During the growing pains of head coach Joe Kilbys first year at Apex, the Cougars wrapped up their fourth straight season with three or fewer wins.
There were glimpses of hope including an upset win against Athens Drive but depth was a problem as several players played both sides of the ball.
A few players will be doing the same this year, but theres a different feel to the Cougars.
I love this team and feel very positive about them, Kilby said. Theyre tired of finishing what weve been finishing, and they want to turn this thing around.
Sophomore quarterback Ian Boyd (567 yards passing, 660 yards rushing) burst onto the scene last year and pulled off some dazzling plays, but hes healing from a broken arm. Boyd could be back in week two, but the opening-day starter will be sophomore Grayson Boyd, no relation.
We moved Ian up to the varsity last year and Grayson took over the reins on JV, Kilby said. Graysons got a good skill set, more of what you think of a traditional quarterback. Hes still mobile and can run the option for us.
Tim Darcelien, a senior who primarily played cornerback last year, will be at running back, with returning starter Rondell James stationed more at corner back.
Kenny Morgan, Joey Copeland and Owen Pickard form the receiving corps with newcomer Mikey Daum, a senior who starred for Apexs state-champion lacrosse team.
Kilby said the Cougars are much better in the trenches.
Ben Lackey, Mark Harris and Nathan Lewis will start on the offensive line with two-way starters Michael Swift and Kemonte Burnette. Swift, Burnette and Jason Lockamy give the Cougars quickness on the defensive front. Austin Burke, Jacob Sizemore, Tristan Stoops and Devyn Merklin join Copeland to make the linebacker corps.
Many starting in the secondary Daum, Darcelien and James are playing other positions, including junior Ben Foote, also the teams kicker and punter.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps