FUQUAY-VARINA — Perhaps the tide is turning for Apex.
Having lost four straight -- including one game by three points and another one in overtime -- entering Friday's game against Fuquay-Varina, the Cougars nearly let another win slip away Friday. They saw a 14-point third-quarter lead disappear and quarterack Ian Boyd go down with in ankle injury all in the space of about five minutes.
Despite cornering themselves, the Cougars found a way out and prevailed 31-21 over the Bengals.
"We ran into a bit of adversity, we made some mistakes, and we got a tie ball game. But we didn't panic," said Apex coach Joe Kilby. "Our backs were against the wall in this one and we held it together. We did it as a team."
Indeed the Cougars prevailed with every facet of their team -- offense, defense and special teams.
Though both teams were committed to the run, Apex had more players to spread the ball around to. Isaish Totten led the charge with 99 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, while Boyd (62 yards, seven carries, two TDs), and Tim Darcelien (10 carries, 59 yards) kept the Bengals off guard.
Defensively, the Cougars held the Bengals to 264 rushing yards and forced three turnovers. Linebacker Jason Lockamy recovered two fumbles, and was a constant presence in the Bengals' backfield all night.
On special teams, punter Brandon Cox pinned the Bengals insided their own 10-yard three times, and he converted a pass on a fake punt to revive the drive that led to the Cougars' regaining the lead for good. And kicker Ben Foote nailed a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
The Cougars were poised to break open the the game when they marched 71 yards on five plays to start the second half. Boyd's 15-yard touchdown run gave the Cougars a 21-7 lead.
But Boyd went down shortly thereafter with an injured ankle, and he did not return.
The Bengals seemed ready to capitalize on the loss of Apex's biggest offensive threat.
Damarus Williams (22 carries, 129 yards) scored on a 20-yard run with 4:58 left in the third quarter. Then, after Daniel Neikens recovered an Apex fumble, Williams scored on a 1-yard run to tie the game with 3:11 left in third.
But Apex regained the lead for good on the ensuing drive. Rondell James scored on a 3-yard run for a 28-21 lead, capping a 13-play, 75-yard drive.
"It's good to get back on track. This is exactly what we needed to get started," Lockamy said. "This doesn't stop here. We're only going to keep getting better. We can't settle for this."