Stuck between a loss and their bye week, the Yellow Jackets played like the were unaware of both.
What Denison did know was the district schedule has begun. And the effort from the outset against Wichita Falls showed a team ready to once again stake its claim to one of the four playoff spots.
Touchdowns on five straight first-half drives while not allowing a first down for the first 18 minutes led the way for the Jackets to claim an easy 55-21 victory against the Coyotes in the District 5-5A opener at Dr. Rene and Eva Gerard Field at Munson Stadium on Friday night.
There were some lessons learned from the 65-57 loss against Frisco Heritage. The Jackets kept their foot on the gas offensively and regrouped defensively — all four winning efforts have seen the opponent held under 30 points.
“They responded well,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “I think we had a good game plan. We were able to see what they wanted to do us and we adjusted. The option game looked really good. It's a great equalizer.”
Austin Emery was 8-for-8 passing for 150 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 136 yards on six carries, all in the first half, while Bubba Roberts ran for two scores and added a TD reception for Denison (4-1, 1-0), which is off until traveling to Wichita Falls Rider on October 13.
“They're pretty aggressive on the front line and we had some answers for them,” Emery said. “We had a good week of practice. Hard work pays off. We'll take it week by week, have a game plan and it pays off.”
It was the first time Denison had scored at least 55 points in back-to-back games since the middle of the 2009 season. In the last two outings Emery has completed 21-of-30 throws.
“His growth has been tremendous,” Rogers said. “I like where we're at. I like the way we played. I like the way we prepared.”
Ben McAfee led Wichita Falls (2-3, 0-1) with 63 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns on 10 carries and Marcharie Johnson added a TD catch from Zach Williams. The Coyotes finished with 276 yards of offense. Marcus King totaled 17 carries for 71 yards.
The Jackets went up 42-7 early in the third quarter on an 11-yard run by Bubba Roberts.
McAfee answered as he leaped over the line from a yard out as Wichita Falls scored with just over three minutes left in the third.
Kenny Gaffney had a two-yard touchdown run to start the scoring in the fourth quarter before McAfee found the end zone again, this time from nine yards out, to make it 48-21.
Denison closed out the scoring when Cade Gordy had a 12-yard TD pass to Braydon Roberts with 7:01 left.
Wichita Falls got on the board right before the second quarter ended when Williams hit Johnson at the right front pylon on third-and-goal from the six with 13 seconds remaining in the half.
The score capped the best of the Coyotes' six first-half possessions, netting 75 of their 97 yards through two quarters as well as the first plays Wichita Falls ran in Denison territory.
By the time the Coyotes found the end zone, Denison had built a 35-0 lead on five straight drives after opening with a three-and-out.
The Jackets were backed up at their five-yard line but Emery ripped off a 53-yard keeper and then connected with Cayden Earnhart on a bootleg to his left for a 30-yard touchdown pass in the middle of the first quarter.
Right before the end of the first, D.J. Gray capped things off with a 17-yard TD grab up the right seam.
Denison's third possession started just shy of midfield and quickly made its way to a 21-0 advantage when Bubba Roberts caught a 29-yard TD pass out of the backfield on the right side with 9:43 left in the second quarter.
The fourth play of the next series for the Jackets was a 17-yard touchdown run Bubba Roberts broke to the outside on the left.
Denison needed only one play to open the 35-0 lead when Ty McFail went 57 yards for the touchdown with 4:37 remaining in the half.
“It was good to see we could do that and keep our focus,” Rogers said.
The fast start by the Jackets produced 352 yards to that point — 257 of it on the ground — and Emery keyed the way with six carries for 136 yards and was a perfect 6-of-6 passing for 95 yards as Denison headed to the locker room.
“It was great,” Emery said. “The pass protection has been on point. They've been working their butts off.”