HEARTBREAKER: Andalusia’s amazing season comes to an end [with gallery]

Published 12:05 am Saturday, November 26, 2016

After shutting out four opponents in their storybook season, the No. 1-ranked Andalusia Bulldogs found themselves in unfamiliar territory Friday night, shut out by the Handley Tigers 19-0 in Class 4A semi-finals  in Andalusia.

The Bulldogs put forth a strong effort, but were unable to make their game come together, particularly in the first half. Two touchdowns late in the second quarter put the home team at a disadvantage it never overcame.

“Handley is a great football team,” Andalusia head coach Trent Taylor said. “They came out playing really hard, and there in the first half we just couldn’t get anything going. Handley came out and they made the plays that they needed to make, and we didn’t.”

Handley won the coin toss and elected to kick.

The Tiger defense came up with a stop in the backfield to start the contest, and quickly put the Bulldogs in a third-and-long situation.

On third-and-long, Andalusia quarterback Ethan Wilson connected with Derrick McQueen for a 18-yard gain and a Bulldog first down.

McQueen picked up another first down a few plays later when he made a great catch along the sideline.

Handley’s defense then came up with three big stops to put the Bulldogs into forth-and-four.

Wilson escaped the initial pressure from the Tigers and forced a pass to the middle of the field that found the hands of a waiting Handley defender. It was the first of four turnovers that plagued the Bulldogs.

Andalusia’s defense took the field and went to work.

Spanky Watts picked up a first down for the Tigers on the third play of the drive, and then a big pass from Rhett Fetner to Dre’ Watkins put Handley deep in Bulldog territory.

The Bulldog defense stepped up and Ridge Riley batted down a pass on the line of scrimmage on third down to set up fourth down.

Handley lined up for wait appeared to be a field goal attempt, but the Tigers faked the attempt and tried to pass the ball.

Andalusia’s defense wasn’t fooled by the fake and forced an incomplete pass and turnover on downs.

The Bulldogs took over on their own 8-yard line, and went straight to the ground attack.

Short-yardage back Antonio Gurley fought for a short gain on the first play, but a late hit from Handley tacked on 15 yards and Bulldog first down.

Jamal Hourel then broke loose for a 25-yard gain, but the Bulldog drive stalled shortly after, and Andalusia was forced to punt.

Handley took over and began moving the ball down the field.

Fetner hit Malik Meadows for a 6-yard gain that brought the game to the end of the first quarter.

Heading into the second quarter, the game remained scoreless.

Joshua Hatcher picked up a Tiger first down with an 11-yard run, but on the next play he was met behind the line of scrimmage by Gurley.

Fetner then dropped back to pass on third down and tossed the ball down the middle of the field where Andalusia’s Tyquise Jenkins went up and picked off the pass.

Wilson hit McQueen for an 18-yard pick-up and a Bulldog first down to start the drive.

Another completion to McQueen set the Bulldogs up with a third-and-one play, and Hourel pounded the ball up the middle for an Andalusia first down.

The Tiger defense tightened up and forced the Bulldogs to punt the ball three plays later.

Handley was forced to make a change at running back after Watts went out with an injury.

Freshman running back Devontae Houston came into the game and quickly provided a spark for the Tigers.

Houston picked up a first down a strong run on the second play of the drive and then two plays later he burst up the middle of the field for a 47-yard touchdown.

The Tigers tacked on the extra-point to take a 7-0 lead with 5:10 left before halftime.

Andalusia got the ball back and got a couple of nice runs from Zack Woods, but once again the Tiger defense rose the occasion and forced a punt.

Wilson delivered a booming punt that rolled down the Handley 9-yard line.

Houston picked up a first down and a big carry to start the drive, and a few plays later Houston had the Tigers across midfield.

After another strong run from Houston, a holding call went against the Tigers and pushed them back as the game neared halftime.

Fetner then hit Meadows with a strike up the middle seam for a 34-yard touchdown.

The Handley extra-point gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead with 18 seconds left before halftime.

Wilson connected with B.J. Anderson on the next play, but that was all the Bulldogs could muster before halftime.

After two quarters of play, the Tigers held a 14-0 lead over the Bulldogs.

Handley got the ball to start the second half, and the Bulldog defense came out showing they weren’t going to go away without a fight.

Houston picked up 8 yards on the first play of the third quarter, but then Andalusia’s Jenkins came up with a big stop in the backfield.

However, Houston then rushed for 6 yards and another Tiger first down.

Handley then tried to run a screen pass to Meadows, but Andalusia’s Allan George and William Lindsey stuffed the play for a 7-yard loss.

Houston then looked for space, but all he found was the waiting arms of Riley Graham and Gurley in the Tiger backfield.

The Bulldogs then forced back-to-back incompletions for a turnover on downs.

Andalusia’s following drive didn’t last long as the Tigers forced a punt after three plays.

The Bulldogs’ defense went right back to work and forced the Tigers to punt after a three-and-out.

Ke’Shun Townsend came up with 4-yard tackle for a loss on Fetner to help force the punt.

Andalusia’s George fielded the punt and nearly broke free, but set the Bulldogs up with good field position.

Handley’s defense was swarming on the next drive and kept Wilson under pressure.

On third-and-11, the Tiger defense flushed Wilson around in the pocket and then a host of Handley defenders drug down the Bulldog quarterback for a huge loss.

The punt attempt hit the back of one of Andalusia’s up backs, and Wilson was forced to just run the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

After the safety, Handley was on top 16-0 with a little more than three minutes left in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs kicked the ball back off to Handley, and the Bulldog defense stepped up for another three-and-out.

Andalusia, however, didn’t keep the ball long as they fumbled the ball on the first play of the drive.

Handley’s Trae Drake fell on the loose ball to give the Tigers’ the ball on the Andalusia 26-yard line.

Hatcher got the first carry of the drive, but the Bulldog defense was there to stop him after a 1-yard gain.

The Tigers went to Houston on the next play, but once again the Bulldog defense came up with a stop after a 1-yard pick up.

Fetner picked up 4 yards on the next play, but it was 4 yards shy of a first down.

The Tigers lined up and drilled a 35-yard field goal to put them on top 19-0 with 11:34 left to go in the game.

Woods opened up the drive with a 30-yard rush and Bulldog first down, but three plays later Andalusia found themselves in fourth down.

Wilson tossed a screen pass out to George on the fourth down play, and George shook off the first man and raced 20 yards for a Bulldog first down.

Just as it looked like the Bulldogs might drive to score, but another fumble ended the chance.

Houston picked up a couple of first downs on the next drive, but the Bulldog defense forced another punt.

Andalusia got the ball back following the punt, and McQueen went for 30 yards on a pass from Wilson.

The drive came to an end a few plays later when Handley’s Sherrod Curry came up with an interception with less than three minutes left in the game.

The loss capped a 12-2 season that fans expected to end in a championship game in Jordan-Hare stadium.

“We will be back here,” Taylor said. “but I just really hate it for those 23 seniors. They have been a special group. They went through a coaching change after their sophomore year, and then as juniors and seniors they went to third and fourth round.”

Handley coach Larry Strain said he was proud of the way his Tigers played.

“We came out ready to play and our kids never showed any intimidation,” Strain said. “These were two great teams out there tonight, but I know one thing, we are going to play in Jordan-Hare next week. We had some guys step up tonight. For Devontae Houston to come in a play the way he did, that was just really special.”

Handley moves on to the Class 4A state championship where they will take on Madison Academy.