The way first-year Apex football coach Robert Graham sees it, he has players who are too good to not play the entire game.
In his limited time – he was hired June 11 – he took 1,900-yard running back Isaiah Totten and let him play corner as well. He lined up all-conference linebacker Jordan Mann at receiver.
He took jack-of-all-trades Ian Boyd, who has been the Cougars’ running back, wide receiver and quarterback, and had him man one of the safety positions.
“I think if you’re in shape, you should be able to go the whole game. That’s my philosophy,” Graham said. “I believe they can do it.’
Most players know Graham, who coached at nearby Lufkin Middle School the past two seasons, from his days as a varsity and junior varsity assistant. Some even know him as their driving instructor.
The team’s offense is mostly unchanged from previous years, and the defense, now a 3-3-5 stack, has been simplified. But the lack of time to fully settle in as head coach has created some problems.
“I don’t think we are as prepared as we could be, but I think the kids have responded pretty well to it, and they’ve taken to what we want to do,” Graham said. “Getting to know them is easy. With them already knowing me, the transition is going to be a lot easier and smoother for them.”
The Cougars (5-7, 2-5) return some of the most explosive players in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference.
Boyd, who has Division I basketball and football offers, will line up primarily as a tight end on offense. He has 2,048 yards of offense over the past two seasons playing three positions.
Mann (88 tackles), who may play on the defensive line, was one of the league’s hardest hitters.
Totten (1,920 yards rushing, 24 TDs) is coming off a breakout season.
“We’ve got some pretty fast kids, but I think the biggest thing we’re going to focus on is blocking,” Graham said. “Once you establish that you can block people, you can do pretty much anything you want to do.”
Defense: 3-3-5 stack.
Contributors: QB Grayson Boyd; RB/DB Isaiah Totten; WR Hart Simpson; WR Miguel Dizon; TE/S Ian Boyd; OL Connor Cunningham; OL Kirk Cunningham; OL Zach Simpson; OL Campbell Tarpey; DL Sean Higgins; DL Chazz Washington; LB/WR Jordan Mann; LB Justin Cook; K Nathan Davis.
Expected team strength: Backs and receivers.
Question mark: Defensive backs.
Player they’ll miss the most: CB/K Ben Foote. Foote had received all-conference awards as a kicker and a corner. His graduation creates a void in two of the game’s three phases.
The main number: 32.2 – Apex was 15th in the Triangle with 32.2 points per game.
The quote: Graham on Ian Boyd: “He’s going to be some free safety, defensive end, wherever I need him at because he can do it all! ... With him being so versatile, it doesn’t matter. You just give him the (arm)band and say ‘This is the play.’”
Game to watch: Sept. 25 at Holly Springs. It’s not a must-win to make the playoffs, but this battle between two teams with first-year coaches is a must-win if either wants to finish top-three.
Last five years
2014: 5-7 (2-5), 4AA first round
2013: 2-9 (1-6)
2012: 2-8 (1-7)
2011: 1-7-1 (1-7)
2010: 3-8 (2-6)