Denison goes for second straight district win

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Denison's Jadarian Price and the Yellow Jackets host Frisco Memorial at Munson Stadium on Friday night.

The pressure had been on the Yellow Jackets to perform up to their capabilities after disappointing outings in consecutive losses. Now after putting together one of the best performances in Denison history, the pressure has shifted to find the right balance for the final six weeks:

Since they weren’t as bad as they had looked and set such a high benchmark for potential with their latest gaudy numbers, where in between lies the truth?

“We need to be playing how we’re capable of playing. Whatever level that is and things will take care of themselves,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “I want them to be confident on Friday nights. Confidence comes from doing the right things and that comes from what you do in practice.”

If the Jackets end up on the higher end of the spectrum, it bodes well for what may come as an encore and beyond as Denison (2-2, 1-1) hosts Frisco Memorial (1-3, 0-2) in District 7-5A (II) action at 7 p.m. on Friday at Dr. Rene and Eva Gerard Field at Munson Stadium.

“It’s a big game,” Rogers said. “Every game is big with the way this season could go.”

After struggling to get in a rhythm offensively during back-to-back losses to Texas High and Lovejoy, the Jackets broke out in a big way with a 66-14 victory against Prosper Rock Hill.

Denison finished with a school-record 632 yards, surpassing the 628 against Paris in 2003, and the 66 points tied for the third-most in school history and the best effort since setting the mark with 75 against McKinney in 2009.

The Jackets had 499 yards rushing while Caleb Heavner and Peyton Johnson combined to complete 12-of-14 passes for 133 yards.

“I believe we’re executing better. We took care of the ball,” Rogers said. “Our first downs were more productive and that opens up a whole other side of the offense. We had some big plays. We’re a big-play offense.”

Jadarian Price totaled 154 yards — including the 2,500th of his career — and three touchdowns on 15 carries, Heavner finished with 14 carries for a career-best 126 yards and a score, Asa Osbourn chipped in nine carries for 80 yards and a TD while De’Teaurean Johnson and Treon Butler also scored on the ground. Heavner had touchdown passes to Trey Rhodes and Keleon Vaughn.

“It was a group effort and that was good to see,” Rogers said. “Having that many guys involved allows us to attack in different ways.”

Frisco Memorial was supposed to play last Thursday against Princeton but had the game cancelled due to positive COVID-19 tests at Princeton and the result was ruled a no-contest. The only way a winner will be determined is if it is needed for playoff berths or seeding — Denison can help render that closer to not being needed by dropping the Warriors to 0-3 in the standings and forcing them to essentially win out to get back in the race.

Memorial’s lone win came during non-district play as it topped Hallsville, 34-24, but the team’s overall record is a bit deceiving — the Warriors could easily be 4-0.

After starting the year with a 21-20 loss against Justin Northwest and then beating Hallsville, Memorial opened 7-5A (II) play with a 34-33 defeat to Frisco Lebanon Trail, which score the winning TD in the final minute, and then lost against Frisco Liberty, 58-51, two weeks ago.

“They’re putting up points like crazy,” Rogers said. “They’ve got two really talented receivers.”

It shouldn’t be surprising to Denison, which only beat the Warriors by a 28-21 margin last season despite Memorial going 1-9 in its second year as a varsity program.

“They played us right to the buzzer last year,” Rogers said. “They’re going to be fired up.”

Quarterback Ethan Lollar has completed 65-of-110 passes with 866 yards and seven touchdowns to go with three interceptions.

Garren Huey leads the rushing attack with 53 carries for 243 yards and four touchdowns while Lollar isn’t much of a running threat with 23 carries for 78 yards and no TDs

Memorial has no problem spreading the ball around through the air. Zion Steptoe leads with 18 catches for 348 yards and two touchdowns but J’Kolbe Bulock, Jeremy Lau and Jackson Schoolcraft all have double-digit catches with Tyler Arnold and Huey not far behind.

Johnny Breeden leads the Warriors in tackles and the unit has forced seven turnovers.

District 7-5A (II)

What: Frisco Memorial at Denison

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Radio: KMKT 93.1 FM