That's what Saks coach Clint Smith said he and his coaching staff knew Handley brought to the table before the Tigers' 43-14 defeat of the Wildcats at Wright Field on Friday night in the second round of the AHSAA Class 4A state football playoffs.
Handley, undefeated at 12-0 and ranked No. 2 in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association poll, put all three of those attributes on full display in the win that catapulted it to a berth in the quarterfinals and a rematch with UMS-Wright, the team that eliminated the Tigers in the semifinals a year ago.
Shaquille Trammell provided the speed. Ladarious Phillips, as usual, came through with the muscle and mass and Handley's defensive unit flexed its might in the second half, allowing just two first downs.
Handley built a 21-8 first half lead behind the play of the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Trammell. He rushed for 64 yards and a score on 10 carries in the first half. He finished the game with 77 yards on the ground and added a 21-yard reception that went for a first down.
In the second half, they utilized Phillips, a freight train of a fullback at 6-1, 265 pounds. Phillips finished with 99 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 12 attempts after gaining just 20 yards on five carries in the first half.
"It's a big advantage," said Phillips of the Tigers stable versatile backs. "We can pound them, pound them, pound them and then come with the speed guys. But none of that would be possible without our line. They really did a good job (Friday night)."
The Tigers built a 7-0 lead when junior Bryant Johnson fielded a punt off the ground at the Tigers' 30-yard line, found an alley and raced 70 yards for a score with 2:31 left in the first quarter.
Saks (8-4) clapped back with a six-play, 72-yard drive capped by a 47-yard touchdown run by Lee Dorsey on third-and-1. Dorsey was all but wrapped in the backfield, but broke the tackle to reach the second level of the defense and bounced it outside toward the right sideline. The Wildcats gained the lead at 8-7, following a successful two-point conversion by tailback Brandon Johnson.
Handley quarterback Darius Finley threw his first interception of the season on the first play of the ensuing drive, when Saks defensive back Mike Looney made a diving play for at the Wildcats 34. Mark Wilson picked Finley off in the second half.
Finley, typically Mr. Efficiency, completed 3 of 7 passes, for one touchdown and two interceptions.
"You don't want to start like that," Handley coach Mike Battles said. "But we learned we can play with a little adversity (Friday night). They scored to get the lead. Then, we come back and throw an interception. But we were able to hold them and get back in the ball game.
"Every time we've played Saks, it's been tough."
Trammell put Handley up for good at 13-8 with a 35-yard touchdown run early in the second. Justin Brown scored from 10 yards out with the assistance of a pancake block from Finley, who also added the two-point conversion on a run, with 25.8 ticks to play before the half.
The Tigers put the Wildcats away in the third, scoring 15 consecutive points on a 5-yard run from Phillips with 6:22 to play in the quarter. Finley found Brown across the middle for a 37-yard touchdown pass that put the Tigers ahead 36-8.
Johnson accounted for the longest play from scrimmage in the game when he took a pitch up the right sideline 84 yards for a touchdown to make the score 36-14 with 3:09 left in the third.
Johnson led Saks with nine carries for 130 yards. Dorsey tallied 61 yards on 13 carries.
Sophomore quarterback Cordarius Cooper completed 9 of 10 passes for 91 yards, and R.J. Sturkie added a pair of catches for 23 yards for the Wildcats.
"They're a great football team," Saks coach Clint Smith said of Handley. "They're just so solid in every aspect of the game. We came out here and gave them our best shot. My guys don't have anything to be ashamed of. We're proud of them."
Phillips answered Johnson's score with a two-play scoring drive. First he ran 11 yards for a first down, then took a snap 45 yards for a touchdown in the Wildcat for the game's final score.
"We want it very badly," said Trammell of a win next week against UMS-Wright. "You can see it in our eyes."