Special teams, ground game powers Denison
CORINTH — It seems like when the Yellow Jackets need a spark lately, they are finding the best place to get one is on special teams.
Denison fell behind early for the second straight week but came up with game-changing plays on the exchanges of possessions on the way to a 56-34 victory over Lake Dallas in District 7-5A (II) action.
During a five-minute span in the third quarter, Keleon Vaughn returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown and Landon Ellis recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a score as the Jackets (4-2, 3-1) built up a 49-20 lead by the middle of the fourth quarter.
Lane Tharp also jumped on a muffed punt which set up a second-quarter score.
“They’re doing a great job right now for us,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “Two scores and some really big plays all around, you can’t ask for more than what they’ve been doing.”
Jadarian Price had 164 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries and moved to fourth on the Denison career rushing list with 2,912 yards, Asa Osbourn added 13 carries for 124 yards and three touchdowns and Jeffery Morrow had a pair of catches for 45 yards for Denison, which has won three straight going into a home game against undefeated Frisco on Friday.
Aundre Minnifield had 14 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 75 yards and a score, Brendan Sorsby completed 13-of-24 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns and an interception and Evan Weinberg had seven catches for 92 yards and a TD for Lake Dallas (1-5, 0-4).
Despite running only seven plays in the third quarter, Denison scored three times and broke the game wide open. It started when Lake Dallas punted on the opening drive of the second half.
Vaughn headed left and got the corner, broke an ankle tackle and was sprung down the sideline off De’Teaurean Johnson’s block just past midfield for the 70-yard TD return. It was the seventh return TD of the senior’s career (punt, kickoff or defensive) to break the tie with Curtis Moore, who had six from 1992-95, to stand along with the most in school history.
A quick three-and-out led to the only Denison possession of the quarter and the Jackets covered 67 yards in seven plays. Morrow caught a 39-yard pass deep over the middle and then Price had a 12-yard TD run on the next snap.
The Falcons were pinned on the ensuing kickoff, starting at their eight, and the punt from the end zone was blocked by Keebler Wagoner — his second punt block in as many games — and Ellis jumped on the ball for the touchdown and a 42-17 lead with 4:54 to go in the third.
Lake Dallas followed with a 16-play drive that chewed up nearly seven minutes but the Falcons only earned a field goal with 9:11 remaining.
Osbourn stretched the lead out to 29 on the next series with an 11-yard touchdown run up the middle at the halfway point of the fourth.
Lake Dallas tacked on a pair of late touchdowns — first a five-yard TD catch by Quentin Gray and the second came with 20 seconds left when Trevor Morgan connected with Weisberg from 20 yards out.
In between Osbourn scored his final touchdown with a 20-yard run.
“I thought Asa played one of his best ballgames,” Rogers said.
The second quarter had plenty of action with almost every one of the combined nine drives factoring into the 21-17 lead the Jackets took into the break.
It began with a fake punt by Denison which was stopped at the Falcons 44-yard line early in the frame and the first play on the ensuing series was a 56-yard touchdown run down the left sideline from Minnifield for a 10-0 advantage.
Denison responded immediately three snaps later when Price broke through the line and shed a pair of attempted tackles on a 40-yard touchdown run to put the Jackets on the board with 9:54 on the clock.
Osbourn had an 80-yard touchdown run called back due to a penalty on Denison’s next possession but Xinjin Gomez let the punt bounce up and glance off his shoulder. Tharp recovered for the Jackets at the Lake Worth 42.
“That was a big play,” Rogers said. “It changed everything.”
Osbourn got his touchdown run five plays later from 13 yards out, following a block from Colby Crowley into the end zone for a 14-10 advantage with 2:34 left in the half.
It didn’t take long for Lake Dallas to answer as Minnifield scored on a 71-yard screen pass to put the Falcons back in front.
Denison took the lead for good at 21-17 on the ensuing possession when Price scored on a five-yard run in the final minute of the half. Almost all of Price’s yardage came in the first two quarters, when he totaled 14 carries for 131 yards.
Neither team did much of anything in the first quarter despite a pair of possessions for each.
The Jackets missed an opportunity when a halfback pass from Wagoner to a wide-open Keegan Pruitt was overthrown down the left sideline and the drive stalled at the Lake Dallas 38.
After exchanging punts, the Falcons put together a 13-play drive which took more than five-and-a-half minutes before Preston Gregg kicked a 37-yard field goal with a second left in the first quarter.
District 7-5A (II)
Lake Dallas 34