Last week things got extremely interesting in District 7-5A (II). And you can be sure the Yellow Jackets took notice.
While Denison has followed the same path through the first district games as it did last season — wins over Lebanon Trail and Princeton to go with a loss against defending district champ Frisco Reedy — a couple of outcomes from this time a year ago were flipped.
“By the time we had our open week last year, you saw who the district champ was,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “Second, third, fourth and fifth was muddy. Now every position is open. Everything’s wide open.”
That’s because Frisco came away with a win against Reedy and Denton Braswell knocked off Lovejoy in triple overtime. It sets those two up in better position going forward and, especially for Braswell to have a chance to make the playoffs, it left footsteps for the Jackets to follow in this week.
Denison lost three district contests last year and did not make it to the postseason because of a tie-breaker against Lake Dallas for the fourth and final berth. The head-to-head match-up went the Falcons’ way and ended up being the deciding factor.
So guess who pays the Jackets (3-2, 2-1) a visit this week in 7-5A (II) action at 7 p.m. on Friday at Dr. Rene and Eva Gerard Field at Munson Stadium? That would be Lake Dallas (1-3, 0-2), trying to get back in the race.
It’s possible Denison could find a way to overcome a loss against the Falcons — there will still be four games remaining in what has already turned into an unpredictable race — but a win would put the Jackets in a good spot not only for the playoffs but to remain in the hunt for a district title as well heading into their bye.
“I like where our bye week is. It’s always a lot better feeling to go into the bye week off a win,” Rogers said. “Every time we get on the field, we’re getting better. We need to come out the way we did last week.”
Denison is coming off a 52-31 victory against Princeton where the Jackets led 28-3 at the end of the first quarter and were never really threatened. The offense put up a season-high 531 yards — the second time in three games it produced at least 525 yards — as Caleb Heavner was 14-of-19 passing for 216 yards and three touchdowns to go with a pair of scores on the ground, Asa Osbourn had 15 carries for 164 yards and two touchdowns, Keleon Vaughn finished with seven catches for 106 yards and a TD and Jadarian Price and Tre Rhodes each caught touchdown passes.
“There’s enough yardage divided among all of them,” Rogers said. “There’s chunks of yards out there to get.”
The Falcons are coming off a bye week that probably came at the right time. Lake Dallas was able to take a breather and regroup after a frustrating first month that has them one defeat away from equaling their overall losses and their district losses from a year ago.
But while the Falcons sit at 1-3, they could very well be 4-0. Their lone win was a 24-0 victory over Frisco Centennial to close out non-district play. But the three losses could have easily gone in Lake Dallas’ favor.
There was a season-opening defeat, 37-34, in overtime against Denton. Then the Falcons started district play with a 27-21 setback against Reedy before losing to Princeton, 31-21, two weeks ago.
In the match-up with Princeton, Lake Dallas was down 24-21 going into the fourth quarter but the only scoring by the Falcons in the second half was an interception return for a touchdown by Kobe Minor.
Trevor Moon completed 10-of-21 throws for 127 yards with a touchdown and an interception and also led the way in rushing with 11 carries for 36 yards and a score.
Trevor Lindsey finished with four carries for 23 yards and Ike Onyekwere chipped in seven carries for 17 yards as Lake Dallas ran 27 times for 88 yards.
Princeton finished with 397 yards of offense, 237 of them through the air.
It is on offense where Lake Dallas has taken a step back, with the graduation of quarterback Ryan Depperschmidt and a leg injury to senior Brandon Engel, an Air Force commit who has missed both district games.
Engel, who was a first-team all-district receiver, was slated to be the Falcons’ starting quarterback but has been limited to just 19 pass attempts across the first two games.
If the bye week provided enough time for him to be able to return, it could be at either QB or receiver.
“He’s just a really good athlete,” Rogers said. “The quarterback right now is good, he can get him the ball if they put him back at receiver.”
Moon has completed 30-of-65 passes for 407 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions to go with 52 carries for 102 yards and two TDs.
Onyekwere leads the Falcons with 227 yards on 54 carries while Lindsay has 33 carries for 114 yards and Minor has 10 carries for 111 yards and a score. Godwin Ugochukwu has a pair of TDs among his seven carries.
The top two receiving targets are Hunter Hope, who has 15 catches for 239 yards and two touchdowns while Jaden McGrew is at 14 receptions for 178 yards and two TDs.
No other Falcon has more than four catches through the first month of the season.
Defensively, Lake Dallas is led by Junior Flores, who tops the unit in tackles, while Minor is second in stops and has a team-high three interceptions. Kelvin Ukah leads the way with six sacks.