Denison senior running back Denard Whitfield has been suspended for the rest of the season due to a violation of team rules, a move that comes as the first-place Yellow Jackets are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot and in the middle of a fight for the District 13-4A title.

Denison senior running back Denard Whitfield has been suspended for the rest of the season due to a violation of team rules, a move that comes as the first-place Yellow Jackets are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot and in the middle of a fight for the District 13-4A title.


"We have a standard and when that standard is not met, there’s consequences," Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. "This team’s fought through adversity all year long."


Whitfield will sit as Denison (5-3, 4-1) travels to Greenville (0-8, 0-5) on Friday at 7:30 p.m., where a victory would put the Jackets in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, as well as the season-finale next Friday against McKinney North at Munson Stadium and any playoff games.


"I can’t comment because of federal law," DISD superintendent Dr. Henry Scott said. "But it wouldn’t matter if it was the best player or the third-string end or cornerback.


"We run a clean program here and we’re going to do what’s right and sometimes it hurts to do what’s right. I wish there was another option but there’s not."


Whitfield leads the team with 1,334 yards and 15 touchdowns on 169 yards this season. In his 18-game career, Whitfield has 2,307 yards and 28 touchdowns on 355 carries and is 10th on Denison’s all-time rushing list and 11th in rushing touchdowns. He is also tied for 16th on the Jackets’ all-time list with 34 catches. His 13 100-yard games ranks fifth.


The coaching staff told the team on Wednesday morning. Whitfield practiced on Monday and Tuesday before his locker had been cleared out.


Seniors Khalil Brown and Eddie Moreno will help fill the void going forward. Brown has 32 carries for 232 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a majority of that — 174 yards and a TD on 17 carries — when Whitfield missed a quarter and a half with a shoulder injury in a 34-10 victory against Royse City three weeks ago. Moreno has 73 yards on seven carries.


"I feel very comfortable with either of them," Rogers said.


Denison maintained its share of first place by defeating one of the three teams that sat alongside the top of the 13-4A standings, Wylie, with a fourth-quarter comeback to earn a 35-27 victory.


Devon Blanton had three rushing touchdowns, including the go-ahead score on the first play of the final quarter and provided breathing room with his last touchdown. Denison gained 458 yards following four first-quarter possessions that totaled just 20 yards.


Blanton finished with 160 yards and also threw at 28-yard TD to Jaleel Dade and Whitfield had 180 yards and a score on 26 carries.


The Jackets came up with a pair of stops in the final 3:38 to keep Wylie from forcing overtime. Denison forced four turnovers and held the Pirates to 162 yards over the final three quarters after allowing 153 in the first 12 minutes.


While Denison is out to end a four-year playoff drought, Greenville is suffering through a much more painful streak. Since the Jackets’ state semifinal appearance in 2009, the Lions haven’t won at all in that span, carrying an 38-game losing streak into this game.


Despite the struggles on both sides of the ball and the fact that Denison has beaten Greenville each of the past three seasons, the Jackets aren’t overlooking the Lions by any means. Last year’s score was 28-16 while Greenville lost to the Jackets, 28-24, in 2011.


"Go out and play them like everybody else," senior linebacker Jordan Heath said. "I’m not overlooking them at all. Keep our head on straight and play."


Greenville’s best chance to stop the slide was against Frisco Heritage to close out non-district play. Heritage beat the Lions, 56-49, in double overtime after Greenville scored 28 points in the third quarter to have a shot at the shocking comeback. The next closest game was a season-opening 34-22 loss to Princeton.


Through five district games, Greenville hasn’t scored more than 14 points and gained more than 205 yards just once — both came in a 30-14 decision to Royse City.


Defensively the Lions have given up at least 45 points to every 13-4A team except for Royse City and Sherman, who they close the season with next week.


Last week Greenville lost to North, 45-7, falling behind by three touchdowns in the first quarter. The Bulldogs ran for 348 yards — Ronald Jones had 217 and three TDs on 22 carries — and Ben Dutze threw a pair of touchdown passes.


Treveon Heard had Greenville’s touchdown on a 20-yard run and the Lions finished with just 160 yards on 50 plays.


The Lions have used three quarterbacks equally this season with Matthew Riskey, Spencer Gilbert II and Heard all attempting at least 42 passes. Riskey has the best numbers at 20-for-50 for 210 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions.


Tyler Matthews leads the way in the rushing department with 624 yards and four TDs on 134 carries and D’erren Wilson is the main receiving target with 14 catches for 202 yards and two scores.


"They’re playing hard and they’re very, very athletic," Rogers said.