Denison handles Lake Dallas for third straight district victory

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Denison's Caleb Heavner runs away from a pair of Lake Dallas defenders during the Yellow Jackets' victory in District 7-5A (II) action at Munson Stadium.

As Denison is stringing together victories and moving closer to locking up a playoff berth, the Yellow Jackets are engaging in a little bit of “Can you top this?”

A week after getting a defensive touchdown and one of the longest plays in school history, De’Teaurean Johnson combined both of those feats in the same play with a 104-yard interception return for a score to kick-start a 40-17 victory against Lake Dallas in District 7-5A (II) play.

“When he caught I said to clear the sidelines because he was going to take it the distance,” Denison head coach Brent Whitson said. “People haven’t thrown his way a lot because of how physical he plays but he can run too.”

Jadarian Price had 16 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns while Caleb Heavner was 17-of-22 passing for 211 yards and a TD to go with 68 yards on 11 carries, Trey Rhodes finished with four catches for 47 yards and a score and Ty Kirkbride also added a touchdown catch for the Jackets (5-1, 3-1), who travel to take on district co-leader Frisco on Friday.

Denison’s yardage difference was by a total of three feet as it ended with 211 on the ground to go with 212 in the air. It is the fourth time offensive coordinator Bryan Wilson’s attack has gained at least 400 yards this season. Four different Jackets had at least three receptions in helping Heavner set the school record for completion percentage with at least 20 attempts – 77.3 percent – breaking Devon Blanton’s 20-of-26 (.769) mark against Sherman in 2014.

“That’s the way Bryan’s offense is designed, to spread the ball around,” Whitson said. “The balance is in production not play calls.”

The only downside for Denison was an enormous amount of penalties – the Jackets were flagged 17 times for 151 yards while Lake Dallas’ total was 13 for 120 yards. Holding and pass interference were the most popular infractions.

“I know this for a fact that you could call it on every play and they almost did,” Whitson said. “It was too big a part of the ballgame. Their three scoring drives we kept alive with penalties. We played well enough to get off the field each time. The kids were able to overcome them but we need to clean it up.”

Denison had a touchdown called back and came away with no points after Logan Voight had a 44-yard field goal blocked with just over nine minutes to go and a first-half trip inside the 10-yard line was wiped out on a drive that ended in a turnover on downs.

Cade Bortnem was 19-of-31 passing for 239 yards with touchdowns passes to Evan Weinberg and Keonde Henry and the interception for Lake Dallas (3-4, 1-4), which managed just 74 yards on 28 carries and had only 101 yards across four drives in the second half – 21 coming on the first three of those series before Henry caught a 35-yard TD pass with 1:48 remaining to cap a 10-play, 79-yard possession.

Denison had put the game out of reach by that point by stopping the Falcons on downs twice in DHS territory and then Jakobi DeHorney sacked Bortnem in the end zone for a safety early in the fourth.

After the ensuing free kick, the Jackets finished off a drive with Kirkbride’s one-yard TD pass from Peyton Johnson with five minutes remaining for a 40-10 margin.

Price had a five-yard run through the left side for his second TD and a 31-10 advantage with four minutes left in the third. Keegan Pruitt kept the drive alive on the previous snap when he picked up 25 yards on a receiver screen on fourth-and-18.

Denison took a 24-10 lead into half-time after a late TD drive in the second quarter, going 74 yards in eight plays. Price had a 10-yard TD run with a couple of cuts after starting left to reach the end zone with 59 seconds on the clock.

Lake Dallas missed a chance to tie the score at 17 with three-and-a-half minutes until the break on a receiver sweep pass by Nikki Gray but Weinberg dropped what would have been a 52-yard touchdown.

Voight had just given Denison a 17-10 advantage with a 33-yard field goal on the prior series.

It was a response to Lake Dallas’ lone touchdown of the first half. After the Falcons got the ball back on downs at their 45-yard line, they went and cut into the deficit with a 12-yard TD catch by Weinberg with 7:28 remaining in the second quarter.

The Jackets were up 14-3 at the end of the first quarter thanks to their red zone defense. Lake Dallas was behind 14-0 when it picked up a first down to the DHS 14-yard line before the drive stalled and Preston Gregg booted a 26-yard field goal.

“They fight and claw. The dig in their feet inside the 10,” Whitson said about his defense.

The Falcons were deeper in Denison territory on their opening drive with first-and-goal at the six after a third-down pass interference gave Lake Dallas a new set of downs. This third-down pass ended up being a 14-point swing as Bortnem’s flat throw towards the back right side of the end zone was right at Johnson, who had nothing but open field down the sideline once he hauled in the interception.

Johnson’s 104-yard TD return became the second-longest play in school history as it fell just short of the 105-yard kickoff return TD by Price to open last week’s victory over Frisco Memorial but did set the new mark on an interception return, breaking the record of 103 yards by Keleon Vaughn last season against Lovejoy.

Denison’s first possession lasted just three plays, covering 61 yards, and Rhodes hauled in a jump ball along the left sideline for a 26-yard touchdown and the 14-0 lead with 5:46 left in the first.