The final preparation for district play comes tonight and the Denison Yellow Jackets are hoping to ride the momentum of a successful first month into their 5-5A schedule with one more victory.
Last year the match-up against Frisco Heritage was about getting a positive feeling after a tough start. That is certainly not the case this season. Denison has already turned losses into wins against three 2016 opponents and a perfect non-district run is on the line as the Jackets (3-0) travel to Frisco Heritage (0-3) tonight at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
“I don’t think they feel pressure. I think they enjoy the feeling walking around school and town,” Rogers said. “They’ve got to remember what they did to get to this point. I think they’re where we thought they could be. It’s what we felt before the season — this is where they would take us.”
Denison has seen its offense improve with each passing week and the defense has been on point from the first game. It has all added up to the program’s best start in nearly a decade.
“We’ve just got to fix any mistakes and come out and be a better team than we were the last week,” offensive lineman Kade Finch said. “We approach every game the same way. Every game we don’t worry about underestimating somebody.”
The Jackets moved to 3-0 for the first time since 2008 with a 24-23 victory against Abilene Wylie, last year’s Class 4A Division I runner-up. With the game tied at 17 early in the fourth quarter, Ty McFail returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown to put Denison in front for good after Cameron Dawsey missed an extra point for Wylie with 4:57 remaining that would have tied the game.
Austin Emery ran for a touchdown and kicked a 30-yard field goal and DeCurious Smith also scored on the ground for Denison.
“We overcame some mistakes,” Rogers said. “That’s important to have those character games and learn some things about yourself.”
After a 2-8 record last season, Frisco Heritage is off to an 0-3 start with losses against Frisco Lone Star (41-20) in District 13-5A play, Colleyville Heritage (49-14) and Grapevine (66-52) last week.
It might be a worry that the offense is getting in gear coming into the his match-up, especially since Heritage pushed the Yellow Jackets in a 64-60 win by Denison last season.
Last year’s inaugural meeting was one of the wildest games in program history. Denison found a way to come out on top of the shootout that served as Emery’s coming-out party (26 carries for 289 yards and four touchdowns, 141 yards and two touchdowns passing) before a season-ending injury the next week in the district opener.
The Jacket won despite an even better quarterback performance than Emery’s. Amare Jones finished with 312 yards and five touchdowns on 30 carries and was 14-of-21 passing for 179 yards and two scores.
The game against Grapevine was tied at 45 going to the fourth quarter and saw plenty of points and yards as the teams combined for 67 first downs and 1,334 yards, 822 of it on the ground.
Jones led Heritage by going 14-of-26 for 141 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 195 yards and a TD on 20 carries. Khalil Harris added 144 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. And for good measure, Cameron Rose chipped in 16 carries for 98 yards and a score.
So far this year Jones is 20-of-43 passing for 238 yards and four touchdowns to go with 429 yards and two touchdowns on 53 carries as well as a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD.
“He’s very athletic. So talented,” Rogers said. “They’ve had him line up at receiver and caught some passes. He’s hard to tackle in a phone booth. It’s a great challenge for us.”
The backfield duo of Harris and Rose have been a handful as well. Harris is at 27 carries for 228 yards and two touchdowns and Rose has 181 yards and a TD on 36 carries.
On the flip side, the Heritage defense is giving up huge chunks of yards. Grapevine rolled up 669 in the win, including 39 carries for 372 yards.
Colleyville Heritage also had over 600 yards (605), although it had 395 through the air.
And in the season-opener, Frisco Lone Star just missed getting 600 yards, settling for 598 with 484 coming on the ground.
“Both sides of the ball they have athletes. Hopefully they wait until next week to figure it out,” Rogers said. “We need to get on our blocks and stay on our blocks. We don’t need to freelance.”