RALEIGH — Leesville Road capitalized on a series of second-quarter Apex turnovers Thursday to take a big halftime lead and walk away with a 40-6 win in its home opener.
The Cougars fumbled on their last three possessions of the half, once in the end zone, and Leesville quickly scored on each turnover, doubling their previous 20-point lead in less than five minutes.
“We were fortunate. We came out and did a good job doing what we’re supposed to as far as running the ball, and then capitalizing on their turnovers,” said Leesville Road coach Chad Smothers. “They left some points on the field, but I think some of those turnovers were forced.”
Apex, which had walked away with a 43-0 win at Harnett Central the week before, found itself on the opposite end of almost the exact same score before halftime.
With just more than five minutes remaining in the half, Apex fumbled the ball on the 5-yard line. With Leesville Road senior Braxton Berrios lined up at the quarterback position, senior Malcolm Hitchcock took the handoff and carried it 47 yards. Junior Mike Dehaney picked up another 12 yards a couple of plays later, and Berrios ran it up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown.
The Pride tried for two points after the score, but came up empty-handed. Leesville had failed on a point-after attempt following the previous score.
Apex junior Ben Foote tried to lead the Cougars down field to get on the board. He drove the ball to the 8-yard line, but the Cougars fumbled on the ensuing possession. Hitchcock picked it up and returned the ball 90 yards for a touchdown with just over two minutes remaining in the half. Pride kicker Parker Yount booted the extra point to make it 33-0.
The Cougars came close to scoring on a pass play on their next possession, but again fumbled the ball – this time in the end zone – giving Leesville the ball back with less than a minute to go.
The Pride scored in less than 30 seconds on a 66-yard pass from Berrios to junior Elisiah Richardson and went up 40-0 entering the half.
Apex started the second half on a brighter note. Again, the Cougars got inside scoring territory, this time on a Rondell James 72-yard run to put the ball on the 4.
After being denied up the middle twice, senior Tim Darcelien carried it in off a shuttle pass from quarterback Grayson Boyd to put the Cougars on the board, but Apex was held to six points as Pride senior Robert Owens blocked the extra point attempt.
“We knew it was going to be a big game on a big stage and we were looking forward to that,” said Apex coach Joe Kilby. “The score was lopsided, but we made some mistakes. Leesville is perennially a third-round playoff team, so we just need to learn from tonight.”