By Jason Della Rosa
By Jason Della Rosa
Since his insertion into the starting lineup during the second week of the season, junior Jacob Hunt has added an extra dimension to an already strong linebacking corps.
"I had to show I could contribute to the team," said Hunt, who transferred from Wylie. "The first week I really didn’t know. They moved me from WILL linebacker to MIKE and it’s really clicked with me."
It should be no surprise to those who witnessed Denison’s mid-’90s dynasty with three straight state title game appearances because Hunt’s uncles, Reggie and Aaron, were key components.
Reggie, who is back with the program as an assistant coach, was a second-team all-state selection in 1995 and is Denison’s fifth all-time leading rusher with 2,862 yards while Aaron was first-team all-state in 1997 and a two-time all-star in the Canadian Football League. Both won Grey Cup titles in the CFL after playing at TCU and Texas Tech, respectively.
"I’ve got some big shoes to fill," he said. Hunt found himself in the middle of the action during Denison’s 42-24 victory against Sherman last week that saw the return of the Ax for the first time in four years.
"He’s just a natural. I don’t know how to explain it," Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. "He’s turning into a leader."
He forced a fumble near Sherman’s end zone that Garrett Hestand fell on for a touchdown and late in the game helped seal the victory with a 52-yard interception return in the fourth quarter to give the Jackets a 34-17 lead with 3:38 remaining. He finished with 10 tackles, six being solo stops.
Hunt also contributed on special teams when he covered up a muffed put by Steven Wagoner at the Denison 18 to keep Sherman from getting amazing field position and a chance to take the lead late in the third quarter.
Through four games Hunt has 44 tackles (27 solo), eight for a loss, with a sack, four pressures, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He is second on the team behind Arlton Ardrey in tackles.
"As soon as I see the ball I react as well as I can. I just go wherever the ball goes," Hunt said. "They say I’m a leader on the team so I have to lead and want to lead."
After not being called upon in Denison’s district-opening victory against Wylie East, senior punter Will Parker made a big impact on the Jackets’ victory last Friday against Sherman.
Parker punted five times after not having to take the field in the district opener and changed up his approach by angling his kicks.
"I’ve been working on it in practice and you don’t want to give it to Tre’ Mask in the open field," Parker said. "Angling away helped a lot. It definitely boosts your confidence when you can pin them deep."
His first attempt was for 38 yards and angled perfectly so that Sherman was pinned at its three-yard line. The third play of the Bearcats’ possession ended with Garrett Hestand recovering a fumble in the end zone to give Denison a 14-3 lead.
In the middle of the third quarter, Parker booted a 59-yard punt with the Jackets having been backed up to their 14-yard line.
And in the middle of the fourth quarter, his 32-yard punt sent Jordan Hume drifting towards the far sideline and the muffed catch was recovered by Drew Marr to set up another Denison touchdown.
Sherman’s average starting position on four possessions after Parker’s punts was the Bearcat 20-yard line despite three of those kicks coming inside Denison’s 40-yard line.
"That’s a huge weapon. And he had another that almost died at the one," Rogers said. "Will does a great job doing what we asked."
Denison is rotating two captain spots alongside permanent captains senior Yefri Chavez and junior Devon Blanton. Last week against Sherman the duo was joined by senior Denard Whitfield and junior Jacob Hunt.
In the district-opening victory against Wylie East, the rotating captains were seniors Chandler Glenn and Jordan Heath.
What a rush
All four members of the Denison backfield have produced career-best rushing efforts in the past two weeks as the Jackets have used an effective ground game to start 2-0 in district play.
Junior Devon Blanton took over at quarterback for the non-district finale against Frisco Liberty and a week later in a win over Wylie East ran for 192 yards.
Senior running back Denard Whitfield came up with his best effort as a Yellow Jacket last week against Sherman when he ran for 202 yards, besting his previous high of 193 last season.
"There’s a lot of weapons," Whitfield said. "It wasn’t like I was doing something the whole game. My shine came in the fourth quarter."
Senior fullbacks Colton Henslee and Eddie Moreno had their best games at Denison against Wylie East. Henslee ran for 117 yards and Moreno added 61 yards.
Denison has run the ball on 86 percent of its plays in the past month, with at least 46 attempts in each of the three games, for 1,113 yards and an average of almost seven yards per carry.
"We’re handling every front we see," senior guard Justin Guth said.
The success — and 40.7 points per contest — is coming despite eight turnovers during Denison’s three-game win streak.
"We’ve got to take care of the ball better," Rogers said. "It’s something we’re conscious of and working on in practice."