35, Gordo 20
Gordo                      6  14 0  0    –  20
Handley                  0  21 0  14  –  35
G – Tanner Bailey 1 run (run failed), 1:23 1Q
H – Tae Meadows 1 run (Caleb Burns kick), 11:55 2Q
H – Ayden Robertson 1 run (Caleb Burns kick), 8:01 2Q
G – Hunter Oglen 27 pass from Tanner Bailey (pass failed), 6:57 2Q
H – Tae Meadows 2 run (Caleb Burns kick), 2:52 2Q
G – Ben Capps 7 pass from Tanner Bailey (Hunter Oglen pass), 0:01 2Q
H – Tae Meadows 23 run (Caleb Burns kick), 11:15 4Q
H – Tae Meadows 1 run (Caleb Burns kick), 1:35 4Q

Individual statistics
Gordo: Raysh Williams 13-57; Christopher Neel 1-8; Hunter Oglen 1-4; J.T. Billups 1-1; Izayah Edwards 1-(-2); Tanner 4-(-30), 1 TD. Handley: Tae Meadows 38-264, 4 TDs; Evan Cofield 17-75; Ayden Robertson 1-1, 1 TD.
PASSING – Gordo: Tanner Bailey 16-36-1, 222 yards, 2 TDs. Handley: Evan Cofield 4-11-1, 35 yards; Ty Fetner 1-1-0, 9 yards.
RECEIVING – Gordo: J.T. Billups 6-75; Ben Capps 4-64, 1 TD; Hunter Oglen 3-43, 1 TD; Izayah Edwards 2-14; Christopher Neel 1-26. Handley: Dylan Brooks 1-30; Tae Meadows 1-9; Jamerqui Lewis 1-6; Quadae Lewis 1-0; Ayden Robertson 1-(-1).

Gordo (20) Handley (35)
131st Downs21
38Rushing yds340
222Passing yds44
16:48Time of poss.31:12

Handley’s Tae Meadows (2) gets a pat on back from teammate Cannon Kyles after being announced as MVP of the Class 4A state championship game. (Photo by Mark Almond)

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