When it comes to scrimmages, teams can use the one or two match-ups to work out the kinks, try something new or see the potential they have on their roster.
There are times when what takes place needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because it might never be used or seen again during the regular season.
In trying to replace the production of Tre’ Lyday, who put together an all-state senior season with 2,041 yards and 29 touchdowns on 313 carries, the Yellow Jackets felt they had several options to turn to. In scrimmages against Paris North Lamar and Paris, that looked like it was going to be the case.
Denison continued to believe it doesn’t need to rely on a single running back in its 28-24 comeback victory against Trinity Christian-Addison. While quarterback Austin Emery led the team with 18 rushes, notching 87 yards and a touchdown, the Jackets had five other players carry the ball and four of them had at least four attempts.
“They all do something better than the others,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “We’d like to get someone on a roll and then we’d leave him in to ride the hot hand. I told them they better take advantage of their opportunities.”
Senior Ty McFail totaled 46 yards on six carries, including the deciding points on an 18-yard TD run late in the third quarter. They were his first varsity touches.
Classmate Bubba Roberts, who saw back-up action a year ago, also carried six times and gained 28 yards.
“Whatever helps the team out,” Roberts said. “Anytime you could go in and you have to be ready. If it’s not your turn, you know your time is going to come.”
Another senior, Kenny Gaffney, who was second on the team in rushing to Lyday in 2016, also had six attempts for 15 yards.
And junior DeCurious Smith got in on the action as well with four touches for 19 yards.
Out of those 22 carries, 17 of them gained at least three yards. It proved that the Jackets were willing to shuffle guys in and out, partly because McFail and Smith are also starters in the secondary but also because all four of them have shown an ability to contribute.
The captains for Denison’s season-opening win against Trinity Christian-Addison last week were seniors Austin Emery, Ty McFail, Jadan Forbes and Kyle Finch. They were backed by the rest of the senior class, which was celebrated before the game with Senior Night. The Jackets are rotating the four spots from week to week based on what happens during practice and the prior game.
Even on a short week of practice, the Yellow Jackets had an area of emphasis after the season-opening victory. There were four major special teams mistakes against the Trojans — two that led to Denison falling into a 17-0 hole and two that could have widened the gap too large to overcome in the second half.
“We spend as much time on special teams as anyone. They know what to do and know how to fix it,” Rogers said. “It was uncharacteristic of us. Your attention to detail has to be there. You correct the mistakes and move on.”
The Jackets’ second possession of the game ended with a punt attempt and the snap back to Emery bounced and forced him to slide to his left. He was unable to get off a kick and was tackled at the Denison 11. Six plays later TCA held a 6-0 lead.
Trinity Christian took a 14-0 lead after the Jackets’ ensuing drive was a three-and-out and Emery’s punt from inside his five-yard-line deflected off the upman and ended up at the Denison 28. Four plays and a penalty later the Trojans were in the end zone again.
At the start of the second half, Denison received the opening kickoff and Zaelin Wimbish muffed the kickoff and Isaac Agumadu recovered to set up TCA at the Denison 28. The Jackets were able to force a turnover on downs but missed a chance to use that first drive to go and take a 21-17 advantage.
Instead, the Trojans were able to increase their lead after recovering a muffed punt by Kenny Gaffney in the middle of the third quarter at the Denison 20. Three plays and a penalty later had Denison trailing 24-14.
Outside of those four possessions, Trinity Christian had just three other drives reach the Denison 35-yard line.