Denison celebrates nine signings in three sports

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Denison had nine seniors sign to play their respective sports in college. Back row, from left: Asa Osbourn (Oklahoma State), Reece Stange (Lyon College) and Landon Ellis (McPherson College) for football and Cam Wheeler (Grayson) and Carson Baugh (Seminole State) for baseball. Seated, from left: Javonte Briscoe and Keleon Vaughn (Cisco) for football, Madison Carter (Central Christian) for softball and Keebler Wagoner (Cisco) for football.

From the moment they arrived at Denison, they made immediate impacts in their sports. As their careers continued they were surrounded by other talent on the roster. Keleon Vaughn, Cam Wheeler and Madison Carter have been plying their craft at DHS for what seems like forever, even if it is only as four-year starters.

But while their time wearing black and gold uniforms is coming to an end, their athletic pursuits will not.

Vaughn will head to Cisco College for football with Keebler Wagoner and Javonte Briscoe while Reece Stange will head to Lyons College, Landon Ellis will play for McPherson College and Asa Osbourn is a preferred walk-on at Oklahoma State.

Wheeler is going to Grayson for baseball and Carson Baugh will do the same for Seminole State.

Carter will continue her softball career at Central Christian College.

The lure of playing for some former Yellow Jackets and keep playing together was too much for Vaughn, Wagoner and Briscoe to turn down.

Vaughn chose Cisco over McPherson College and Hardin-Simmons while Briscoe selected the junior college program over Navarro.

Vaughn ended his run as a four-year starter by being named first-team all-district on both sides of the ball. The corner back had 35 tackles (27 solo) with two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns, eight pass break-ups and two fumble recoveries.

“The coaches are trying to get you to the next level and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Vaughn said. “I knew it was pretty much going to be my home.”

He had 25 tackles, four interceptions, 13 pass breakups, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery as a junior, when he was second-team all-district on both sides of the ball.

As a sophomore he finished with 34 tackles, seven interceptions, eight pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.

During his freshman season he had 27 tackles and six pass-breakups.

Vaughn ended his career with the school record for total career return touchdowns, whether defense or special teams, (8) and he also contributed on offense as a receiver. He finished on the Denison all-time list at eighth in yards (806), tied for eighth in catches (58) and tied for sixth in receiving TDs (11).

“They actually asked me about if I wanted to play on offense,” Vaughn said. “It’ll be defense at the start and on kickoff and punt returns.”

He had four return TDs in 2020, tying the Jacket single-season record and it included the longest return in school history on a 103-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Briscoe was a three-year starter for the Jackets. He was honorable mention all-district with 98 tackles (54 solo) with seven and a half for a loss, three sacks, two interceptions, one that was returned for a score, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and blocked three kicks.

In 2019 he had 67 tackles and two sacks and was second-team all-district.

As a sophomore he had 70 tackles, four for a loss, with an interception and two fumble recoveries.

“I felt like it would be the best place for me,” Briscoe said. “If I come in and work, I’ll have a pretty good chance to start.”

Wagoner was named the District 7-5A (II) Defensive Player of the Year this past season. The safety totaled 83 tackles (63 solo) with three and a half for a loss, four interceptions, nine pass breakups, a forced fumble and he blocked seven kicks (punts, field goals or extra points).

“I thought I’d get first-team all-district like last year,” Wagoner said. “I couldn’t believe when I saw it I got it for the whole district.”

As a junior he had 76 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and six pass breakups and was named first-team all-district.

Cisco will play a seven-game schedule starting in late March after it had the normal 2020 fall schedule postponed due to COVID-19. The Wranglers went 5-4 in 2019 and will be under the direction this season by Denison native Ryan Taylor, who was elevated to head coach after four years as the offensive coordinator. Another former Yellow Jacket, Brian Lilly, is taking over as the defensive coordinator.

“They definitely know where we are from,” Wagoner said.

The DHS trio joins Sherman’s Jacoby Hunt and Pottsboro’s Titus Lyons in the Wranglers’ recruiting class.

Ellis was a first-team all-district pick and led the team with 111 total tackles (77 solo) with six and a half for a loss. He added two interceptions, recovered a fumble for a touchdown and forced a fumble.

Last season he had 94 tackles, three interceptions, three pass breakups and two fumble recoveries and was first-team all-district.

Ellis, who will end up at either strong or free safety, picked the NAIA program almost immediately.

“I liked the whole campus. Everybody was so welcoming,” he said. “After I started my junior year, I thought maybe I could play at the next level. I’m grateful to get the chance.”

McPherson College went 3-4 both overall and in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference this past fall before the final two games were cancelled due to COVID-19. The Bulldogs went 5-6 overall and 5-5 in KCAC play in 2019. Howe's J.C. Helpenstell was a freshman this past season.

Stange has served as Denison’s specialist for the past three seasons and was first-team all-district as a senior at both kicker and punter.

This past season he made six field goals and 53 extra points.

