Jeremiah Bellissimo passed for two touchdowns and Leonel Katuku ran for another as Sanderson used four Apex turnovers to hand the Cougars their first loss, 35-20 on Friday night.
The back-breaking turnover came late in the third quarter, when Sanderson’s Quez Clark picked up a fumble on a hop and ran 68 yards for a 28-14 lead for the Spartans (1-2).
“Our defense has been causing turnovers all year,” Sanderson coach Ben Kolstad said. “We forced six last week. We haven’t been able to generate any offense, and tonight, I thought we did a good job of that. We ran the ball well, we threw the ball when we needed to, and our kids fought hard.
“We had a chip on our shoulders. We lost two games … and we felt we could be 3-0 right now.”
“Turnovers haven’t been a problem,” Cougars coach Joe Kilby said of his team’s 2-1 start. “We got off to a fast start on the first drive, but we seemed to go to sleep after that a little bit.”
Katuka finished with 141 yards on 21 carries, while Bellissimo was 11-for-15 for 146 yards.
Apex rolled up 393 yards, with quarterback Grayson Boyd completing 13 of 29 passes for 219 yards and two scores and running for 54 yards and another TD. Totten had 85 yards on 15 carries, but the miscues were the difference for Apex.
The Cougars also had eight penalties for 70 yards.
“There were times we had big plays, and those look great and we had lots of yards, but we’ve got to execute consistently, down in and down out,” Kilby said. “We didn’t do that .”
Apex struck quickly, as Grayson Boyd rambled 69 yards on an option on the Cougars’ third play.
After a missed Sanderson field goal, Apex was on the move again until Justin Cook fumbled on the Spartans’ 25-yard line.
Bellissimo heated up to get the Spartans on the scoreboard, passing 18 yards to Jared Tintsman and 6 yards to Alim McNeill before hitting Geoma Ward on a 34-yard strike to tie the game at 7 with 9:21 left in the half.
The Cougars struck back with an impressive drive. Totten accounted for 35 yards on the ground and 30 on a third-down screen pass before Ian Boyd took a short pass from Grayson Boyd, broke two tackles and scored from 27 yards out.
Sanderson had a quick three-and-out, but a bad snap was fumbled by Grayson Boyd and recovered by the Spartans’ James Morales on the Apex 45 with 2:27 left in the second.
Michael Markland ran 20 yards on a fourth-down play, and Bellissimo hit Trevon Gay in the end zone for a 28-yard TD pass that evened the score at 14 at halftime.