By Jason Della Rosa
By Jason Della Rosa
Khalil Brown had no trouble being patient. The virtue is required for anyone serving as the backup to Denard Whitfield.
It was his ability to be humble and seek forgiveness that put him in the position he found himself on Friday night, getting carry after carry in Denison’s 34-10 victory against Royse City in District 13-4A action at Munson Stadium.
"I made some poor decisions in the summer. I wanted to get my act together and I wanted to be on the team," Brown said. "I had to show I would be a man about it and earn my spot."
Brown finished with a career game for the Jackets — 174 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries — a little more than two months after he wasn’t even going to be on the roster. Brown was going to skip playing his senior season but asked for, and received, a second chance."
"He did everything we asked him to do," Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. "He became a better teammate. I’m so proud of him. He made the most of his opportunity."
The Jackets asked Brown to take the lead when Whitfield left with a shoulder injury in the middle of the third quarter. Twelve of his carries came from that point on to help ice the victory. Whitfield’s injury is not expected to keep him sidelined this week.
In the previous five games Brown had gotten just 10 carries — Whitfield averaged 23 rushes — but knew he had to ready at a moment’s notice.
"I don’t mind being the back-up. I play my role," Brown said. "I just had to be patient about everything. It was my time to shine so I went out there and did what I was supposed to. Help them and show them they can trust me."
It was the fourth straight victory for Denison (4-2, 3-0), which takes its undefeated 13-4A record on the road against defending district champ Lovejoy, already with two district losses, on Friday.
"Our expectations are rising and that’s the kids and the coaches," Rogers said. "Our expectation in each play is rising, not just the final result."
Royse City (1-5, 1-2) was without its starting quarterback, Jackson Watts, and the Bulldogs rotated Chance Selby and Courtland Vance throughout the game. The two combined to complete just one-of-seven passes for 19 yards while Royse City finished with nine first downs, 172 yards of offense and didn’t gain a first down on five of its 10 possessions.
That wasn’t going to cut it against a Denison offense that ran for more than 500 yards for the second time in three weeks. The Jackets had 503 yards on 60 carries with Brown, Whitfield and Devon Blanton all gaining at least 100 yards apiece.
"Our backs are fast enough if we can get a block on a guy they can break one," senior tackle Chandler Glenn said. "If you can’t trust your offensive line then you can’t trust nobody."
All of Denison’s scoring came on the ground. Whitfield finished with 162 yards on 14 carries (140 in the first half) and scored on runs of eight and 59 yards in the first quarter. Brown had a 16-yard touchdown run on the Jackets’ first possession of the second half while Blanton had a one-yard sneak and a 43-yard TD run in the fourth quarter as Denison pulled away.
"We’re a fast-paced, no-huddle run team," Rogers said. "We get in a bunch of formations. We’re balanced."
The 60 carries were split almost evenly — Colton Henslee added 10 of his own as four Jackets earned double-digit carries — but Brown ended with the most of them despite just one coming in the first quarter.
Blain Hickman kicked a 31-yard field goal less than a minute into the second quarter when the Bulldogs took advantage of a penalty to get on the board and the Jackets missed opportunities to extend the lead when Henslee fumbled after a catch in Bulldog territory and the ensuing Denison drive ended with the last play of the half being a Blanton incompletion in the end zone on fourth down from the Royse City 12.
That drive started at the Denison one when Vance was stuffed on third and fourth down from the two after the Bulldogs had first and goal at the nine.
The Jackets scored on three of their first four possessions of the second half and Royse City, which started both scoring drives in Denison territory, never pulled closer than 21-10 with 5:39 left in the third quarter when Vance had a one-yard touchdown run on a 44-yard drive. The other four possessions by the Bulldogs in the final two quarters totaled 14 yards.
"I was really proud of the way they responded," Rogers said.