Tuesday October 6th, 2015 10:53AM

Football 2013: Apalachee facing plenty of questions, but looking for progress

By Katie B. Davis Sports Director


MASCOT: Wildcats

TEAM COLORS: Navy, Blue and Gold


HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Shane Davis, ninth season, 47-40


KEY LOSSES: QB Clint Ashe, RB Eric Tanner, WR Jermaine Smith

OFFENSIVE STYLE: Wing-T -- Apalachee will rely on complex blocking schemes to open holes for a stable of running backs

KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Return 2 starters -- Jr. QB Chance Rodriquez, So. QB Brian Wilson, Jr. RB Kyle Jackson, Sr. RB Jody Mathis, Jr. RB Alantae Billings

DEFENSIVE STYLE: 4-3 -- The Wildcats will look to gang tackle and get to the athletic ball carriers in Region 8-AAAAA en masse.

KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Return 3 starters -- Sr. Saf Jody Mathis, Sr. DL Roosevelt Crum, Sr. DL Jonathan Taylor, Jr. DL Christian Dufrene, Jr. DB Kyle Jackson

SPECIAL TEAMS: Starters not named at time of publication

STRENGTH: The depth of the 2012 team a strength for this year's Wildcats. While not a lot of starters are returning, many players who saw action in all game's last year are returning.

QUESTION: Who will fill the void left by three-year starter at quarterback Clint Ashe, leading rusher Eric Tanner and leading receiver Jermaine Smith? While Apalachee has plenty of bodies, there is a lack of experience at the skill positions.

KEY GAMES: Apalachee started strong last year with a win against Lanier, and finished with an emphatic win against Winder-Barrow. The first couple of games against Lanier and Greater Atlanta Christian are key to whether or not the momentum of last year's strong finish will carry over.

TRENDING: Apalachee is facing a lot of questions this year with the team returning just five starters, however, seniors who have played in games but not started are itching to make a name for themselves and get the Wildcats out of a winning drought.

Aug. 30 vs. Lanier
Sept. 6 at Greater Atlanta Christian
Sept. 20 vs. Gainesville
Sept. 27 at Clarke Central
Oct. 4 at Flowery Branch
Oct. 11 vs. Loganville
Oct. 18 vs. Cedar Shoals
Oct. 25 at Salem
Nov. 1 at Heritage-Conyers
Nov. 8 vs. Winder-Barrow
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BETHLEHEM -- The Apalachee Wildcats are facing question after question entering the 2013 season.<br /> <br /> Who will replace three-year starter at quarterback Clint Ashe? Who will pick up where leading rusher Eric Tanner (1,085 yards in 2012) left off? Who will be the new quarterback's favorite target with leading receiver from a year ago Jermaine Smith (475 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns) lost to graduation?<br /> <br /> An even bigger question: How will the death of lineman Jordan Bracken-Howley impact this year's Wildcats team?<br /> <br /> "We can all learn so much from him because of his attitude and work ethic," Apalachee coach Shane Davis said at the time of Bracken-Howley's. "He wanted to be a part of what we were doing, and he was a part of it."<br /> <br /> So many questions, and until Game 1 against Lanier, few answers.<br /> <br /> All told, Apalachee is replacing nine starters on offense and eight on defense.<br /> <br /> Along with Ashe, Smith and Tanner, gone are backfield contributors Monterian Smith and Kyle Jackson, and only one starting offensive lineman returns.<br /> <br /> "We lost a lot, but we feel good about the players we'll have returning," Davis said. "In our region (8-AAAAA) you have to be able to score quickly or control the ball, and we're going to look to do the latter. We feel good about who we have coming back."<br /> <br /> Chance Rodriquez, a junior, and Brian Wilson, a sophomore, have been battling it out for the quarterback spot and Hunter Wagner has looked like a key cog at receiver.<br /> <br /> Despite the return of Jody Mathis and Alantae Billings in the backfield, that aspect of the wing-T offense the Wildcats run is still relatively up in the air.<br /> <br /> Defensively, Apalachee has Mathis returning at safety and defensive lineman Christian Dufrene. Billings is also returning at outside linebacker. The diamond the rough, however, might be Kent Knowles, a basketball standout who is on the gridiron for the first time.<br /> <br /> The Wildcats, who run a 4-3, are looking to replace defensive end Rakim Peters, defensive backs Mark Sanford and Von Heard and middle linebacker Chris Morris.<br /> <br /> "We're looking at replacing eight starters from last year's defense. It's going to be a rebuilding process, but we have three good players back and we've also got some guys that are ready to step in," Davis said.<br /> <br /> Apalachee opens with Lanier and then goes to Greater Atlanta Christian before beginning region play with Gainesville.<br /> <br /> "Just like last season, we have a tough start to this season," Davis said. "But like last year too, we need to finish strong because if we win at the start and then lose the rest, it doesn't matter. The key is to finish strong and that's what we want to do in every game and as the season progresses. If we do that, things will work out for us."
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