Throw out the records: 3-year DHS starter Heavner worried most about wins

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Denison quarterback Caleb Heavner is a three-year starter and among the best passers in program history as he is two games into his senior season.

There have been two deciding moments in Caleb Heavner’s career. The first came just weeks into his sophomore season. The other came months before his senior year was to begin.

How the Yellow Jacket quarterback has responded to those changes has set him up for what he hopes will be the most successful stretch behind center at Denison.

It began after Heavner transferred from Durant and he opened the 2019 campaign as the backup to senior Zaelin Wimbish. But early in the fourth quarter of the second game, Wimbish suffered a shoulder injury that would more or less sideline him the rest of the season.

Heavner stepped in, went 6-of-10 for 79 yards and a touchdown to finish that game and been the starter ever since.

Denison came up short of the playoffs, losing out on a tie-breaker for the final spot, but Heavner was in the middle of helping the Jackets reach the postseason a year ago.

Eight offensive starters returned this year, seven of them seniors and Heavner was one of four who had been starting since 10th grade. They were ready to make a big run to close out their careers.

Then in late January came a coaching change as Chad Rogers stepped down to take over at Tioga. In early March, Brent Whitson was hired and he brought Bryan Wilson with him from South Grand Prairie to be the offensive coordinator.

“I knew he was special when we got here. He’s gotten more comfortable,” Whitson said. “It’s not second-nature yet. He’s willing to put in the work and it’s paying off really well.”

With change comes adjustments. It’s a different way of doing things. But Heavner has made the most of the last seven months due to the responsibility of his position.

Denison opened with victories against Sherman and Fort Worth Brewer and looks like it hasn’t skipped a beat.

“It’s been really fun to learn,” Heavner said. “I would definitely say I’m 100 percent more comfortable than three weeks ago getting ready for Sherman. Coach Wilson’s a great coach — the offense is starting to click better every week.”

The Jackets have the bye as 7-5A (II) action begins this week. Denison will play at defending district champ Lovejoy next Friday at 7 p.m. in a match-up between two teams in the top 10 in the state — the Jackets jumped up to No. 9 after their first 2-0 start since 2017 while Lovejoy has maintained its No. 3 preseason ranking.

“Once we get to the games, it is easier because we’re putting in the work Monday through Thursday,” Heavner said. “We’re as prepared as we can be. I think it’s showing how well we prepare.”

So far this season, Heavner is 20-of-29 for 349 yards and three touchdowns without an interception and more than half his completions have picked up at least 11 yards.

Denison is averaging 470 total yards and a shade under 40 points per game in the early going. Four different Jackets have multiple catches and the duo of Jadarian Price and Jack Aleman have combined for 560 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 12.2 yards per carry.

“That’s the most impressive thing. The offensive line is improving leaps and bounds,” Whitson said. “Pick your poison. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

QB runs aren’t part of the main diet, but Heavner can do some damage with his legs. He has 830 yards and 10 touchdowns on 213 carries in his career — two of the TDs came last week against Brewer on zone-read keepers were he scored untouched.

“It won’t be the focal point in this offense,” Whitson said. “Both of those were great decisions. Caleb made them pay.”

In both games Heavner has found receivers for deep throws multiple times as the initial play broke down. Two of those throws have gone for touchdowns.

“He has not forced anything yet,” Whitson said. “The best thing Caleb does is keep his eyes up when he gets flushed.”

Heading into next week’s action, Heavner has completed 224-of-345 passes in his career (64.9 percent) with 2,784 yards and 28 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.

He is currently ranked third on the Denison all-time list in completions, behind Clifton Hines (255) and Jordan Taylor (253), fourth in yards behind Taylor (3,729), Devon Blanton (2,995) and Hines (2,987) and third in TD passes behind Taylor (40) and Blanton (32).

Where he ends up by the end of this season is irrelevant to him.

“Being able to win a district title, a playoff game, a state title — that’s what people would remember me for,” Heavner said. “As long as I play well and the receivers play well, the records and stuff will happen. But I have no idea where I am in the record books.”