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Handley edges Gordo 35-20 to claim the AHSAA 4A state title

Dennis Victory

Tuscaloosa, AL – The fifth ranked Handley Tigers upset the No. 3 Gordo Green Wave (13-2) 35-20 to come away with the 2020 AHSAA class 4A state football championship Friday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. 

The Tigers capped head coach Larry Strain’s sixth season in Roanoke at 11-1 claiming the 4A Region 4 crown and taking home the third state football title in their 99 year history.

Gordo (13-2), coached by Ryan Lolley, fell one victory shy of winning its first state title since 2001.

“It came down to a decision of who was going to press harder and be the man,” Strain said. “I felt like our kids stepped up.”

The Green Wave struck first, lighting up the Bryant-Denny Stadium scoreboard with just over a minute to play in the first quarter, as Tanner Bailey slid into the endzone from the Tiger one yard line.  After a failed two point conversion attempt Gordo held a six point edge.  

The Green Wave were only able to hold the advantage for 1:28 seconds until Handley claimed a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the contest.  In the second, Tae Meadows and Ayden Robertson each scored on runs from inside the Gordo five yard line.  A pair of Caleb Burns extra points gave the Tigers a 14-6 edge midway through the second period.  

Gordo struck back as a Hunter Oglen snagged a Tanner Bailey pass and streaked 27 yards into the endzone.  Another failed conversion left the Green Wave down by two.  The Tigers answered back on their next possession as Meadows bolted in for a two yard touchdown.  The point after put Handley back on top by nine until Ben Capps pulled down a seven yard pass from Bailey to with one tick left on the clock before the break.  This time the Wave found success on their two point try courtesy of a Hunter Oglen reception.  

Handley carried a one point lead into the locker room.

After a scoreless third period Hanley tacked on a pair of Tae Meadows fourth quarter scores.  The first a 23 yard scamper 45 seconds into the quarter, the second a one yard bolt with just over a minute remaining on the clock. 

“They’ve dreamed about it, talked about it all their lives and now they’re state champions.” Strain said, “That’s what it’s all about for me”.

Meadows, voted by the media as the game’s  Most Valuable Player, finished the game with 264 yards and four scores on 38 carries.  He finished the season with over 2,000 yards rushing.  Quarterback Evan Cofield completed 4-of-11 passes for 35 yards while Dylan Brooks caught one pass for 30 yards.  

Gordo signal caller Tanner Bailey passed for 222 yards and two scores throught the air completing 16-of-36 throws.  J.T. Billups was Bailey’s favorite target snagging six receptions for 75 yards.  Rayshon Williams lead the Green Wave rushing attack with 57 yards on 13 carries.