So that’s what it feels like.
With a huge grin across his face, Apex running back Isaiah Totten tried to verbalize what it meant to beat rival Cary. After going 0-for-3 in his career, Totten was a key factor in leading the Cougars to a 40-10 win over the Imps on Friday.
“My first three years, I never beat Cary. So it’s a great experience to finally beat them,” said Totten, who rushed for 155 yards and four touchdowns and snapped Cary’s five-game winning streak in the series.
While the match-up features in the Great American Rivalry Series and is celebrated for its rich, decades-old history, Friday’s installment was more symbolic of the rivalry between the hammer and the nail.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Cougars (5-3, 2-2) raced out to a 33-3 lead early in the third quarter and the result was never really in doubt.
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Apex safety Ben Foote intercepted a pass. While Cary forced a punt, the Imps muffed that punt and Apex’s Joey Copeland recovered at the Cary 40-yard line. On the next play, Totten raced 40 yards to the end zone.
“This whole week, we were working to start fast,” Totten said. “That’s what we have to do -- start fast and score.”
Later in the first quarter, Foote intercepted another Cary pass and nearly returned it to the end zone, but he was hauled down at the 1-yard line. Totten scored on the next play for a 12-0 lead.
Apex’s defense again stood firm, halting a Cary drive at the Cougars’ 29-yard line with a turnover on downs. Six plays later, Totten scored on a 22-yard run for a 19-0 lead.
With 13 seconds left in the first half, Brandon Freer picked off another Cary pass, giving the Cougars the ball at the Cary 47. Quarterback Grayson Boyd hit Brandon Cox for a 29-yard gain. Then, after some debate, the Cougars opted go for the end zone instead of attempting a 41-yard field goal. It paid off. Boyd lofted a pass to the back of the end zone, and Ian Boyd hauled it in as time expired for a 26-3 advantage at the half.
Forty-five seconds into the second half, Boyd and Boyd connected again, this time from 32 yards, to put the Cougars ahead 33-3.
Trevion Hackney was a bright spot for the Imps, who fell to 0-8 on the season. The shifty tailback had 11 carries for 141 yards. He answered Apex’s third-quarter touchdown with a 77-yard scamper on the ensuing series.
But Apex kept Cary at bay the rest of the night. In the game’s waning seconds, the Imps had the ball inside the 5-yard line, but the Cougars’ Daniel Thompson intercepted the Imps in the end zone on the game’s final play.
Now the Cougars turn their attention toward a difficult three-game stretch to end the season: vs. SWAC leader Panther Creek, at second-place Green Hope, at Holly Springs, which trails them in standings but is coming on after defeating preseason favorite Middle Creek on Friday.
Apex will look to use Friday’s all-around performance as a springboard to consistency during the final three weeks of the season. The Cougars haven’t won back-to-back games since the first two games of the year. They’re 3-3 since, alternating wins and losses each week during the last six weeks.
“We’ve got a real tough stretch to end the season, and a victory always helps,” said Apex coach Joe Kilby. “It’s better than a loss. Hopefully we can carry that all into next week.”
Added Totten: “We want to keep on winning. We’ve got to get a groove going and keep on winning.”
No doubt that’d feel even better than Friday’s win.