AA Northwestern District
Handley Judges Knock off Rival James Wood in Biggest Clash in Years
Saturday, November 1, 2008
WINCHESTER, Oct. 31 -- After Handley running back Jeremiah Wilson scored late in the fourth quarter last night, setting off a wild celebration in the visiting stands, he sprinted off the field and took a seat alone at the end of the bench.
Wilson ducked his head and stared at the ground, needing solitude to take in the moment because it meant so much. Behind him, cheerleaders twirled their flags wildly and fans danced, roared and hugged in the stands.
Wilson's 22-yard touchdown run provided the winning points in Handley's 17-10 victory over James Wood, all but clinching the Virginia AA Northwestern District championship for the Judges. And, perhaps more poignantly, his score had provided Handley with one of the school's most significant wins in what was a rare meaningful matchup against the longtime rival Colonels.
"This game was all people talked about this week," said Wilson, who rushed for 123 yards and made several critical plays defensively. "We played our hearts out tonight and we pulled it off."
Not since 1970 -- when Handley and James Wood were both 9-0 and played for the district title -- had a game between these neighboring schools mattered so much. More than 5,000 fans overflowed the Colonels' stadium last night to watch Handley (8-1, 6-0) close in on its first district title since 2005 and James Wood (8-2, 6-1) likely miss out on its first league crown since 1980.
"I've been 20 years at Handley, and I haven't seen our school as excited about a game," Handley Coach Tony Rayburn said. "Both of these teams made this the game that it was."
The excitement lingered until the final play of the game. James Wood took over trailing 17-10 with 1 minute 25 seconds left and used 11 plays to march to the Handley 9-yard line. The Colonels snapped the ball with 13 seconds to go, but Trae Tinsman's pass was intercepted by Handley's Geremi Long -- the Judges' fourth pick and seventh forced turnover of the game.
"It was definitely scary," Long said. "I was definitely worried there for a second."
Handley can lock up the Northwestern District title next week with a victory over Brentsville (1-8, 1-5). Despite the outcome, both the Judges and James Wood are in position to make the playoffs -- Handley at the AA Division 3 level, and the Colonels in Division 4.
Handley 17, James Wood 10
Luster Restored: The rivalry between Handley and James Wood lost its luster because the Colonels did not have a winning season from 1981 to 2005. In the past three years, however, the Colonels have compiled a 23-8 record.
Round Numbers: James Wood quarterback Trae Tinsman completed 20 of 41 passes for 266 yards. Colonels wide receiver Taylor Wingfield had 12 catches for 142 yards.