There were going to be some major changes from an offense that help Denison reach the playoffs last year.
The quarterback was going to be different because of a mid-season injury.
The musical chairs at receiver were a domino effect because of that injury.
The all-state running back graduated and took nearly half of the team’s yardage with him.
In finding early success in 2017, the unit has taken on the mantra that the sum is greater than the whole of its parts. And make no mistake, the Yellow Jackets are using a lot of parts.
“We’re not telling anyone they’re getting 40 touches a game,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “They’re really making the most of the ones they get.”
With different combinations at running back, tight end/h-back and receiver, Denison looks like it has hit its stride at the right time.
Contributing to that have been a pair of senior cousins, back Bryan (Bubba) Roberts and receiver Braydon Roberts. An initial glance at the roster might make you believe they would be twins — in reality it is their fathers who share that distinction.
Opponents have been getting a double dose of them lately. At the midway point of the season, the Yellow Jackets are sitting at 4-1 — including a 55-21 victory in the District 5-5A opener last week against Wichita Falls — and are readying for a second straight playoff appearance coming off their bye this week. Denison has scored at least 55 points in back-to-back games for the first time since the middle of 2009.
“The first three games we were struggling offensively,” Braydon Roberts said. “We’ve turned it around and we’re set to make a statement. Let them know this is district and let’s go.”
Denison is already just one victory shy of last year’s total when it made the playoffs for the first time in three seasons and needs just two wins to guarantee its first winning record since 2013.
“What we’re doing is what we feel like we’re supposed to be doing,” Bubba Roberts said. “Work hard. You have to put in the time to get what you want.”
Bubba Roberts is second on the team in rushing, behind quarterback Austin Emery, with 47 carries for 256 yards and three touchdowns while also leading the team in receptions at nine, for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
“Bubba’s really come on for us,” Rogers said. “He’s got outstanding vision. He’s got really good quickness, good speed.”
One thing he’s not blessed with is size but he uses it to his advantage.
“I’ve been the smallest guy on the field since the seventh grade so it’s no different to me,” Bubba Roberts said.
Two weeks ago he finished with 17 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown to go with three receptions for 46 yards, including a 42-yard TD. Last week he scored three touchdowns, twice on the ground as part of 35 yards on six carries as well as a 29-yard touchdown catch.
“When it’s my time, I do what I do,” Bubba Roberts said. “Limit mistakes because if you have those you won’t be out there.”
Braydon Roberts is coming off the best game of his career after leading Denison with three catches for 70 yards and his first career varsity touchdown — a 12-yarder that capped the scoring.
“Once you get that first one, you feel like you can get there again,” he said. “It was a great feeling.”
For the season he has six receptions for a team-high 137 yards and the score as well as a 10-yard reverse.
“Really good hands. He’s an athlete,” Rogers said. “Had a good spring and you could tell in 7-on-7 that he was going to be a good football player for us.”
Both were back-up players as juniors — Braydon spent his time on the junior varsity after transferring from Sherman, where he was basketball-only for the first two years — and knew there would be an opportunity to contribute in their final seasons.
Bubba Roberts has split carries with Kenny Gaffney, DeCurious Smith and Ty McFail — the quartet has combined for 842 and 10 touchdowns on 145 carries (5.8 yards per carry) — while Braydon Roberts is part of a receiving corps that has seen a different Jacket lead the team in each game.
“I’m getting just enough for what I need,” Bubba Roberts said about his touches. “We’ve got three other dudes who can contribute just like I am.”
While Braydon Roberts led the way in receiving yards the last time out, D.J. Gray, Bubba Roberts, Dalton Souther and McFail have all had their turns in the top spot and seven Jackets have at least four catches on the season.
“It’s about the team. We have a lot of offensive weapons,” Braydon Roberts said. “It depends on how we’re flowing. The biggest thing going into the game is, are we going to win or not? Everybody wants to catch passes and touchdowns. Sometimes you have to do other things to be successful.”