After shinning on biggest stage, Zachery ready to carry load at Handley
by Nick Birdsong
Aug 21, 2012 | 3058 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s hard to imagine Handley’s Duran Zachery being the third option in any backfield.

The 5-foot-10, 197-pounder runs the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds, bench presses 350 pounds, squats 580 and can incline 330.

But that’s exactly what the senior-to-be was on the Tigers’ team that captured the AHSAA’s Class 3A state title last season, playing behind former standouts Breyon Deberry, now at Charleston Southern University, and Quay Hunter. Both were 1,000-plus yard rushers.

But even on a squad blessed with an embarrassment of riches, Zachery still excelled late in the season when Deberry was slowed by a Week 8 injury. Zachery emerged in Handley’s 20-14 win against Madison Academy in the state title game played at the University of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium. He rushed for 75 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries to help Handley capture its first state title in school history and earn Super 6 MVP honors along the way.

Heading into 2012, Zachery is set to be the primary option in Handley’s rushing attack.

“That was a dream come true,” Zachery said of the honor he won last year on the state’s grandest stage. “But I’m not looking forward to any individual award. I’m focused on helping bring another state championship back to Roanoke.”

Zachery’s tenacity between the tackles often draws comparisons to a more notable running back, who brought a pair of national titles to the state of Alabama the past three seasons. His bodybuilder’s build, No. 3 jersey and Handley’s school colors — crimson and white — make it an easy connection.

“A lot of people say I run like Trent Richardson,” Zachery said. “He has the mentality that one man will not bring him down. I try to do the same thing. It’s going to take more than one man to tackle me.”

Since the state championship, Zachery said he’s garnered interest from the likes of Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama State.

Defensive coordinators who think they can simply key on Zachery will be sadly mistaken. Handley coach Mike Battles also mentioned speedster Colby Floyd and promising sophomore Jerome Williams as players who could factor into the offensive attack.

Trae Kyles returns under center after quarterbacking the Tigers to a perfect 15-0 record last season. He’ll have a big target in 6-4, 175-pound senior Tevin Cook at wideout to sling the deep ball to should the Tigers take their attack to the air.

“We’re going to do whatever they let us,” Battles said.

But more than any of its skill players, Handley’s biggest asset might be its brawn upfront. Anchored by Alabama commit, tackle Bradley Bozeman, the Tigers return four of their five starters along the offensive line, including Connor Boyd, Shaquan Glass and Erik Velasquez.

Ranked No. 2 in the state in the Alabama Sports Writer’s Association preseason poll, Handley will move back up to Class 4A where they’ll join Region 3 which includes No. 3 Dadeville, No. 8 Central Clay along with Dallas County, Elmore County, Holtville, Childersburg and Beulah. The Tigers host No. 10 Beauregard in their season-opener Aug. 31, and their schedule also includes a meeting with No. 9. Anniston in Week 5.

“It’s going to be hard, way harder than last year,” Zachery said of winning another state title. “Last year, we had some depth. We don’t have that this year. We’ve all got to want it.”

Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.