It was the breakout the Denison offense needed and it comes at the right time — for the start of district play.
The unit put forth its best effort of the season, showed the potential of the Yellow Jackets and provided some confidence for a group that had its moments, but also struggled, in the first three games.
Unfortunately for Denison it came in a 65-57 loss against Frisco Heritage but the silver lining was that the Jackets scored seven touchdowns, a number the group had scored combined in wins against Trinity Christian-Addison, Frisco and Abilene Wylie.
Austin Emery completed 13-of-22 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and led the way with 140 yards and two TDs on 25 carries. The Jackets almost had three 100-yard rushers as Bubba Roberts totaled 99 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and DeCurious Smith added 11 carries for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
“It definitely opens up a lot of our game,” Emery said. “We believe in what we’re doing and the coaches say. Our confidence finally kicked in.”
Kenny Gaffney chipped in 13 carries for 59 yards and a score and Denison rolled up 598 yards of offense, the 10th-most in school history.
“You’ve got to take what you get and then get better every week,” Emery said. “Especially going into district, I think it can keep us going.”
Emery had entered the game 17-of-42 for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the season and the senior quarterback looked to be in a much better rhythm against Frisco Heritage.
“He made a lot better decisions. I’m expecting him to continue getting better,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “I think we learned a lot from the game.”
Three completions gained at least 30 yards and nine of the 13 were for at least 15 yards. He had a 42-yard TD to Roberts and connected with Dalton Souther for a 22-yard touchdown on fourth down in the fourth quarter, the second TD coming on fourth down in the game.
They loved the ’90s
For the 20 year anniversary of a three-year dominating run, the Denison ISD will recognize and honor the football teams from 1995-97 that were the Class 4A state runner-up in each of those seasons at tonight’s game against Wichita Falls.
The 1995 and 1997 squads were 15-1 while the 1996 team went 14-2. The 1997 team shares the school record for touchdowns in a game (10) for a 71-9 win against Denton, which was the highest scoring game in school history until a 75-37 win against McKinney in 2009 while the 1995 team held the school record for yards in a game (577) until the mark was surpassed in 2003 and now sits 12th on the list.
The captains for Denison’s loss against Frisco Heritage last week were seniors Ty McFail, Jadan Forbes, Kyle Finch and sophomore Jordin Hunter. It was the fourth straight week McFail, Forbes and Finch were selected as captains and the first time for Hunter. The Jackets are rotating the four spots from week to week based on what happens during practice and the prior game.
Back to work
A year ago the Denison defense struggled to contain Frisco Heritage quarterback Amare Jones. The Jackets rebounded in district to hold four of six district opponents under 25 points.
While the group will learn from what happened in the team’s first loss, the Jackets aren’t dwelling on it.
“I think it’s a wake-up call more than anything,” Rogers said. “We didn’t stop either phase of the game. I think we’ll learn a lot from it.”
Jones finished the 65-57 Heritage win with 27 carries for 300 yards and was 13-of-19 for 200 yards and two TDs. He scored three two-point conversions and threw for another.
The Coyotes totaled 651 yards despite Denison forcing three punts and a turnover on downs. The 65 points was the sixth-most in school history after giving up a total of 57 through three games.
Denison allowed 451 of that yardage on the ground after dominating the line of scrimmage as the Jackets had a 3-0 start. The total before facing Heritage was 283 rushing yards and opponents were averaging 2.07 yards per carry. The Coyotes averaged 9.6 yards when they ran the ball and had eight plays gain at least 30 yards.
“You can’t really put it on one thing,” junior linebacker Nate Maulsby said. “Missed tackles, trying to do someone else’s job instead of our job. We were all down on ourselves.
“Now it’s time for district and our mindset starts fresh — everybody’s 0-0 — and make a statement.”
The ease with which Heritage scored underscored some issues. The Coyotes had three straight touchdown drives in the fourth quarter and they needed only 12 plays combined over those possessions.
Denison went into the match-up with three turnovers in each game but didn’t force any against Heritage.
“It wasn’t one of our better practice weeks on a short week,” Rogers said. “And that’s my responsibility.”