A year ago everybody was meeting Denton Braswell for the first time. That’s because before the start of two-a-days, not even the head coach knew who was going to be on the team because the high school didn’t exist.
A year ago everybody was beating Denton Braswell. That’s because when you have a football team made up of players who have never played together before, for coaches they didn’t know before, wins are tough to come by.
The growing pains were expected when the Bengals jumped right into action as a varsity program and up until last week they still existed. And then Braswell went and won their first-ever game, snapping a 16-game losing streak which was the only thing a majority of the roster had ever known.
It still falls in the category of a trap game for Denison, because a win sets the Jackets up for a first-place showdown with state-ranked Ryan and a little matter of the Battle of the Ax to close out the schedule. But these Bengals are not the ones of a year ago. And they have ideas of getting a winning streak started.
Braswell’s 54-41 victory against Wichita Falls ended what had been a tough stretch to open 2017. In non-district play, the Bengals lost against V.R. Eaton (37-3), Frisco Independence (58-19), Frisco Reedy (52-15) and Kaufman (42-18). Then in 5-5A action there was a 47-14 loss to Ryan and a 49-21 loss against Sherman.
That basically points to Braswell allowing 40-something points each time out and a glimpse that maybe the offense has turned a corner. If it hasn’t Braswell has only gotten into the 20s just one other time.
Against Wichita Falls, Greyson Thompson completed 7-of-11 passes for 132 yards and four touchdowns — Christian Battle had three TD grabs covering 83 yards, 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, despite allowing the 41 points, did come up with six interceptions, including a 65-yard return for a score by Quinton Draine.
Thompson earned the starting QB job after Braswell struggled to fine a consistent presence at the position in Year 1. The sophomore is 83-of-163 passing for 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. Backup Palmer Campbell is 10-of-13 for 106 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Richardson leads in the rushing department 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, Johnson is at 14 carries for 131 yards and three TDs, Campbell has 116 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Thompson is not much of a running threat with 28 carries for 33 yards.
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. Only one other player has more than five catches and Ivry Mundy’s 10 grabs have only gained 37 yards.
Leading the offensive line is junior D.J. Stephenson, who was second-team all-district at tackle.
On defense, three juniors are tops in tackles. Mitchell Lesue leads the way with 43 stops, linebacker Alex Rivera is next at 36 and linebacker Ta’vion Wofford is tied with sophomore C.J. Johnson at 31. Linebacker David Akhagbeme was second-team all-district as a junior.
Senior defensive lineman Brendan Aland has seven sacks and is the main threat in that department. No other Bengal has more than two.
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.
Arturo Ramirez has made 13-of-17 extra points and 2-of-4 field goals with a long of 29. He is also averaging 36.1 yards on 26 punts.