There are always several story lines that can come out of any game. The way things were shaping up for the Yellow Jackets, a repeat of last year’s district opener was looking like a very good possibility. You might remember that at this time last season, Denison was able to pull out a dramatic, one-point victory to help spur them to a share of the district title.

There are always several story lines that can come out of any game. The way things were shaping up for the Yellow Jackets, a repeat of last year’s district opener was looking like a very good possibility. You might remember that at this time last season, Denison was able to pull out a dramatic, one-point victory to help spur them to a share of the district title.


This time around the opponent was not Wylie East, or anyone except the Jackets’ recent nemesis. Lovejoy has been a major roadblock for Denison in the three meetings between the programs, so the fact that Denison would have a shot at a one-point victory because the Leopards missed a two-point conversion had worse odds than most.


Lovejoy did what it does against Denison, get to half a hundred and then get a little bit more.


It was over when — Kevin Davis snatched a ball out Steven Wagoner’s hands as the Denison receiver was fighting for extra yards and returned the fumble 76 yards for a touchdown with 2:53 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Jackets were about to cut the deficit to six but instead saw Lovejoy open up a 55-35 lead.


It was really over when — Nick Parker recovered an onside kick for Lovejoy with just under two minutes remaining. Denison had just scored to get back within two scores and was trying to get the ball back and pull off a miracle comeback, something that would have been aided by having all its timeouts. But Parker gave the Leopards possession and Lovejoy burned all but the final six seconds to seal the victory.


Player of the Game — Adam McDaniel. The numbers don’t tell the whole story for this Leopard’s impact. McDaniel had a run for eight yards, completed two-of-four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 84 yards and a touchdown. McDaniel got the start at quarterback because Bowman Sells was out for disciplinary reasons. His two drives behind center gave Lovejoy a 13-0 lead. And then he caught a 75-yard TD pass from Sells in the second quarter. The Leopards could have gone off the rails early due to the changes but McDaniel not only didn’t make any mistakes, he set the visitors up very well to leave with a win.


Play of the Game — Steven Wagoner returns a kickoff 52 yards for a touchdown. Lovejoy had just scored with 5:29 left in the second quarter for a 20-7 lead, taking advantage of an interception in its own end. The Leopards then tried for a surprise onside kick and perhaps got a little too greedy in their thinking. Wagoner, lined up on the front row at the far left, had the ball bounce to him on a high hop just as as the coverage team was about to arrive. Not one of them got in Wagoner’s way, however, and he went straight to the end zone to get Denison back within a touchdown. Had Lovejoy recovered and gone up three scores before half-time or even if the Jackets recovered and not scored, Wagoner provided the best possible shift in momentum in just five seconds.


The good — Offensively the end result was there. When, combined with the special teams, you get 42 points and almost 500 yards, it should be good enough to win. The balance was there as well: 34 passes and 39 runs. Hunter Watson emerged as a third option for the first time since the season opener. He went two games without a catch but had a monster touchdown grab on fourth down in the fourth quarter to keep Denison in striking distance. Devan Patterson saw significant snaps and made the most of that playing time. Special teams-wise, Wagoner’s kickoff return for a score came a much-needed moment.


The bad — Penalties were a major, major issue. Denison had 13 for 126 yards. Yes, Lovejoy had 12 for 90. But a lot of the Leopards’ infractions were illegal procedure and not costly. The Jackets had plenty of costly penalties on offense, defense and special teams. The two biggest were Arlton Ardrey roughing the punter on fourth-and-36 at the Lovejoy 20-yard line late in the first quarter and then on Lovejoy’s next possession, a bad call of targeting on Brendon Luper saw him get ejected and changed Denison’s approach in the secondary for the final two-and-a-half quarters. Special teams took a hit with Luper out, since he is also Denison’s punter. Cody Crouse had his worst outing of the season, gaining 25 yards on one carry and 27 on the other 13 runs. Defensively the Jackets allowed a yard short of 500 and Lovejoy scored on eight of 12 possessions, and that includes drives to end the first half and the game when they weren’t trying to score. There were a couple of possessions where Denison needed a stop and could not get it. The Jackets did not force a turnover and were burned twice on trick plays — a receiver pass and then a reverse flea-flicker. When Denison had a chance to use some trickery on its first possession, Hunter Watson slowed up on Steven Wagoner’s receiver pass that had a chance to go the distance — 70 yards — for a TD but fell incomplete. And on the penultimate snap of the night, a pair of Jackets were severely injured as Lovejoy punted in the closing seconds. Caleb Ross was taken off the field on a stretcher but is okay while Drew Marr suffered a foot/ankle injury that may prove problematic for the Jackets’ second-leading receiver.


District dish — The first week of 10-5A action saw some close games. In addition to Lovejoy’s win over Denison, Wylie East kicked things off with a 49-46 comeback on Thursday night. Prosper knocked off Sherman, 34-7, while Wylie edged McKinney, 27-24. This week the Jackets travel to McKinney, Sherman heads to Lovejoy, Wylie hosts Wylie East and McKinney North goes to Prosper.


Stinging stats of the week — Denison has not beaten Lovejoy in three tries, surrendering at least 54 points in each game…Blanton surpassed 1,700 career passing yards, becoming the 11th Yellow Jacket to reach that mark. He is 223 yards from becoming the eighth Jacket QB with 2,000 career passing yards…Blanton became the 12th Denison QB with 100 career completions…Blanton surpassed 1,400 rushing yards in his career, moving to 20th on the Denison all-time list. He is 24 yards from 1,500…Blanton’s 19 completions were one shy of tying the school record set by Randall Forguson against Sherman in 1971…Blanton’s 255 yards tied him with his uncle Craig for fifth on Denison’s single-game list. He now has three of the top six passing games in school history — all of them coming in the last three games…Blanton become the third Yellow Jacket to throw at least 20 career touchdown passes and is four behind Erik Brown’s 24 in second place…Blanton completed four straight passes to open the game and six straight passes to end the game. In between he completed just 9-of 23 attempts…Wagoner is now tied for 12th on the Denison receiving touchdown list with seven. He is one TD catch from a three-way tie for ninth place…Wagoner became the 19th Yellow Jacket with 500 career receiving yards…Wagoner moved into a tie for 19th place on the career Denison catches list with 32…Wagoner’s seven catches ties for ninth on the Denison single-game list. Half of Cody Crouse’s 14 carries went for zero yards. The 52 yards were a season-low…Devan Patterson scored the first touchdown of his varsity career on a 20-yard run. He had a career-best six carries for 38 yards…Hunter Watson had the first receiving touchdown of his varsity career, a 25-yarder, and had career highs with three catches for 54 yards…Steven Wagoner threw the first pass of his varsity career, an incompletion.