By design there have been three Yellow Jackets in a rotation at running back. By necessity there have been two Yellow Jackets taking snaps. By sheer numbers, there have been several Yellow Jackets lining up at receiver based on the formation.
The one constant through the first part of the season for Denison has been the five seniors on the offensive line. Each week they show up ready to pave the way towards the end zone, which has been a popular place for the unit — whether by land or air, and towards the playoffs as the Jackets try to get back there for the third time in four seasons after missing out on a tie-breaker last year.
Tackles Christian Smallwood and Drew Williams, guards Jose Conejo and Mason Doyle, and center Wesley Brooks have been the linchpin as second-place Denison hits its bye week before traveling to first-place Frisco next Friday at Toyota Stadium.
“We take pride in what we do,” Williams said, “The coaches like to tell us we’re the heart and soul. If we play good then everyone plays good. What we’ve been doing isn’t new for us.”
Since the season-opening win over Sherman to ensure a seventh straight Battle of the Ax victory, the Jackets lining up around them have been in flux. But because of the quintet in the trenches, Denison hasn’t missed a beat.
“It can be a very thankless job,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “You have to want to embrace it and take it on. They have a lot of pride in what they do. They like being physical, which is one reason why we’re pretty good at running the ball.”
Through six games, the Jackets are averaging 41.7 points and 444.8 yards per game with 287.3 of that coming on the ground in putting together a 4-2 overall record and 3-1 mark in District 7-5A (II) action.
“That’s what we do. We’re a running team,” Conejo said. “That’s our No. 1 option.”
They have scored at least 29 points in the every game so far, the first Denison team to do that through the first six contests since the 2008 squad did it in its first 12.
“The reason we’re doing so well is the work we’ve put in the during the summer and off-season,” Brooks said. “As long as you control the line of scrimmage, you’re going to have success. That’s what we strive for.”
Four of the linemen were starters last season — Doyle is the newcomer — and that chemistry has been obvious.
“It wasn’t like a huge transition,” Doyle said. “I’ve been playing with these guys for awhile, since seventh grade. Drew and Jose have really helped me out. We’re always told the ones working hard will earn their spot on the field. We’re going to have good practices to make sure we have good games.”
At the midway point of the season, there are five Yellow Jackets with at least 200 yards rushing and the balance keeps the offense rolling. Asa Osbourn has 687 yards and seven touchdowns on 122 carries, Jadarian Price missed two and a half games due to injury but still has 66 carries for 338 yards and three TDs, Zaelin Wimbish has 41 carries for 264 yards and three scores before missing the past four games with an injury, Lowellaus Bowman has 55 carries for 247 yards and a TD and Caleb Heavner had 222 yards and three touchdowns on 42 rushes.
Price, Wimbish, Osbourn and Heavner have all led the team in rushing as some point.
The passing game has also benefited. Heavner has completed 53-of-79 attempts for 704 yards with 11 touchdowns and just one interception and Wimbish had connected on 18-of-29 throws for 241 yards with two TDs and a pick before getting hurt.
And there is variety there as well — four different Jackets (Keleon Vaughn, Keebler Wagoner, Cayden Earnhart and Keegan Pruitt) have led the team in receiving.
“We care for all of them,” Conejo said. “We treat them all the same. When they look good, we look good.”
With a month to go, there is no doubt the Jackets have been looking good. They are in position to challenge for a district title. A couple more wins could send them to the postseason.
But nothing is guaranteed with four games remaining, even for a group that has punched the clock, done their job and all but guaranteed to make things happen on Friday nights.
“We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing,” Smallwood said. “We know how to do it and continue to play well. Every practice we come out to work on things and play as best we can.”