The Apollo football team finally found some answers on defense, and they largely imposed their will en route to a first-half shutout and halftime lead at Henderson County.
After losing quarterback Damian Lovinsky to injury, though, the Eagles weren’t able to counter a steady ground attack that ended with the Colonels escaping with a 20-13 win.
Apollo hardly resembled the same football team they were in the first six games — namely on the defensive side — but for the Eagles that means a massive step in the right direction. Entering Friday’s game, they’d given up an average of 50 points per contest.
For two quarters, it was the underdog Apollo (2-5, 0-2 Class 6A District 1) who dominated. They consistently got into the backfield and forced the Colonels (6-1, 2-0) into long-yardage situations. Henderson County finished the first half with -7 rushing yards and 104 yards through the air — though 101 of those came on a pair of big gains.
“They had a great game plan defensively,” said Colonels head coach Josh Boston. “They widened out a little bit and took our running back away from us. They did a good job with their pressures. That’s probably the best defensive execution they’ve had all year.”
The Eagles missed a handful of opportunities that could have really stretched their lead, but they were only able to capitalize once. On their second drive, Lovinsky hurled a pass deep up the right sideline. Geoffrey Johnson was able to pull the ball down over a defender, keep his balance and race to the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown.
On the Colonels’ ensuing possession Johnson recovered a fumble on the 22-yard line, though Apollo ran four plays and couldn’t pick up a first down.
On their final drive of the half, the Eagles were making a strong push up the field when Lovinsky took a hard hit in the pocket. They couldn’t go much further, and Harrison Bowman’s field goal attempt as time expired missed just left.
In the second half, Apollo’s first six drives yielded one first down, five punts and a turnover on downs. Apollo running back Harold Hogg finished with 32 carries for 102 yards, but was limited to just 25 yards on 12 rushes in the second half.
Head coach Phil Hawkins said losing Lovinsky likely changed the outcome of the game.
“If he was still on the field, that’s a whole different ball game,” Hawkins said. “It’s tough to adjust. They were able to load the box up because we didn’t have prolific passer.”
Henderson County tied the game on their second drive of the third quarter, scoring on a 29-yard run.
With Apollo unable to convert, the starting position for the Colonels improved with each drive. After eventually forcing the Eagles to punt from their own end zone, Henderson County slowly worked the ball downfield and punched it in from two yards out.
Another turnover on downs by the Eagles led to Henderson County’s final score with 3:12 to go, but Apollo gave themselves a late chance.
Backup quarterback Chase Rhinerson finally was able to move AHS to the 24-yard line. He tossed a pass to Brandon Husk, who was able to stretch out just enough to touch the pylon with 58 seconds to play.
The Colonels recovered the Eagles’ onside kick attempt — barely — and ran out the clock.
“I’m proud of them, how could I not be? I don’t have any complaints,” Hawkins said. “There’s been a drastic defensive difference. I think our offense is still capable of putting up numbers, but it’s difficult when you take big pieces out of the game.”
Apollo will return to action next week at Marshall County as they look for their first district win.
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2019 football coverage is presented in part by Drew Cunningham, agent at State Farm.