The Yellow Jackets have seen their share of struggles in the past couple of seasons but Denison is optimistic that it can turn things around and work its way into a fight for a playoff spot.
It has been six seasons since it last qualified but the steps to earn that postseason berth are much more important to focus on.
That’s the right mindset for a team which has been searching for success and been unable to put it together for sustained periods.
“They understand the situation and where we’ve been and they want to be the group to improve it,” Denison head coach Scotty Voight said.
Wiping the slate clean with an eye to the future begins as Denison opens the season at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday by hosting Farmersville at Munson Stadium.
“Going through the off-season, the kids bought in and are working hard,” Voight said. “They’re excited about getting the season going. In the scrimmages we’ve competed well and seen some good things.”
The Yellow Jackets went 2-17-1 overall last season and did not win any of their 10 district matches, getting shut out six times in 10-5A action.
It was the fourth straight season Denison did not pick up a win in district play. Getting some momentum going during the non-district portion of the schedule is the first short-term goal as the program has only five wins across the past two seasons.
“Scoring was an issue. We’ve got to play better ball fundamentally,” Voight said. “Focusing on the little things will lead to the big things.”
Among those lost to graduation include forward Andres Menjivar, who was the team’s leading scorer and a first-team all-district selection, defender and second-team all-district pick Josue Zamora and a pair of honorable mention all-district choices — midfielder Moises Mandujano and defender Quintan Allen. Another loss on defense is a multi-year starter in Jayden Pacheco. But there is a larger than usual roster to draw from.
“We’ve got another 11 on the bench waiting to get in. We’re feeling out a few things but for the most part the lineup is set,” Voight said. “There are some young guys we think can help us.”
Senior Jhonathan Tellez is one of the Jackets who has seen time at forward and there are a couple of others who could fit in there or in the midfield. Junior Keebler Wagoner, who did not play last season, as well as seniors Cameron Wright and Roothley Narcisse are in the mix up top.
“Those top four guys right now will be able to do some good things at the forward spot,” Voight said.
There is a little more experience in the midfield as senior Celso Longoria leads the group. Junior Reece Stange also returns as a starter while senior Brian Gutierrez and junior Josue Pavon received minutes last season.
A couple of sophomores, Ruben Delarosa and Ismael Escobar, are fighting for playing time as well.
“There will be three or four guys who have experience there,” Voight said.
Senior Keghan Edgette is back to help guide the newcomers on defense. Juniors Tommy Prater and Brandon Erives will have more responsibility this year while classmate Landon Ellis joins the program for the first time. Sophomores Asher Wagner, Kaiser Decker and Logan Voight, junior Kelan Becker and freshman Anthony Cruz are also options.
“I don’t have any doubt they can step up and contribute,” Voight said.
At the keeper spot, the Jackets will open the season by splitting time between senior Jesus Tello and junior Ryan Jenkins.
“We’ve got two guys who can help us out,” Voight said.
In addition to hosting a tournament and competing in the Anna-Melissa Tournament, Denison will face The Colony, Melissa and Anna in non-district matches before opening 10-5A play on Feb. 4. The Jackets are once again grouped with Denison, McKinney North, Lovejoy, Princeton and Wylie East. The playoff teams last season were defending district champ East, North, Lovejoy and Sherman.