For the second straight week the Denison Yellow Jackets have a key game on the schedule. Despite coming off a loss in the first such important contest, things are still in their control.

For the second straight week the Denison Yellow Jackets have a key game on the schedule. Despite coming off a loss in the first such important contest, things are still in their control.


"Every dream they ever set is still there," Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. "We’re gonna respond. This is a good game for us to see where we stand. A measuring stick type game."


It is a battle of first-place teams as Denison (4-3, 3-1) hosts Wylie (4-3, 3-1) at Munson Stadium on Friday night.


The winner is guaranteed to remain atop the District 13-4A standings and move that much closer to a playoff berth while the other falls back to a crowded pack with two games remaining.


"We don’t really focus on losing. We just focus on doing our job," senior defensive back Yefri Chavez said. "We’ve just got to keep the right mentality."


The opportunity to put a disappointing defeat that knocked Denison from sole possession of the top spot and have the Jackets on the verge of their first playoff berth in four seasons is one not taken for granted.


"We were getting confident and cocky with ourselves," senior running back Denard Whitfield said. "We just want to come out and work real hard in practice, not make too many mistakes when it’s gametime."


Denison lost for the first time in five weeks when Lovejoy snapped its four-game win streak with a 56-42 victory over the Yellow Jackets.


The Leopards scored twice in the final minute and a half after Denison was unable to get anything going on a pair of drives in the last part of the fourth quarter, including the chance to take the lead with the score tied at 42 with just over five minutes left.


The Jackets finished with 499 rushing yards and marked the third time in four games that three players ran for at least 100 yards. Colton Henslee had 194 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries, Whitfield added 168 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries and Devon Blanton finished with 129 yards and two TDs on 16 rushes. Four of Denison’s six touchdowns covered 52, 52, 68 and 70 yards.


"Having three backs go over 100 yards is pretty good," Whitfield said.


But the Jacket defense allowed almost as many big plays. Lovejoy scored on three plays from its own territory and took advantage of two fumbles and a penalty on special teams deep in Denison territory that added up to 21 points.


"It’s a learning environment for us. It’s growing pains," Rogers said. "We shouldn’t have left it in their hands. We made too many mistakes."


The Pirates have been much like the Jackets this season. After struggling in non-district play, when both its losses came as a result of giving up at least 51 points each time, Wylie finds itself tied with Denison and Wylie East for first place.


East used a late touchdown to defeat Wylie, 35-28, for the Pirates’ only district loss and Wylie has shown an ability to handle the high-octane offenses found in 13-4A.


Lovejoy has scored at least 48 points in three district games and against Wylie it managed only 21.


McKinney North has scored at least 42 points in three district games and against Wylie it managed only 24.


Both Lovejoy and North were unable to crack 400 yards of offense.


And even though Wylie East came away with a victory by scoring 35 points, it was still the Raiders’ lowest district output.


So now comes Denison with a team that has averaged nearly 42 points against 13-4A foes, scoring in the 40s three of the four games.


Linebacker T’Kevian Rockwell is the leader of the unit and for good reason. The senior is committed to Baylor and ranked by Rivals as the 26th best player in the state and 230th in the country.


"They were young in a lot of places last year," Rogers said. "They’re very well coached. They’re very athletic."


Offensively the Pirates are back to splitting the quarterback duties and seeing success with that philosophy, scoring at least 28 points in every district contest.


"They had a lot of success last week against a good team," Rogers said.


Carsen Cook has completed 90-of-152 passes for 1,024 yards with nine touchdowns and three interceptions while Kameron Kelly is 51-of-91 for 758 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.


Cook has run 33 times for 116 yards and three touchdowns. Kelly has run 74 times for 492 yards and eight touchdowns.


The biggest difference is that Kelly is also the team’s second-leading receiver at 30 catches for 385 yards and four TDs, behind only Alex Wesley’s 57 grabs for 606 yards and four touchdowns.


Kelly leads the way with those rushing numbers while Tristen Clark has 246 yards and three TDs on 43 carries. The Pirates love using multiple ballcarriers — seven have at least 19 rushes.