Following a season in which they finished 6-5 overall, the Eagles are looking for steady improvement across the 2022 campaign to make a push come time for postseason play.
Apollo had a strong start to the 2021 campaign, owning a 6-2 record in its first eight games. But a two-game losing streak to end the regular season turned into three games, as they fell to Henderson County 31-26 in the opening round of the district playoffs.
The Eagles will have a decent amount of upperclassmen returning, helping give their offense and defense plenty of experience. Senior Donte Dixon and junior Noah Rhinerson are two of the biggest returnees, as the two were a dynamic duo in the backfield a year ago.
Rhinerson averaged 61.8 rushing yards per game and seven rushing touchdowns on the season, serving as a dual threat with an average of 34.9 receiving yards per game and six receiving touchdowns on the year. Dixon on the other hand primarily served out of the backfield despite a touchdown reception, averaging 56.4 rushing yards per game along with six rushing touchdowns on the year.
Senior Christian Combs would even get in on the ground game from time to time, averaging 13.9 rushing yards per game to go along with his 19 touchdowns (1.7 per game) and 176.5 passing yards per game.
Senior Carter Contratto and junior Eli Masterson round out the returning receiving core of Apollo’s offense, as the two will look to increase their combined game averages of 50 yards with more touches this season. However, these weapons would be nothing without key returning offensive lineman in senior Kadin Howard and junior Noah Dilbeck.
Head Coach John Edge also has a slew of returning upperclassmen defensively, including defensive linemen Devon Parm (senior), Braydn Dant (senior), Cole Whitledge (junior) and senior defensive back Bryson Velotta and linebacker Morgan Eans.
Pairing this amount of experience with a number of newcomers, Edge thinks that if Apollo can fine tune some things from a season ago they can compete in district play.
“We want to continue a relentless pursuit of excellence,” Edge said. “In order for you to do this we have to set the expectations in practice and performance high. Set a standard and continue growing as a program.”
Edge said that they’re not focusing on one specific area in order to improve on the gridiron, but more so making sure there’s an understanding that missed opportunities can hurt them.
“We need to improve in all areas, but on offense we need to take advantage of scoring opportunities,” Edge said. “And on defense [we need to] create turnovers for our offense to score.”
All in all, for Apollo to be as successful as possible Edge said that they have to dial in on three things—taking things one game at a time, the basic fundamentals and being disciplined.
The Eagles will get their first chance to apply these principles on August 19, when they host Owensboro Catholic at 7 p.m.