The final month of the season looks to provide several challenges if the Denison Yellow Jackets are going to make it to the playoffs.
In what has turned out to be another competitive field — where some of the names have changed but the race for one of the four spots has not — almost all of the teams the Jackets face during the final four games are in the same position as Denison.
The ones who come away with the most wins in this span will find themselves still playing by the middle of November. And Denison feels it is just as capable as any to be in the playoffs.
“I don’t think people are guaranteed to get in until the last week. I think it’s evenly matched for everybody,” Yellow Jacket head coach Chad Rogers said. “What I like right now is if we win out, we can check off a goal. We just have to play. And I feel like our best football is in front of us.”
Their toughest test in that regard might be the opponent who kicks off this stretch as Denison (4-2, 3-1) travels to Frisco (7-0, 5-0) in what will be several key battles for the District 7-5A (II) championship at 7 p.m. on Friday at Toyota Stadium.
Frisco is the only undefeated team in the district standings but the Yellow Jackets are part of a crowd right behind the Raccoons vying for the top spot. Denison, Lovejoy and Denton Braswell are all sitting with 3-1 records and the Jackets will also face those two over the final month.
Denison is coming off its bye week that was preceded by wins against Princeton (52-31) and Lake Dallas (62-14). The Jackets have scored at least 32 points in every district game.
“I felt like it went well. We’re practicing well. The focus is there,” Rogers said. “It can be a bit of a Catch-22. Do you want the bye coming off a big win, or a bad win, or a loss? You can look at it anyway you want and use the bye anyway you want.”
Asa Osbourn leads the team with 122 carries for 687 yards and seven touchdowns while Jadarian Price is at 68 carries for 338 yards and three TDs in three and a half games due to injury. Caleb Heavner has started the last four games at quarterback and has completed 53-of-79 passes for 704 yards and 11 touchdowns with three rushing TDs. Keleon Vaughn leads the way with 30 catches for 454 yards and nine touchdowns in what is turning into one of the best receiving seasons in school history.
And there’s a chance that Zaelin Wimbish, who has been sidelined since the fourth quarter of the second game with a shoulder injury, could return this week with a definite return next Friday against Frisco Memorial.
A year ago Denison had one of its biggest scoring outputs in a 56-20 victory over the Raccoons where the Jackets held a 42-6 lead late in the third quarter. But ultimately it was second-place Frisco that advanced to the playoffs and Denison, which tied for fourth with Lake Dallas and lost out on a tie-breaker, a game behind the Raccoons, that kept the Jackets at home.
Frisco has come a long way since a winless 2017 campaign. The Raccoons went 6-4 in the regular season last fall before finishing 7-5 after an area round loss to South Oak Cliff.
This year has turned out even better as Frisco enters the match-up ranked 10th in the state in the 5A Division II rankings by Dave Campbell’s Texas Magazine.
The Raccoons stayed perfect in district with a 38-7 victory against Lake Dallas a week ago. Caree Green completed 9-of-16 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score, Bryson Clemons ran 13 carries for 100 yards and a TD and also caught a touchdown pass and the defense held Lake Dallas to 155 yards, including 43 carries for 48 yards.
Frisco opened district with a 33-28 win over Denton Braswell, then topped Frisco Lebanon Trail, 76-28, knocked off defending district champ Frisco Reedy, 35-31, and Princeton, 31-14, before the win over Lake Dallas.
In non-district action Frisco beat Woodrow Wilson, 45-17, and Melissa, 48-41.
Green has completed 55-of-101 passes for 1,105 yards with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. While he has scored five times on the ground, Green has just 28 rushes for 10 yards.
Clemons, who started at receiver last season, leads the team with 107 carries for 821 yards and 12 touchdowns. Classmate Blake May is next with 42 carries for 365 yards and three TDs.
Chase Lowery, who transferred from Plano Prestonwood, is by far the main receiving threat with 27 catches for 642 yards and seven touchdowns. He also has returned a kickoff and a punt for a score.
Clemons has 13 receptions for 193 yards and two TDs while Chartellis Reece has nine catches for 156 yards and five scores.
“Everybody in our district is pretty similar with some tweaks except for Frisco,” Rogers said. “The bye has given us an extra week to prepare.”
Aaron Taylor leads the Raccoons with 78 tackles, Kenmunta Miller has a team-high six sacks and Myles Mays has picked off a pair of passes.
Jake Gaster has been nearly perfect in the kicking game, making 22-of-23 extra points and all three field goal attempts, with a long of 47 yards.