Like father, like Son

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Like father, like son. Two generations of football with Big Moe and Little Moe Handcox. August 26, 2011

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Sometimes the only way to defend against Little Moe Handcox is risk the pass interference ---this one was called. August 29, 2011

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Little Moe Handcox goes high with his handy work to pull in a reception last year against Hermiston. August 29, 2011

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Wa-Hi's Josh Eggers, left, and Moe Handcox do the Blue Devil Bump in the endzone as they celebrate Wa-Hi's first TD on the night---a perfect pass from Jake Robertson to Handcox streaking down the sideline---that led to a 7-0 1st quarter lead over Ike Friday night at Borleske. October 29, 2010

WALLA WALLA -- Wa-Hi senior Moe Handcox Jr. can't recollect being timed in the 40-yard dash since his sophomore football season.

He was clocked in 4.7 seconds back then and may have improved a tick or two since. Which would put him in the same neighborhood as his father, Moe Handcox Sr., who clipped off a 4.4 40 a couple of decades ago during the course of his two-year football career at Walla Walla Community College.

However fast he is, Moe, Jr. -- or Little Moe, as he came to be known out at Walla Walla Valley Little League when Big Moe was his baseball coach -- was fast enough last fall as a junior to leave Big Nine Conference defenders from here to Wenatchee grasping and gasping for air in the wake of his jet stream.

Little Moe -- not so little, really, 168 pounds, identical to his dad's playing weight -- was by far the best wide receiver in the Big Nine in 2010. He posted league-best marks of 40 catches, 915 yards, a 22.9 yards-per-catch average and 11 touchdowns, leading to his unanimous first-team all-Big Nine selection as a wideout, and he was second-team as a defensive back.

All of that after earning honorable mention all-Big Nine honors on both sides of the ball as a sophomore.

But the numbers and the accolades are only part of what Little Moe brings to the table as a three-sport standout at Wa-Hi. It's the intangibles that his coaches rave about and his father stresses.

Like being a good teammate, a team leader and a solid citizen on and off the field.

"He's a great kid who is extremely coachable," Blue Devils baseball coach Keith Gradwohl said of his senior center fielder. "He is a kid who welcomes constructive criticism, which is extremely positive considering he is the stud for the senior class. He's not afraid to listen to the things that he needs to do to improve.

"I know he was one of the Bruins' ace pitchers this summer, and if we need to use him pitchingwise we will. But if I had my druthers I would keep him in center field because he is a wizard out there."

John Golden, Wa-Hi's basketball coach, calls Little Moe "one of those three-sport athletes that we love to see here at Wa-Hi."

"But he is also one that we have to share because he is being tugged in so many directions. He has a quiet demeanor but also a fire and competitiveness that is pretty contagious. And he's been a very nice kid in class ... a typical Walla Walla kid that we should all feel good about. His parents have worked real hard with him."

As for Big Moe:

"I'm teaching him what I was taught when I was growing up," he said. "It's what I am trying to instill in all of my boys, to be a person who leads so others can follow you, to be a good role model and to help people out in sports and otherwise.

"And I also remind him that there are always 10 others who are equal to you or better, so you have to always work hard."

The father of three sons -- Darnell is 15 and a sophomore wide receiver at Wa-Hi; Javon is an 11-year-old fifth grader at Green Park and plays for his dad's Razorbacks team in the Walla Walla Junior Football League -- Big Moe was a star athlete at Kamiakin High in Kennewick. After graduating in 1989, he passed up the chance to wrestle collegiality and decided to play football at WWCC instead.

And if modesty is one of the measuring sticks of a team leader, then Little Moe comes by it naturally. Because Big Moe quickly withdraws from questions relevant to his high school and college athletic success.

He said he "can't remember" earning all-Big Nine honors during his two football seasons at Kamiakin, and that 4.4 time in the 40 had to be pried out of him. He was also a track and field standout for the Braves, competing in the jumps, the sprints and the relays. And he placed second at state as a senior when he wrestled at 168 pounds.

