They may have been the second-best team in the state three seasons in a row, but the Denison Yellow Jackets of the mid-’90s came from humble beginnings.
“Seventh grade I think we won two games,” offensive lineman Chad Carlat said.
“In middle school we were terrible,” quarterback Terrence Riddick agreed.
By the time they graduated high school, they had produced one of the best runs in Denison history.
“We got a bit of a mean streak,” said Carlat, who was a two-time first-team all-state selection in 1996-97. “We knew that losing wasn’t an option. It was great camaraderie we had. If we had a weakness we addressed it.”
Nearly 50 members of those three squads were honored before last week’s District 5-5A opener against Wichita Falls. It was a fitting opponent — those teams beat the Coyotes by a combined score of 149-9 in three match-ups.
The 20-year anniversary was chosen for the last season of the dominating run of Class 4A state runner-up finishes. The Yellow Jackets compiled a 44-4 record with three of those losses coming against La Marque in the title game.
“It was the worst pressure of my life,” said Riddick, who took over at quarterback for the 1996 and ‘97 seasons. “Coach Brown said ‘If you don’t complete the three passes we’re gonna throw, you’re fired.’ We were pretty talented. Our senior year, that was the one I feel like we should have won.”
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.
“Talent-wise we matched up. Coaching-wise we matched up,” said defensive lineman Jason Pettit, who was second-team all-state in 1995. “Brings back memories. Being able to see all these guys means so much.”
The captains for Denison’s win against Wichita Falls last week were seniors Austin Emery, Ty McFail, Jadan Forbes and junior Nate Maulsby. It was the fifth straight week McFail and Forbes were selected as captains. It was the second time this season that Emery and Maulsby were captains. The Jackets are rotating the four spots from week to week based on what happens during practice and the prior game.
When Emery dropped back to pass in the victory over Wichita Falls, the quarterback had easy pickings. So easy, in fact, he didn’t miss.
Emery was a perfect 8-of-8 for 150 yards and three touchdowns, almost all of it coming as Denison scored on five straight first-half possessions for a 35-0 advantage.
His second throw was a 30-yard TD pass to Cayden Earnhart, his next was a 17-yard touchdown to D.J. Gray and his fifth was to Bubba Roberts for a 29-yard touchdown — all by the 9:43 mark of the second quarter.
“Austin’s playing about as well as I’ve seen him play,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “He’s really taken control of the offense.”
Backup Cade Gordy had a 12-yard touchdown pass on his only throw of the night as Denison finished 9-for-9 for 162 yards and four touchdowns.
Regression to the mean
The blip that was Denison’s defensive effort against Frisco Heritage might be just that.
“The preparation that was there the first three weeks wasn’t there for that week,” Rogers said. “And the preparation for Wichita Falls High was good. They know.”
In the other four games — all victories — opponents have been held to 28 points or fewer. The fourth addition to that list came last week as Wichita Falls managed 21 points, the last touchdown coming against the Jacket back-ups in the second half after Denison built a 42-7 lead early in the third quarter.
Wichita Falls went the first 18 minutes of the game without a first down and had just 22 yards across its first five possessions.
The Coyotes almost were shut out in the first half but put together a 75-yard drive right as the second quarter ended to get on the board.
Denison did not force a turnover for the second straight game, however, after getting at least three in each of the first three games of the season.