FRISCO — Although he has only been at receiver for a handful of games, Keleon Vaughn is now at the top of the Denison record book.
His play-making ability was never in doubt, not after a sophomore season where he had three total return touchdowns across playing defense and on special teams. But it was going to be a process as he worked his way into the rhythm of the offense as a junior.
With a new quarterback taking snaps due to injury, Vaughn turned out to be the top target — to the tune of eight catches for 148 yards and four touchdowns as Denison defeated Frisco Lebanon Trail, 40-27, in the District 7-5A (II) opener at Toyota Stadium.
“I didn’t know I was going to be that involved,” said Vaughn, who had eight catches through the first two games. “I was comfortable. Everybody’s together and that’s the biggest thing.”
Caleb Heavner completed 12-of-15 passes for 210 yards and the four TDs to Vaughn while Asa Osbourn ran 37 times for 205 yards for Denison (2-1, 1-0), which piled up 525 yards on the night.
“I’m a rhythm coach. We’re a rhythm offense. Things are really going well for us right now,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “They had people up there crashing hard and we were still able to make holes.”
Osbourn got the lion’s share of the work, teaming with Lowellaus Bowman, who finished with 18 carries for 80 yards, as sophomore Jadarian Price missed a second straight game with an ankle injury. He is expected back against Frisco Reedy on Friday.
Osbourn’s rushes were just four short of the school record and he became the 23rd different Yellow Jacket with a 200-yard rushing game. It was the 60th individual 200-yard rushing game in program history.
Drew Martin was 18-of-27 for 230 yards and three touchdowns and also ran 11 times for 72 yards to pace Lebanon Trail (2-1, 0-1), which committed three turnovers as the Jackets built a 40-14 lead by the early stages of the fourth quarter.
Vaughn was targeted early and often with three of his touchdowns before the break. His last one was a 29-yard beauty from Heavner to hit him in stride as he got behind a defender with 11:12 remaining in the game. Vaughn tied the school record of four receiving touchdowns also held by Jimmay Mundine (2009) and Steven Wagoner (2014, 2015) and his 148 yards are the 13th best by a Jacket.
Heavner, who got the start for the injured Zaelin Wimbish, only had three misfires — two of them were drops — and the sophomore ran the offense well as the Jackets had back-to-back 200-plus passing games.
“We’ve been working on that. The game plan fit our personnel,” Rogers said. “It was a good night. There’s nothing like full speed. He made some good decisions.”
The Jackets scored on their first possession of the second half when Dameon Smallwood had a two-yard run right up the middle with 5:19 to go in the third. The drive was kept alive when Heavner avoided pressure, stepped up and hit Cayden Earnhart for a 46-yard gain deep down the right hash mark.
Lebanon Trail had a chance to score on the ensuing possession and got to the Denison six-yard line before a personal foul backed the Blazers up. On the next play Princeton Parker caught a pass out of the backfield and fumbled as Keebler Wagoner and Cam Wheeler converged on him. Vaughn recovered and he capped the next series with his final TD.
Martin led a pair of late touchdown drives. Drew Donley had a two-yard touchdown run and then recovered the onside kick to set up Lucas Rexin’s 20-yard catch that ended the scoring with 5:38 remaining.
Denison held a 26-14 advantage at the break when Reece Stange made a 35-yard field goal with 44 seconds to go in the second quarter. He became the ninth Jacket to make two field goals in a game.
The drive was set up by a fumble recovery from Landon Ellis near midfield. The Jackets had 306 yards at half-time and led by Osbourn on the ground with 16 carries for 101 yards at that point.
It was the second straight possession that Lebanon Trail turned the ball over — Wagoner intercepted Alex Zorrilla’s deep throw that Jalik Lewis deflected at the 10-yard line.
Vaughn, who had seven receptions for 119 yards through two quarters, caught his third TD pass less than two minutes into the second quarter when Heavner lofted a ball towards the back line in the middle of the end zone to get it passed a defender and it was a 23-14 margin for the Jackets.
Lebanon Trail scored on the first play of the second quarter when Martin connected with Jason O’Brien by fitting a throw between two defenders on third-and-goal from the 18 to cut its deficit to two points. It capped an eight-play, 91-yard drive.
The Jackets closed out the first quarter with a 16-7 lead after Stange kicked a 31-yard field goal. Denison had first down at the 15 but only managed another yard and had to settle for three points with 2:56 remaining in the opening frame.
After Denison took an early lead, Lebanon Trail responded with a touchdown on its second drive to go in front. The Jackets were backed up and after punting, the Blazers were at the Jacket 38. Martin went deep on the first play from scrimmage and found Donley over the middle for a 7-6 advantage in the middle of the first.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as Vaughn took a receiver screen on the left side 66 yards as Denison went back in front, 12-7, 38 seconds later. He was sprung by blocks on the edge by Christian Smallwood and Tre Rhodes.
“That why I was able to break free,” he said.
Vaughn opened the game with a 44-yard return to just shy of midfield and the Jackets needed just seven plays to score. Vaughn had a 35-yard reception to the six and then after Denison lost a yard, he snagged a seven-yard TD near the right pylon, reaching across the goal line before being pushed out of bounds less than three minutes into the contest.