By Mike Beas
Through the first six weeks of high school football, Cascade had implemented a total of 11 different ball carriers.
Only one had accumulated more rushing yardage than Damien Appleby.
However, in terms of overall importance to his team, Appleby, a 5-11, 175-pound senior, might rank even higher.
Appleby, who rushed for 372 yards and seven touchdowns in the Cadets’ 4-2 start, is a factor on defense as a starting linebacker. Furthermore, as of the team’s 49-39 win at North Putnam on September 22, Appleby is also a force on special teams.
Contrary to popular belief, teammates don’t need to point out directions to the Cascade sideline.
Appleby is rarely there anyway.
“Damien’s biggest weapon for us is his blocking ability,” said fourth-year Cadets coach Connor Simmons. “It’s rare to find a player who is willing to put his pride aside like that. But Damien has always been that way. Always a team-first guy. A selfless kid.”
Sophomore Toby Savini leads Cascade’s ground attack with 646 rushing yards – including a jaw-dropping 13.2-yard average per carry – and nine TDs. Last season, Appleby’s blocks played a role in since-graduated back Liam Farmer busting loose for 1,900 yards and 28 scores in the program’s 6-5 finish.
When not helping open up running avenues, Appleby did get his own number called on 107 occasions, rushing for 567 yards.
Appleby did a Q&A with ICON:
Q: Like most small-school football players, you play both offense and defense. Do you like being on the field most of the game?
A: Yeah, I love it. I play a lot of special teams, too, so I don’t get a lot of breaks. I’m definitely an offensive player first. I love running the ball. I’ve been running the ball since I was little, and in high school, this is the first time I’ve played linebacker.
Q: Do you play any other sports at Cascade?
A: I played basketball for two years, took a break last year, but might play again this season. And I ran track last year, running the 4×400 relay and the open 400.
Q: What are your plans after graduating from Cascade High School?
A: I’ve been looking into electrician work, but I haven’t really decided yet. My uncle, Tom Appleby, who is the line coach at Cascade, he’s an electrician.
Q: As one of four team captains (along with senior lineman Fox Edwards, junior defensive end Duncan White and sophomore quarterback Brady Trebley), what are the leadership elements you attempt to bring to the football program?
A: I try to bring team camaraderie and keeping it serious when it needs to be serious on the field. I don’t prefer to do it, but when it needs to be done, I’ll be willing to yell.