After a modest freshman football season at WWCC in the fall of 1989 -- he caught 11 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns -- Big Moe became a dynamic offensive force on one of the most successful teams in school history the following year.

In leading the Warriors to an 8-1 record and a dramatic 34-32 victory over Glendale College in the Valley of the Sun Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz., Big Moe finished with 33 receptions, 802 yards and seven scores. In the victory in Phoenix -- the only bowl victory in WWCC football annals -- he had four catches for 109 yards.

But perhaps his most important performance came several weeks earlier at Borleske Stadium when the Warriors rallied from 17 points down with 12 minutes to play to defeat nationally No. 4-ranked Ricks College 34-31, a victory that vaulted WWCC into the bowl game.

Against the powerhouse Vikings, Big Moe caught three passes for 35 yards. But he also ran the ball twice from scrimmage for 95 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown run in the midst of his team's furious fourth-quarter rally.

Running from scrimmage, it appears, is something Little Moe will be doing a lot more of during his senior season at Wa-Hi.

Determined to put the ball in his best player's hands at every opportunity, first-year coach Eric Hisaw plans to unveil a Wildcat offense with Little Moe lining up at quarterback in shotgun formation. At other times he'll play tailback.

"They don't get a lot more athletic than Moe," Hisaw said. "I know his heart is at wide receiver, but he will create a lot of advantages for us with mismatches because we have the ability to move him around to different positions."

And Little Moe is on board completely.

"I'm looking forward to it; it's a great opportunity," said the 17-year-old, who lost just two games in two seasons as Garrison Middle School's QB, then quarterbacked Wa-Hi's freshman team to a 7-3 record.

The Blue Devils actually began to tinker with the Wildcat formation late last season, Little Moe said.

"Out of the shotgun, I will probably run more than pass," he said. "I'm comfortable throwing, but I like to run it more. And by establishing the run, defenses won't be able to key on where the ball is going."

And even though Little Moe's college future is most likely at wide receiver, Big Moe has no qualms about his son playing other positions.

"Playing QB is a big responsibility and will be a lot different than being a receiver," he said. "Everybody is going to look to him for answers. It's just a challenge for him, something different.

"It's an opportunity I would encourage any kid to take on as a leader and a role model to improve your team, no matter what the sport."

After last year's disappointing 2-7 record and last-place finish in the Big Nine, turning things around as a team takes precedent over personal achievements, Little Moe emphasized.

"I'm not sure what to expect recordwise," he said. "But I know coach Hisaw has us working our tails off conditioning, and we are going to be one of the best-conditioned teams in the league. And we're going to be more physical to where other teams won't want to play us in the fourth quarter.

"Last year we didn't have much varsity experience, but we only lost four starting players. The playing time last fall for all of the younger guys really helped out in the spring, and we started clicking during our summer camp in Cheney."

As far as next year and college are concerned, Little Moe is far from making a decision.

"It's always in the back of my mind, but nothing real strong yet," he said. "I'm just going to play, have fun this season and let it take its course."

It might even come down to a decision between football and baseball, he admitted, although football is easily his preference.

"Football has always been my favorite," he said. "It's just bam, bam, bam ... not much standing around."

Like father, like son?

Certainly Hisaw sees the same attributes in Little Moe that Mike Levens saw in his father when he recruited him to play football at WWCC in 1989.

"He's such a great kid," Hisaw said of Maurice Handcox Jr. "He's a super worker, a great leader by example and an incredible competitor. He hates to drop a ball because he wants it done right every time. He expects himself to be the best on every snap."

"He was always one of our team leaders," Levens said of Maurice Handcox Sr. "One thing he did was play hard every game and every practice. He was the kind of guy you wanted on your team. He could run and catch, but his greatest attribute was that he was tough and he wanted to win.

"If his son is anything like him, Wa-Hi has a real jewel."

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