Jackets look to earn playoff berth vs. Liberty

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Denison's Landon Ellis (22) and Javonte Briscoe bring down Lebanon Trail quarterback Drew Martin during the Jackets' District 7-5A (II) last Friday in Frisco.

The Yellow Jackets have been here before. Not exactly at this time of year, since Denison will play a regular-season game after Thanksgiving for the first time since 1962, but in this portion of the schedule.

There are two games left and if Denison wins just one, they will clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2017. It is the same scenario from 2019 — win once in the final two weeks and advance.

“I don’t have to say that to them,” Jackets head coach Chad Rogers said. “I want us to play and prepare for every game as best we possibly can and I think we have done that.”

And while two-thirds of the starters are back from that group which was unable to earn a postseason berth, there is a different feel as Denison (5-3, 4-2) hosts Frisco Liberty (6-2, 5-1) in District 7-5A (II) action at 2 p.m. on Friday at Dr. Rene and Eva Gerard Field at Munson Stadium.

“I think we’re playing well at the right time. We’re putting it together at the right time,” Rogers said. “If we have another offensive explosion against this team, I feel like we’re in a pretty good place.”

The winner of this game will clinch a playoff spot but the loser can as well, provided Lebanon Trail loses against Lovejoy. Denison closes at Princeton next Friday night.

After the playing the Jackets, Liberty ends the season against Lovejoy, which is the only undefeated team in district. If the Redhawks leave Denison with a win, they will have a chance at a share of the 7-5A (II) title.

Denison bounced back from its loss against Frisco in a big way with a 52-22 victory against Lebanon Trail which broke the fourth-place tie with the Trail Blazers.

Asa Osbourn had 158 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, Jadarian Price added 16 carries for 110 yards and two TDs and had a 55-yard touchdown catch, Caleb Heavner was 8-of-13 passing for 173 yards and two touchdowns and ran six times for 58 yards and a TD while Keebler Wagoner caught a 51-yard touchdown pass.

“We were big-playing them to death,” Rogers said. “We made some adjustments at half-time and the kids executed exactly like we wanted. I think it was our most complete game of the year.”

Liberty has made the most of dropping down in divisions during the latest realignment.

The previous two seasons saw the program finish with a combined 1-19 record that stretches to 2-28 when including 2017.

The last winning season before this one also included the most recent playoff appearance for the Redhawks in 2011.

Last week Liberty pulled away for a 54-27 victory over Princeton in a game it led 26-14 at halftime.

Will Glatch completed 13-of-22 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns and also ran nine times for 81 yards and a score, Jonathan Bone added seven carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns, Jack Bryan chipped in eight carries for 74 yards and a TD and Evan Stewart had a pair of receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown as the Redhawks finished with 599 total yards.

Liberty’s only two losses have been against Frisco Reedy (35-27) to open the season and Frisco (39-19) three weeks ago. The Redhawks have scored at least 39 points in all their wins and two of them went down to the wire — 58-51 against Memorial and 40-35 against Lebanon Trail.

The biggest question in facing Liberty comes at the quarterback position. Sophomore Kedric Luster started the first six games and completed 98-of-155 passes for 1,603 yards and nine touchdowns with four interceptions — all of the picks came against Frisco — to go with 97 carries for 796 yards and 13 touchdowns but has not played the past two weeks with Glatch stepping in.

He is 22-of-34 passing for 380 yards with two TDs and no interceptions in that span with 18 carries for 145 yards and a TD.

“It’s a lot like us. They score a lot of points,” Rogers said. “He’s been their quarterback the last two years before moving to defense so he knows what he’s doing.”

Bone is the leading running back at 63 carries for 612 yards and eight touchdowns while Bryan has 39 carries for 272 yards and five scores.

Stewart is Liberty’s leading receiver at 791 yards and nine touchdowns on 34 catches. Connor Hulstein has 27 receptions for 498 yards and a TD.

District 7-5A (II)

What: Frisco Liberty at Denison

When: 2 p.m. Friday

Radio: KMKT 93.1 FM