Early success part of the process for Apex Friendship
Posted September 14
Apex, N.C. — When Adam Sanders was named the football coach at Apex Friendship in 2015, he started with a blank slate. Literally.
Sanders had to take a group of freshmen and sophomores, some of which had played at other high schools already, and get them to play for a brand new school with no tradition, no history, no recognition.
Apex Friendship opened its doors in the fall of 2015 with only freshmen and sophomores. The football program played a junior varsity schedule that year, then in 2016 the Patriots fielded its first varsity team.
Sanders and his staff have had to focus on things that other head coaches may be able to overlook at more established programs.
"You have to focus on every single detail because one little detail can become something massive down the road," Sanders said. "You do build it from scratch and it is one long, exhausting process, but it's incredibly rewarding."
Sanders and the Patriots are seeing some of those rewards early this fall. In the first season with seniors on the roster, Apex Friendship has posted a 3-1 record, averaging 35 points per game and scoring over 40 points in all three wins.
Don't talk to Apex Friendship about records though.
"Honestly, we don't worry about the record, we don't worry about the scoreboard, we just worry about what we can control," Sanders said.
And his players are on message too.
"We kind of just worry about us and what we do," said senior running back Jacob Kelley, a team captain for the Patriots. "We definitely have a better record (than last year) and it shows in the rankings, but we're not really worried about that. We're worried about what we're doing now."
Takings things day by day and week by week is how Apex Friendship is approaching this season.
"You've got to think small. You've got to think week by week, and these guys have done that," Sanders said. "They're thinking about, 'How do I get better today?' The whole mindset is getting better every day and they've done a great job of that, and that's a credit to our seniors."
The first senior class in Apex Friendship history is a small but important one. There are only 15 seniors on the Apex Friendship football roster, and Sanders said the senior class is about half the size of the other classes. But without the seniors, Sanders says the success the Patriots have seen so far this season is not possible.
"They're crucial. [Kelley] is to the point now where, if something happens in the locker room, I can let him handle it. When it's a player-led team, that's when real success can happen," said Sanders. "We've got 15 seniors at this point, but those 15 are doing a great job leading and I'm proud of every one of them."
With four games down, Apex Friendship still has at least seven games left – and they hope more.
"I think we can do a lot more. I think all our goals, especially mine, is to make it to the playoffs. I really hope we do that," said senior defensive end Luke Cerasi. "It would mean a lot. It would be awesome."
Apex Friendship has put itself in a position during the non-conference season to have a shot at making the playoffs. They still have work to do in order to reach the post season, but the team has taken steps forward.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, Sanders is sure the senior class is building a foundation for the Patriots' program.
"Seeing what these guys have been able to do, the legacy that they want to leave and the foundation they want to build, it’s a truly special thing to think that 20, 30, 40 years down the road, everything that we will be doing here, they’ll be a huge part of it," Sanders said.
Apex Friendship continues non-conference play on Friday night with a trip to Athens Drive.