The inflatable helmet the Denison Yellow Jackets run through each week gets a sticker — black star inside a yellow circle — added on the front for every victory. That is the only criteria to have one affixed by the start of the next game.
The players have the same look on the front right above their face masks. For the decals that appear on the back, the process is a little more involved.
There are different categories in which players can earn points — of course all of them come after the top category of a win — either on an individual or unit-themed basis and the running total for each Jacket is tabulated. It’s a system that has been in place for awhile to recognize the individual effort leading to team success.
“We’ve been doing it since I got here,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “They’re team-oriented points and there’s obviously more points when you win.”
As an example, a turnover, showing leadership on offense or defense and a goal line stand are all worth 10 points. The only point values are 10 or five. Other ways to earn points include tackles on kickoffs and a certain number of yards after contact on a play.
A decal, which is a circle containing the word “D-town” in it, gets awarded for every 50 points. It is also a good reminder of the competition fostered within the team as the Jackets try to earn as many as possible over the course of the season, which in turn would lead to more victories since the foundation is built on those category-earning points.
Center Osvaldo Delarosa leads the way with 200 points through three games while linebackers Mateo Reyes and Nate Maulsby and defensive tackle Bralynn Ramsey are tied for second with 185 points.
Denison is also a program that puts names on the back of the jerseys, which sometimes is something certain coaches shy away from.
“We’re playing for the name on the front but we’re also playing for the name on the back because you’re representing your family out there,” Rogers said. “My name is important to me. Yours is important to you. It’s important to remember that when you are out there on the field.”
The captains for Denison’s victory against Abilene Wylie last week were seniors Ty McFail, Jadan Forbes, Kyle Finch and Mateo Reyes. It was the third straight week McFail, Forbes and Finch were selected as captains and the first time for Reyes. The Jackets are rotating the four spots from week to week based on what happens during practice and the prior game.
It’s a snap
In a game where special teams turned out to be the deciding factor, sophomore Cayden Earnhart was put in a tough position — long snapper.
The normal snapping duties belong to Reyes but the senior injured his right shoulder during the 24-23 victory against Abilene Wylie. Since he couldn’t continue in that regard, Earnhart was called upon in a role he hadn’t done in a varsity game yet this season. And it came in the fourth quarter of a tie game.
“I saw him get hurt and the coaches told me to get ready and it was my turn to step up,” he said. “I had to do it to the best of my ability.”
Earnhart has seen time on special teams and as an H-back, including catching his first career pass against the Bulldogs. But the high pressure of making a perfect snap was accentuated by what had occurred on the other side of the field.
“That’s where playing other sports helps. He caught so many baseball games as a freshman,” Rogers said. “He’s a competitor, a gamer. Those were some of the best snaps I’ve seen him do.”
When Wylie scored what looked like the game-tying touchdown with 4:57 left, Cameron Dawsey missed the extra point to the left and Denison maintained a one-point lead.
Since the snap is the first, and extremely crucial part of the process, Earnhart had to shake off the pressure and remained poised on every attempt. His first came when the Jackets punted on the second play of the fourth quarter with the score tied at 17. Then moments later he was out there for the extra point following Ty McFail’s interception return for a touchdown.
“I never really worried about a bad snap happening,” Earnhart said. “Just make the snap.”
The extra point Austin Emery kicked ended up being the difference. Earnhart had another punt to snap and will be ready this week with Reyes sidelined.
“I just did what they told me to do and I’d be just fine,” Earnhart said.