Stange finished his career as the top scoring kicking-exclusive Jacket in Denison history with 185 points to finish 16th on the DHS scoring list. He has the most career extra points (131) to surpass the 120 by Dalton Hestand from 2009-11 and second-most career field goals with 18, one shy of Erick Harper’s school record from 1983-85.

“I knew about the record this year. The first two years I didn’t — I was just kicking,” Stange said. “It would have been nice to get that record, coming that close.”

He was a second-team all-district pick at kicker as a junior.

Stange and Jacob Powell are the only Jackets to make multiple field goals in a game multiple times in their careers.

He chose the NAIA program in Batesville, Ark. over Southeastern Oklahoma State, Cisco and Lewis & Clark College.

“I was at a camp in Oklahoma to get my name out there. I went down a few weeks later and saw the campus and loved it,” Stange said.

Lyon College will play a spring schedule starting later this month after the 2020 campaign was postponed due to COVID-19. The Scots went 7-3 overall in 2019 and 6-2 in the Sooner Athletic Conference after a 4-7 mark the prior season.

Osbourn made the decision to accept a preferred walk-on spot at Oklahoma State instead of accepting a scholarship offer in one of the lower divisions. Baylor and Missouri also gave him the opportunity to join their programs as PWOs.

“Oklahoma State was one of the first schools I contacted with film. It’s been my favorite school since I was little,” Osbourn said. “It’s a chance I want to take. I believe I can work hard enough to play. It was still a tough process. OSU seemed to be the perfect fit.”

Osbourn spent his first two seasons at Tom Bean and then put together consecutive 1,000-rushing yard campaigns for Denison, the sixth Jacket back with multiple 1,000-yard seasons in a career.

This past season he had 1,179 yards and 13 touchdowns on 171 carries and was named first-team all-district in helping the Jackets finish 7-4 and make the playoffs for the first time in three years.

As a junior he totaled 196 carries for 1,027 yards and 10 touchdowns and was second-team all-district.

He finished 14th on Denison’s all-time rushing list at 2,209 yards and 18th in career rushing touchdowns with 23. Counting his time at Tom Bean he had 489 carries for 3,068 yards and 30 TDs in his career.

The baseball Jackets were 6-7 overall and just started district play with a loss when the season was stopped last year due to COVID-19 as Wheeler and Baugh were trying to get Denison to the playoffs for the fourth straight season. This year the goal is no different.

“As seniors, we adjust and adapt to what’s going on. I think we’ve done a good job as leaders,” Baugh said. “We only have four seniors; there’s a lot of sophomores to get ready for when district starts.”

Wheeler picked Grayson over Seminole State and Lubbock Christian.

“It was a tough choice but I think it was the best option,” Wheeler said. “Grayson’s got a lot of connections, a lot of people watching their games.”

After starting his Denison career in right field, Wheeler moved over to center and will be there when his senior season begins later this month. He will be back at a corner spot for Grayson.

Wheeler was hitting .350 and named an all-district selection last season.

Grayson is off to a 6-1 start this season after the Vikings were 16-3 overall and 2-0 in North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference action a year ago when the season was stopped due to COVID-19. Former Denison and Pottsboro standout Hunter Watson is on the roster this spring and Wheeler joins Sherman’s Tate Bethel in the recruiting class.

In 2019 Grayson won its seventh conference title in 14 seasons and the program has won three JUCO World Series crowns, the last in 2008, and made seven Series appearances, the last in 2011.

Baugh chose the junior college in Seminole, Okla. over Grayson.

“They’re getting a brand-new facility that’s really nice. I like the coaching staff,” Baugh said. “It was a pretty clear choice.”

Baugh, who also plays first base, was an all-district selection for his work on the mound.

Seminole State was 18-7 overall and 6-1 in conference action when the season was cancelled last spring due to COVID-19. In 2019 the Trojans went 39-14 overall and 23-7 in conference play.

The program has 23 National Junior College Athletic Association Region 2 titles, the last in 2017 and 15 JUCO World Series appearances, the last in 2009.

Carter chose the NAIA program over Bethany College and Lyon College.

“It felt like a place I could go and fit in. You know the saying how you’ll just know it feels right? I didn’t really believe it until I stepped on the campus,” Carter said. “Looking back it’s amazing to know I’m here now and we made it. It’s a good feeling to have.”

She is a four-year starter for the Lady Yellow Jackets and has been at every position on the infield during her career. Third base looks to be her location both for the upcoming season and beyond.

“I’m a versatile player,” Carter said. “Third is definitely a favorite.”

She hit .261 with a .371 on-base percentage with five RBI and scored 12 times in just 54 at-bats when her junior season was halted right before district play due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Denison was hoping for a strong follow-up to 2019, when Carter helped the Lady Jackets go 21-13 with a school-record for wins and region the region quarterfinals for the third time and first in 13 years. She hit .359 with a .444 OBP, seven doubles and 29 RBI and was honorable mention all-district.

As a freshman, Carter batted .379 with a .440 OBP, seven doubles, 13 RBI and 15 runs.

Central Christian College was 9-6 overall and 5-3 in Sooner Athletic Conference play when the season was cancelled last season. The Tigers were 16-38 and 8-28 in conference action in 2019.