DENTON — There were three huddles on the field even though the game was long over, because the Denison Yellow Jackets had another game to worry about. It just didn’t involve them.
Peering at screens for updates of the contest between Frisco and Lovejoy, which was still going on after the Jackets had easily dispatched Denton Braswell, 44-7, in the District 7-5A (II) finale at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex on Friday night, waiting to see what they wanted to see.
Denison (6-4, 5-3) had done its part to keep its playoff hopes alive. Now help was needed for the Jackets to make a third straight postseason appearance. The help never came, as Lovejoy’s comeback attempt ended with a turnover in the final minute of a 48-45 loss against Frisco.
If you weren’t following to know the details you knew the result because the huddles simply broke up without celebration and headed to the locker room as Denison’s fourth-place tie with Lake Dallas left the Jackets on the outside due to the head-to-head tie-breaker.
“I’m so sad for our kids. I don’t think anybody that’s watched them play thinks they’re not a playoff team,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “They played together and this week knew what they had to do and did it. I was proud of them. It’s a great senior class. I wish we had a chance to keep playing.”
Jadarian Price ran for 232 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries while Cade Gordy totaled 10 carries for 76 yards and three scores and was also 5-of-9 passing for 127 yards and a touchdown for Denison, which set a school record with 76 rushing attempts and gained 608 total yards — the eighth-most in school history — with 464 coming on the ground.
Braswell (3-7, 3-5) tied the game in the first quarter but threatened just once more. The Bengals’ best chance in the third quarter ended when Jeremiah Richardson, who totaled 18 carries for 94 yards, fumbled as he was tackled by Zaelin Wimbish at the three-yard line and Keleon Vaughn recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
Holding a seven-point lead at the break, Denison broke the game open in the third quarter. Reece Stange pushed the margin to double-digits with a 24-yard field goal on the Jackets’ second drive of the frame.
After forcing a three-and-out, Price started to his right but then saw a crease to the left and his cut through the hole allowed him to go 59 yards untouched for a 24-7 advantage.
Braswell was about to cut into the margin when Vaughn had his second fumble recovery. Six plays later the Jackets were celebrating Cayden Earnhart’s 10-yard TD catch in the right flat with 1:37 left in the quarter. Jason Lewis set up the score with a 43-yard reception to account for more than half of the series’ yardage
Gordy put the finishing touches on the rout, and his career, with a nine-yard keeper less than two minutes into the fourth quarter and his final carry was a one-yard TD with 2:24 remaining.
“That was maybe our best game. We weren’t doing anything different than we had been,” Rogers said. “We’re playing our best ball right now. It was a real good win. I’m really proud of these kids.”
Price finished one carry short of the school record set by Tre’ Lyday two years ago and ended his freshman season with 210 carries for 1,421 yards and 16 touchdowns, the best year by far for a DHS ninth-grader.
“I don’t even think he knows how many yards he has until someone brings it up to him,” Rogers said. “He’s got to have a good off-season and take care of his body.”
The Jackets almost went into half-time tied and lamenting several scoring chances that ended with no points before Gordy scored on a six-yard run with 31 seconds left in the second quarter.
Braswell had taken possession at its 26 with 2:19 remaining in the half and on the second play, Jordan Joyce caught a short slant and tried to make a couple of moves. He was stripped and Vaughn recovered at the Bengal 28-yard line.
Denison needed just six plays to reach the end zone with Gordy keeping on the run up the middle for a 14-7 advantage.
Up to that point, the Jackets had just one touchdown and turned the ball over on downs in Braswell territory three times.
Denison’s first possession of the game lasted 11 plays — all runs — and got to the 16-yard line before the fourth-down attempt was short of the marker by a yard.
The Jackets scored on their ensuing possession with a drive that began near midfield. Wimbish had a 35-yard run around the left side to the three and Price pounded it in on the next snap for a 7-0 advantage with 5:11 remaining in the first.
Braswell’s touchdown came on the next series. It took a deep pass from Greyson Thompson to Elijah Morris for a 54-yard connection to the Jacket 13. Two plays later from that spot, Thompson hit Joyce on a slant on the right side to tie the game with 3:55 left in the quarter.
The Bengals, which had 103 yards at the break and 16 carries for four yards, did not run another play in Denison territory on its following five possessions of the half.
Denison was putting together a drive, including a 16-yard run by Price on fourth-and-two right at midfield to keep it going, before the Jackets stalled and turned it over on downs just outside the red zone.
The next Denison drive started at its 14 but Earnhart had a 31-yard catch and the Jackets were on the move. Price picked up 11 yards on the next snap to get to the Braswell 39 and the series ended with a turnover on downs four plays later. Pierce Barker was uncovered on the right side of the field but Gordy never looked that way and an easy touchdown stayed off the board.
Price had 25 carries for 98 yards by the break and the Jackets totaled 270 yards through the first two quarters but Braswell had done just enough to stay within striking distance.