Two big games propelled Garrett Applegate to a breakout junior season in 2017.
In back-to-back games against Nicholas County and Fairview, the senior tailback ran for 353 yards and eight touchdowns on his way to an 820-yard rushing season to go with 12 touchdowns.
He’s hoping to produce a bigger output in 2018 at a more consistent effort as the Lions approach the season opener on Friday against Greenup County. Applegate knows in order to do so, it will be a team effort.
“I can’t do it by myself obviously. We have to have a willingness to and we all have to commit to it,” Applegate said. “We have to have a pass game to even things out, our lineman have to help me out. That was a big help in those games, our lineman really dominated in the trenches and that’s the reason I could do that.”
Applegate credits his line’s dedication in the offseason as well to what they can improve on even more from a season ago.
“Our lineman are definitely a lot stronger, a lot faster. They’ve worked so much harder in the offseason. It’s a big improvement,” Applegate said.
He also has Immanuel Manning at the fullback slot to help pave the way as well.
If the Lions can put a more competitive product out on the field in ‘18, it should help the Lions run game exponentially. Six of eight losses came by 30 points or more in ‘17, causing them to abolish the run game in some instances and focus more on the aerial attack to try and comeback. Another factor helping Applegate’s cause is he’ll be the feature back this year. It took a couple of games to get that established last year as he tallied just 10 carries the first two games of the season.
“The first part of the season, we were trying to do something else. I hate to say, but we were sharing the ball too much,” Lions coach Josh Hughes said.
Compare it to a shooter in basketball. Sometimes they need shots to establish a rhythm. A running back has similar traits, needing to get in the flow to get a good grasp of the game. Limited carries takes away from that.
“You can’t share the ball and run too many different plays, you have to find something you’re good at. Once we were able to get the ball in his hands, we were able to run the ball much better,” Hughes said.
There will be no timeshare this year to start, Applegate is the guy.
“Now we go into week one with he’s our tailback, we’re going to run the football with him,” Hughes added.
In ‘17, when the Lions fed Applegate the ball, the results showed. It’s not the only reason why they won or lost a contest, but in five games Applegate had 18 or more carries, totaling 729 yards and helping earn their two victories. Five games he had less than 10 carries, totaling 91 yards, losing all five contests.
Applegate can also help in the passing game, one that should also see improvement as Zach Lehn enters his second season under center. Applegate can be a good outlet or checkdown option for Lehn, tallying 31 receptions the last two seasons for 321 yards and a touchdown.
Applegate should also play a big role defensively. He’s recorded 113 tackles the last two seasons at defensive back and linebacker. His 60 tackles were second most on the team, trailing just departing senior Tay Offut by one tackle.
2017 SEASON STATS
Rushes; Yards; Touchdowns
138; 820; 12
Receptions; Yards; Touchdowns
15; 122; 0