Even if Denison had ended up in overtime against Abilene Wylie, it would have been a good result. Even if Denison had seen the loooooooong field goal somehow make it through the uprights, it would have been a good result. The result that ends up in the record books, 24-23 Denison over Abilene Wylie, is a good result. But showing the ability to go toe-to-toe with a perennial playoff power could end up meaning more than the actual outcome. Denison played a third straight opponent it lost to in 2016. In 2017, those Ls have turned to Ws. The latest is the most impressive of the bunch. Building on it over the next two months will determine how big an impact it will really have.
It was over when — Cameron Dawsey missed the extra point after Gatlin Martin’s 41-yard TD catch pulled Abilene Wylie within a point. The kick by Dawsey would have tied the game at 24 but it sailed wide left and Denison maintained the lead with 4:57 remaining and the score never changed again.
It was really over when — Cason Grant missed a 48-yard field goal attempt with a little more than a minute left. Denison was unable to gain a first down and took barely a minute off the clock. The good news was that the Bulldogs took over at their own 16. The bad news was that Wylie was able to get all the way to the Denison 31 and on fourth-and-nine decided for the go-ahead field goal. Grant’s kick didn’t even make it to the end zone and the Jackets were able to hang on.
Player of the Game — Bralynn Ramsey. The sophomore defensive lineman continues to cause havoc. Constantly in the backfield, notched a couple of sacks and is going to have to be a focal point for opponents once district play begins in a couple weeks.
Play of the Game — Ty McFail returns an interception 38 yards for a touchdown. The play ended up producing the deciding points but this was also about the momentum swing. Denison had a 17-10 lead and was looking to go up 24-10 before a fumble in Wylie territory. The Bulldogs took advantage and tied the game with 20 seconds left in the third quarter. The Jackets then went three-and-out. But Wylie’s first snap of the fourth quarter changed everything. Martin tried to make a diving catch and as he rolled over the ball popped up and McFail snagged it, brought it back and suddenly Denison was back in front, and for good, as it turned out.
The good — 3-0 for the first time since 2008? Good. Victory over a team that was a state runner-up last year and entered the week ranked eighth in its classification? Also good. The offense is continuing to improve each week. Yes there are still hiccups but there is a little more flow each week. Kenny Gaffney had his best game so far with some hard runs. The defense continues to force turnovers, and is up to nine through three games, scoring a TD for the second straight week. It forced two turnovers on downs in its own end and held Wylie to a field goal when it got to the Denison 12. It was another strong effort up front as well as swarming to the ball. Wylie had a 65-yard TD run — and then 10 yards across the other 30 carries. Special teams was big advantage Denison. The kickoff coverage was very good. Zaelin Wimbish and Bubba Roberts had some good kickoff returns. The punting was consistent. Austin Emery kicked a 30-yard field goal and, most importantly, all of his extra points.
The bad — Offensively there were three turnovers (all fumbles), two of them came in Wylie territory and another was at midfield. The Bulldogs scored touchdowns off the last two, so there were some big swings there. The passing game continues to be a struggle. Austin Emery didn’t complete even 50 percent of his throws again (6-of-15) and gained just 51 yards. The decision-making needs to be better. Defensively the Jackets got burned on two long TDs after going nearly two games without allowing a single one. That’s three in five quarters. Trend or what you live with to have an aggressive group? The penalty situation, for both teams, was ridiculous. But Denison gets the ire after 13 flags for 130 yards, which means there were a lot of 15-yarders to accumulate that total.
District dish — In addition to Denison’s win over Abilene Wylie, Sherman edged Mount Pleasant, 35-33, Denton Ryan topped Wylie East, 48-22, Wichita Falls nipped Fort Worth Arlington Heights, 15-13, and Rider handled Amarillo Palo Duro, 42-14. Denton lost against The Colony, 28-24, and Denton Braswell lost against Frisco Reedy, 52-15. Denison and Ryan are the only 3-0 teams with Sherman, Wichita Falls and Denton all sitting at 2-1. Non-district play ends this week. More Thursday fun as Denison plays in Frisco again (Memorial Stadium) with Frisco Heritage as the opponent and Sherman has a Thursday road date with Garland Naaman Forest. Plus Denton Ryan plays at Frisco Lone Star (The Star) on Thursday. Regular Friday action has Rider hosting Kennedale, Denton hosting Keller Timber Creek, Braswell welcoming Kaufman and Wichita Falls at Haltom.
Stinging stats of the week — Denison started a season 3-0 for the first time since 2008…The last time the Jackets scored fewer than 30 points each contest and won three straight games was the middle of the 2005 season…Through three weeks opponents have gained just 283 yards on 137 carries (2.07 yards per attempt)…The Yellow Jackets allowed a season-high 238 passing yards…Denison has forced three turnovers in each of the first three games…Austin Emery moved to 26th on the Denison career passing list with 640 yards. He is 21 yards from the top 25…Emery also surpassed 600 career rushing yards…Kenny Gaffney had a season-high 15 carries for a season-high 90 yards…Gaffney moved to just outside the top 50 (51st) in all-time Denison rushing at 749 career yards. He is 15 yards from the top 50 and 62 yards from 45th…Braydon Roberts had the first carry of his varsity career, a reverse for 10 yards…DeCurious Smith had a career-high seven carries for a career-high 41 yards…Bubba Roberts had a career-high 23 receiving yards…Pierce Barker caught a career-high two passes. Barker has a catch in all three games this season…Cayden Earnhart caught the first pass of his varsity career, for 13 yards…Logan Wagner recovered a fumble for the third straight game…Ty McFail returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown…Mateo Reyes had an interception…The 13 penalties for 130 yards was almost equal to the first two games — 14 flags for 103 yards.