Handley Pride

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Greetings from The Booth!

This past weekend I was asked to attend what I termed “a formally informal” event at Piccadilly Public House in downtown Winchester to be part of the oral history of Handley High School Athletics. The discussion was recorded and documented as part of the 100th anniversary of the aforementioned Handley High School, and I was honored to be one of a number of former athletes, coaches, administrators, and in my case, broadcasters who have covered the Judges over the years. It was an emotional afternoon, and there was much laughter, along with some tears, and lots of memories. It was a humbling experience to be a small thread in the vast tapestry of Handley history.

The great Andy Vipperman, who was an integral part of the 1994 Handley State Football Championship team, did a superb job as emcee, and it was wonderful seeing familiar faces like basketball coaching legend Tommy Dixon (pictured,r), former Judges athlete-turned-administrator Reed Prosser, and longtime AD Jimmy Omps (pictured,l), who had the absolute best press box food spread in the area on a Handley Bowl football Saturday! They, and many other notables stepped up to the microphone to talk about “Handley Pride.”

My part of the afternoon was recalling the 1984 and 1994 Handley State Football Championship games, which I had the pleasure of broadcasting. 1984 was probably the first year that I did play-by-play of local high school football, and to follow the Judges all the way to a state title was quite an experience. That season, the Handley defense was instrumental in their success, and as is the case with all great defenses, they had a nickname: Judges For The Defense. Handley rode that defense all the way to UVA’s Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, where I thought I had died and gone to sportscaster’s heaven.  The memory of the game itself is a bit hazy after almost 40 years, but I do know that one Tommy Stine had a great game, as the Judges brought a championship trophy back to Winchester. Tommy was in attendance Saturday, and it was great reminiscing with him.

The memory of the 1994 State Championship Game is much clearer. Clear as mud, because that was the playing surface at Gate City, Va., where signs said “Welcome To Hell.”  Because mud was the only thing that could have stopped the high-powered Judges, the homestanding Devils decided to water down their field the night before the game, turning it into an unplayable quagmire. The game was played anyway, the Judges took it all in stride, and despite some nail-biting moments at the end, won 12-7, giving Coach Ron Lindon his second state title in 10 years.  Dan Gloster, one of my broadcast partners back in the day, was one of many on Saturday afternoon to remember Lindon as a great coach, but a better man.

For me, Handley Pride is a Judges’ home football game. The Friday night lights may shine bright, but the greens, golds, and reds glow even brighter on a Fall Saturday afternoon between Jefferson Street and Handley Boulevard. It’s there that you feel the sense of community as Winchester gathers to cheer on the Maroon and White. Last Saturday at Piccadilly, Andy Vipperman wanted my perspective of Handley Pride as an outsider. In reality, for more than a decade, I experienced Handley Pride as an insider, with a microphone and a great view from the Handley Bowl press box.

Until the next visit from The Booth…GO JUDGES!