Denison, Lebanon Trail in a key clash

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Denison's Seth Fulenchek and Colby Crawley (60) block during the Yellow Jackets' loss against Frisco last week. Denison plays at Lebanon Trail on Thursday night.

It’s a short week for the Denison Yellow Jackets and they’re glad to have it. The schedule has them playing off Friday night just once this season and it happens to have come at a good time for a team looking to shake off a loss.

“These games get you right back right there. The kids like that,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “When you have a taste like that game in your mouth, you want to get it out as fast as you can.”

The Jackets are hitting the home stretch after their winning streak was snapped but there is no time to look back as the final three games are their direct playoff competition, starting as Denison (4-3, 3-2) travels to take on Frisco Lebanon Trail (5-2, 3-2) in District 7-5A (II) action at Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Both teams are tied for fourth place as well as tied in the loss column with Princeton. They are also a game behind Frisco Liberty and it just happens while they are squaring off, Liberty and Princeton will be doing the same across town at The Star.

In the short-term, the Jackets and Trail Blazers are fighting for the tie-breaker over each other — should it be needed two weeks from now to determine postseason berths. Denison also has Liberty and Princeton to end its season while Lebanon Trail finishes against Lovejoy and Rock Hill.

“The playoff mentality, I feel like we’ve had it since the beginning of the year, just because you don’t know when that last game is going to be your last with the way everything’s been this season,” Rogers said. "We know what's at stake and we'll have to play well every week."

Denison’s three-game winning streak was snapped in a 23-3 loss against undefeated Frisco. The Jackets managed just a field goal by Reece Stange, who now needs eight points to become the highest scoring kicker in program history, on the game’s final play to avoid the team’s first shutout in a decade.

Before that final scoring drive, Denison had a total of 97 yards, four first downs and a lot of frustration.

“When you face a team like Frisco, your margin of error gets smaller,” Rogers said. “I’ve got to do a better job.”

The Jacket defense did well to keep the game within reach by forcing a pair of turnovers and allowing just two touchdowns and three field goals on seven red-zone trips. It was the first time in five games the Raccoons hadn’t scored at least 31 points.

“The defense was great,” Rogers said. “They’ve been doing a really good job.”

Frisco Lebanon Trail is in its third season as a varsity program and the Trail Blazers have improved every year. After going 1-9, they went 3-7 and just 1-7 in district play, losing their final five games.

Now they are in position to post a winning record, potentially double their win total and make the playoffs for the first time.

Lebanon Trail opened the season 4-0, getting non-district wins against Richardson Berkner and Corsicana and then starting 7-5A (II) play by beating Frisco Memorial and Lake Dallas.

After losses against Frisco and Liberty, the Trail Blazers bounced back with a 47-28 victory over Princeton last Friday.

It was only a 20-15 lead at halftime and Princeton led 21-20 in the middle of the third quarter before Lebanon Trail broke the game open with three fourth-quarter TDs.

Parker Mawhee had 11 carries for 126 yards and four touchdowns, Gregory Hatley finished with 131 yards and two scored on 16 carries and A.J. Sibley totaled 73 yards and a TD on six carries as Lebanon Trail ran for almost 400 yards while throwing for just 72.

Princeton did most of its damage through the air: Isaiah Sadler threw for 393 yards and four touchdowns but also three interceptions and the Panthers had just 77 yards on 20 carries.

Drew Martin has completed 84-of-146 passes for 1,117 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions.

The Trail Blazers have split the carries between Martin (67 carries, 528 yards, 4 TDs), Hatley (84 carries, 578 yards, 6 TDs) and Mawhee (66 carries, 346 yards, 10 TDs)

The receivers are led by Drew Donley, who is committed to Mississippi. He hasn’t played the past two weeks but has 18 catches for 286 yards and four scores. Hatley is next with 25 catches for 257 yards and three TDs while Connor Belew has 204 yards and a touchdown on 14 receptions.

District 7-5A (II)

What: Denison at Frisco Lebanon Trail

Where: Memorial Stadium

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Radio: KMKT 93.1 FM