FRISCO — The inches they needed were all around them. And in a game where yards were extremely hard to come by, both Denison and Frisco faced fourth-and-short situations in the final three and a half minutes.
The difference in the outcome was as close as the final score. The Raccoons came up just a few links short of the first-down marker as the capper to Denison’s dominant defensive performance. The Jackets got more than enough to convert on their try in closing out the 10-7 victory in District 7-5A (II) action at Toyota Stadium.
Asa Osbourn scored the deciding touchdown with 7:37 left in the third quarter and Reece Stange kicked a first-quarter 35-yard field goal for Denison (5-2, 4-1), which had to grind out 176 yards on 63 carries and overcome four turnovers. Caleb Heavner had 22 carries for 69 yards, Osbourn added 21 carries for 54 yards and Jadarian Price finished with 17 carries for 53 yards. Keleon Vaughn caught five passes for 50 yards.
It is the first time the Jackets won a game scoring 10 or fewer points since a 10-7 victory over Sherman in the 2000 version of the Battle of the Ax. It was just the fifth time Denison had a win like this since 1984.
“The defense played great. Great plan by the coaches and the kids executed just like they were supposed to,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “All that film time. We had two weeks to get ready for them and it showed.”
Bryson Clemons had 20 carries for 148 yards and a touchdown — a 77-yarder that was the only mistake by the Jacket defense — for Frisco (7-1, 5-1), which entered the game ranked 10th in the state in Class 5A Division II by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. The Raccoons had two turnovers, went three-and-out eight times and finished with 159 yards on 51 snaps — which means that minus Clemons’ TD run Frisco had only 82 yards on the other 50 — as well as 15 penalties for 96 yards.
The Raccoons had scored at least 31 points in every game, were averaging 43.3 points and were held to their lowest point total in 23 games dating back to the middle of the 2017 season.
“We took the bye week very seriously. We knew a lot of what they were doing,” senior defensive tackle Jordin Hunter said. “We knew how big of a game it was and we couldn’t let them gain any yards.”
Caree Green was harassed from the start and completed just 2-of-18 passes for 10 yards and an interception.
“It’s the most aggressive we’ve played,” defensive coordinator Todd Wallis said. “We felt we could get pressure. Being aggressive is what got us to where we were.”
Denison got the ball back in the middle of the fourth quarter and was approaching midfield when Nick Bonilla picked off Heavner to give the Raccoons the ball at the Denison 42 with just over four minutes left. On fourth-and-two, Frisco turned to Clemons to keep the drive going.
Anthony Melton was able to slice in unblocked around the left edge, grab a leg and force Clemons to turn sideways before getting into the hole. That allowed Javonte Briscoe to plug it as Clemons was stumbling and Hunter came over to finish him off.
On the measurement, he was a couple of chain lengths short with 3:26 remaining.
“I knew they were going to go up the middle. I saw there was a lane to hit him,” Melton said. “I knew we had it stopped.”
The Jackets were able to run out the clock but it took a fourth-down conversion of their own. With 1:54 left and at its own 42, Denison needed a yard to get to the victory formation. Osbourn followed a pulling Jose Conejo and got behind Mason Doyle’s down block before spinning through a tackle for 14 yards to seal the victory.
“Never a doubt (to go for it). The kids said we could get a yard,” Rogers said. “One yard, this game is over. Let’s go get it. That’s the moment they work for, not to sit on our heels and punt the ball away.”
Denison had chances to blow the game open once it led 10-7. Luke Kirkbride recovered a fumble at the Frisco 13 when Keegan Pruitt stripped Chase Lowery on a punt return. But Heavner was intercepted by Max Sowerwine on the second play of the drive to give it right back to the Raccoons.
Frisco went three-and-out and a 22-yard punt had Denison at the Raccoons 31. The Jackets turned it over on downs with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-six. The next Denison series also ended with a turnover on downs at the Frisco 36.
Clemons broke loose on the second play of the third quarter with his touchdown run to give Frisco a 7-3 lead. In a game where it looked like a single trip to the end zone would be enough, the Raccoons weren’t able to make it stand up.
Denison immediately responded with a 13-play, 85-yard drive with only one pass being thrown. Osbourn’s two-yard run through the right side gave the Jackets a lead they would not relinquish.
There was only one scoring drive in the first half as Denison held a 3-0 advantage at half-time.
Stange kicked a 35-yard field goal with 2:27 remaining in the first quarter. Starting at their 26, the Jackets had a 12-play drive keyed by a 12-yard catch from Vaughn and a 12-yard run by Price. Osbourn chipped in some churning runs before Frisco held once Denison had a first down at the 15.
There were six other possessions for the Jackets in the half and none of them had a snap in Frisco territory. Denison had 26 carries for 63 yards and Heavner was 5-of-7 passing for 33 yards but out of those 96 yards, 40 came on the field-goal drive.
“Their linebackers played really well. They were daring us to throw,” Rogers said. “They had a good plan for us. They weren’t 7-0 for nothing.”
The Raccoons went to the locker room with 37 yards across eight possessions, including 17 carries for 34 yards. Green was picked off on Frisco’s second snap but Vaughn fumbled on the return to give the ball back.
There was only one first down for Frisco and it came with just over a minute remaining in the half. The Raccoons got out of third-and-19 at their 27 with a run short of the marker and then went for it on fourth down, picking it up on a Cleamons run of three yards.
Frisco did have a pair of drives start in Denison territory. The first was a fumble by Vaughn on a punt return to give the Raccoons the ball at the Jacket 35 with 46 seconds left in the first. A three-and-out preceded a punt and with the Jackets pinned, Frisco took over at the Denison 40 after a punt but again went nowhere and punted again.