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Denison back Osbourn ready to finish strong

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Denison senior running back Asa Osbourn has made an impact on the Yellow Jacket offense since the start of last season.

It didn’t make a lot of sense for Asa Osbourn to leave behind a starting position and join a team where one wasn’t going to be handed to him, let alone maybe be available at all.

That type of move is almost never made. In fact it’s usually the opposite — if the playing time isn’t there, the player doesn’t stick around.

“I was taking a chance. It was confidence in myself,” Osbourn said. “I wanted to prove people wrong. I’m a lot more confident in my game now.”

But the Denison senior running back wasn’t worried about making the change. He wasn’t scared he might have to change positions, or maybe just play defense. He never doubted he could go from the Class 2A level and contribute to a 5A program.

“I think Asa likes challenges. When he came here he knew what the situation was,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “It says a lot about the type of kid he is. He’s got a tremendous work ethic.”

Osbourn, who has speed to burn but won’t shy away from contact, has never tried to do anything more than he was asked and it makes him part of what the Jackets hope will be a dominant backfield duo for the rest of the season.

Denison (1-1) has its bye this Friday before opening District 7-5A (II) play next week at home against Lovejoy, a stretch of eight contests to determine if the Jackets can get into the playoffs for the first time in three seasons after 2018 and 2019 ended with a fourth-place tie but out of the postseason because Denison had lost head-to-head match-ups.

“After how last year ended, the main focus was to keep ourselves in check and make the playoffs,” Osbourn said.

That is the number one goal beyond another 1,000-yard season. The Jackets already reached one goal with an opening victory against Sherman to win the Battle of the Ax for the eighth straight year, which is the longest winning streak by Denison in the series history. Down 16-13 at half-time, the Jackets rode Osbourn and junior Jadarian Price in the second half. Osbourn finished with 16 carries for 98 yards and two touchdowns, Price had 188 yards and two TDs on 14 carries and they touched the ball on 23 of 25 plays in the final two quarters.

Last week in a 24-3 loss against Texas High, Osbourn finished with 16 carries for 63 yards and a pair of catches for 20 yards. Denison is hoping there are more performances like the first outing than the second and they are maximizing both backs.

“I think we’re still evolving with that,” Rogers said. “Those two do so well together. They keep each other in check. I’ve never heard them complain, about anything.”

It was a bit of a homecoming for Osbourn, who enters the final eight games of the season sitting 31st on the Jacket career rushing list at 1,189 yards. He could become the 22nd player to get to 1,500 and the 17th to reach 2,000.

He was in the Denison ISD through junior high before transferring to Tom Bean because his mother was a teacher and coach there. His brother, former DHS quarterback Eric Chavez, was an assistant for the Tomcats as well. Now all three are back at Denison.

As a freshman he played on the varsity and then during his sophomore year became the lead back with 119 carries for 753 yards and seven touchdowns, was a first-team all-district selection and helped Tom Bean reached the playoffs.

Osbourn found himself returning to a program that had just relied on a freshman phenom who played his position.

Price was coming off the best season by a Yellow Jacket freshman running back — 1,421 yards and 16 touchdowns on 210 carries — and at the start of a recruiting push that now includes scholarship offers from Texas, Ohio State and USC among others. It seemed pretty obvious Price was the mainstay in the backfield for the next three seasons and two of them would coincide with Osbourn.

“I did know they had a running back that was really good. I assumed it would make me better,” said Osbourn, who is getting interest from Cal, Tulsa and Yale. “I’m very competitive. I always want to compete, even if it’s with people on my team.”

There was no hesitation about having to share snaps or carries. Osbourn was named second-team all-district after 1,027 yards and 10 touchdowns on 196 carries. Price missed three games’ worth of time due to an ankle injury that bothered him when he did get on the field but still finished with 732 yards and three TDs on 151 carries and was first-team all-district.

Osbourn showed he could hold his own, like 37 carries for 205 yards in the third week of the season against Frisco Lebanon Trail and 21 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown in his first game as a Jacket against rival Sherman.

“I’m a tough player and J.D.’s a tough player too,” Osbourn said. “We have different styles. That makes us dangerous as a duo.”