There have been moments when Denison feels they have schemed things for an opponent, decisions or tweaks or scripted plays, to give them the advantage for victory.
Whether it happens on either side of the ball is immaterial. What matters is that even the best-laid plans can get off course. Adaptation for survival is the next step.
It seems to be something these Yellow Jackets have embraced from week to week. It’s part of the reason Denison has lost only once so far this season and has yet to lose in district play.
Identifying what works, or what countermeasures need to be employed, is half the battle. Then the execution must take place.
Staying on their successful track as the final weeks of the season approach is a focal point as Denison (6-1, 3-0) travels to Denton Braswell (1-6, 1-2) in 5-5A action at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex at 7 p.m. on Friday.
The Jackets can clinch a second straight playoff spot with a win.
“That’s always one of your goals,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “The main focus has been what we can do to achieve all of them.”
A perfect example of Denison’s willingness to adjust came in last week’s 35-14 victory over Denton. The Jackets were set to use the passing game on their early possessions but the air attack was out of sync — just one completion in the first nine throws.
“They were not going to give up the big pass play,” Rogers said. “I really thought when we went into it we could do some things. Then we started running and as long as we were patient with five, six yards a pop — that was working. It gives the kids confidence.”
Switching gears sent things into an extra gear. Denison finished with 72 rushing attempts and the Jackets pulled away in the second half, making Denison four-for-four in turning 2016 losses into 2017 wins. Holding a 21-14 lead at half-time, the Jackets scored twice in the latter stages of the third quarter to break open the game.
“I just wasn’t feeling comfortable. It was an off game,” senior quarterback Austin Emery said. “The good thing is our passing game is an addition you’d say because we are a running team. That’s what we do. And we have different formations and different personnel that we run different looks for the same play.”
Denison had three 100-yard rushers — Emery had 130 yards and three touchdowns, Ty McFail added 116 yards and a score and Kenny Gaffney finished with 105 yards and a TD — and the defense allowed just one yard across six second-half possessions.
The up-and-coming Denton Braswell Bengals earned the first victory in program history last week, snapping a 16-game losing streak with a 54-41 win against Wichita Falls.
“They aren’t the same team as last year. They’re building a program. They’re doing a good job,” Rogers said. “They had been making a lot of mistakes contributing to other teams’ points and they didn’t do that against Wichita Falls.
Before that the season had seen some very lopsided losses against V.R. Eaton (37-3), Frisco Independence (58-19), Frisco Reedy (52-15) and Kaufman (42-18) in non-district play followed by a 47-14 loss to Ryan and a 49-21 loss against Sherman in 5-5A action.
But against Wichita Falls, things came together. Greyson Thompson completed 7-of-11 passes for 132 yards and four touchdowns — three of them to Christian Battle — while Jaeden Johnson ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries and Jeremiah Richardson finished with 18 carries for 106 yards.
The Bengals also came up with six interceptions, including a 65-yard return for a score by Quinton Draine.
If the team has turned a corner, then Braswell could play spoiler down the stretch and maybe even contend for the final playoff spot.
Thompson earned the starting QB job after Braswell struggled to find a consistent presence at the position in Year 1 and the sophomore is 83-of-163 passing for 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.
At the other skill positions, there hasn’t been a clear-cut leader.
Richardson leads in rushing with 70 carries for 267 yards and no touchdowns, but more than a third of that did come against the Coyotes. Ki’andre Jackson, who was second-team all-district as a junior, is next with 188 yards on 58 carries, Jhari Grose has 35 carries for 151 yards and a touchdown and Johnson is at 14 carries for 131 yards and three TDs.
The Bengals have three main receiving threats. Battle has 14 catches for 221 yards and four touchdowns, Johnson — who was first-team all-district as a junior — has 25 catches for 212 yards and two TDs and Sully Martinez has 16 catches for 203 yards and two scores.
On defense, three juniors are tops in tackles. Mitchell Lesue leads the way with 43 stops, Alex Rivera is next at 36 and Ta’vion Wofford is tied with C.J. Johnson at 31.
Senior defensive lineman Brendan Aland has seven sacks and Caleb Richardson was second-team all-district last season and the corner is tied with Lesue for the team lead with three interceptions. Draine has two.
“We don’t look at any team different,” junior cornerback DeCurious Smith said. “We go out there and do what we’re supposed to do. Just worry about what you have in front of you right now.”