After taking down the American Christian Patriots (13-1, 7-0) 34-13, the Handley Tigers (11-1, 6-0) have punched a ticket to the 4A State Championship game in Bryant-Denny Stadium next week.

Tigers’ head coach Larry Strain was thrilled to be able to lead his team to a state title game.

“That ‘Super Seven’ is always what you want to reach. That’s where you want to be,” Strain said. “ACA has a class program. It was two major teams playing tonight.”

Photo By Joe Gaither

This is the Tigers’ first championship game appearance since 2016 where Handley won a 4A title against Madison Academy, ending the Mustangs’ chance at four state titles in five years.

Through the nine played games by the Tigers this year, Handley has scored at least 32 points now eight times. This is the second time this year that ACA has allowed more than 21 points.

Leading the way for the Handley offense was junior running back Tae Meadows. Meadows rushed for 222 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries. He averaged almost nine yards each touch.

Through the air, the Tigers tallied only 60 yards and one touchdown. Senior quarterback Evan Cofield went 6-for-16.

Catching Cofield’s touchdown pass was five-star Tennessee commit, Dylan Brooks. Speaking of Brooks, the senior linebacker also played snaps at tight end, receiver, and defensive line.

Photo By Joe Gaither
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As for the ACA offensive attack, the Patriots totaled 272 yards. Quarterback Hunter Sute went just 11-for-25 with 183 yards and an interception. Backup Patriots quarterback Sawyer Deerman also got snaps behind center and passed for 23 yards and the only ACA passing touchdown.

The second Patriots’ touchdown was scored by running back Brandon Waller. Waller rushed for 81 yards on 13 carries.

While the ACA defense has normally been a cornerstone, leading the way to 13 wins this year, the Patriots looked confused tonight.

While ACA’s season is now officially over, head coach Chris Smelley is still proud of his team.

“We fought hard, and even towards the end, we kept going,” Smelley said. “We ran into a really good team, and they were better tonight.”

Photo By Joe Gaither

University of Georgia commit Kamari Lassiter was disappointed with his team’s loss, but he had high praises to sing of his squad.

“It’s heartbreaking, but it’s even more heartbreaking to know I can’t play with these guys anymore. It’s been a great four years.”

Now that the semifinals round of the AHSAA playoffs have concluded, the slate is set. Handley will be taking on Gordo for the 4A State Title. This game will kick off at 10 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 4.