Game Recap — Denison vs. Wylie East

There’s a chance, a very good chance, that by the end of the regular season, Denison’s 47-46 victory against Wylie East in the District 13-4A opener serves as the catalyst, or signature win or whatever positive adjectives you to want to apply to a game destined to end in heartbreak for a program that has been on the wrong end of things for the last couple of years. The Jackets will need to build on the wild finish and with six games left on the schedule — all of them looking to be winnable — there is a chance to continue in the right direction.

It was over when — Denard Whitfield scored on a 42-yard run with 3:15 remaining to give Denison a 47-34 lead. The extra point was blocked, which turned out to be a big deal later in the game. But a two-touchdown lead with three minutes left was sure to be enough. Right? Right??

It was really over when — Quashawn Carrell blocked Garrett McCain’s extra point attempt with 27 seconds remaining in the contest. Wylie East was trying to force overtime with the PAT, which came after a 15-yard penalty following the touchdown took away the opportunity for a two-point conversion. Carrell’s second block of the game sealed the victory for the Yellow Jackets.

Players of the Game — The Denison offensive line of Justin Bigelow, Justin Guth, Blake Cunningham, Chandler Glenn and Jamie Wood. For the second straight week the Jackets stuck with a ground attack and the senior quintet plowed the road. After 54 runs the previous game, Denison had 61 rushes for 524 yards in the win over Wylie East. And so many of those carries were executed to the point where it was at least five yards before the Yellow Jacket with the ball was touched, if at all.

Play of the Game — In a game where the Denison offense had five turnovers, it was the one they avoided that had the greatest impact. The teams spent much of the first three quarters trading touchdowns and in this case, Wylie East had just tied the game at 27 in the middle of the third quarter on a 95-yard kickoff return by Jordan Wyatt. Denison was about to go back in front as Colton Henslee broke loose for what appeared to be a 61-yard touchdown. But Wyatt not only ran him down at the eight, he chopped the ball loose. Chance Rogers fell on it in the pile and Denison scored three plays later. Had the Raiders recovered, it would have totally changed the course of the game.

The good — Denison has won back-to-back games for the first time in four years, and it found a way to make enough plays to offset when things went badly, something that says a little something about the growth of this group. The Jackets put together one of the better rushing efforts in school history, averaging almost nine yards per carry when Wylie East knew what was coming — especially since Denison didn’t even think about throwing the ball in the second half. Three Yellow Jackets ran for at least 100 yards and two touchdowns. For the first time this year the fullback spot made a major contribution outside of blocking. Colton Henslee and Eddie Moreno combined for 178 yards and two scores on 14 carries. Defensively the Jackets continue to do well against the run. Outside of a Jason Rone 44-yard TD run, Denison held East to 141 yards on 32 carries. Linebacker Jacob Hunt continues to make plays. He was all over the field in the first half, forcing the Raiders to double-team almost the entire second half. And Wylie East went for it on fourth down four times and was stopped three times, none bigger than stacking up Kevon Mack on fourth-and inches at the Denison 34 with 1:38 left in the third, right after the Jackets had taken a 33-27 lead.

The bad — Turnovers killed Denison. The Jackets had four of them: an interception and three fumbles. East turned three of them into scores, including the potential game-tying one in the closing seconds when all Denison had to do was hang on to the ball. The passing game was non-existent and set the school mark for negative-two yards. Devon Blanton was just 1-of-6 passing with an interception. He had a wide-open Seth Black in the end zone and badly underthrew it. The rest were deep throws off target. Denison doesn’t have to be great at throwing the ball but it will have to keep teams honest if it wants to continue its running success. The defense, which was so good at not allowing big plays, gave up way too many of them. Two of the touchdowns were from more than 40 yards away, something the Jackets allowed just once in the first three games. Wylie East had seven TD drives. Five of them involved a play that went at least 44 yards to move things along. Special teams had its share of issues as well. Besides allowing a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Jordan Wyatt, Denison almost gave up a second return to him before he was corralled near midfield. Two extra points were blocked and another couldn’t get off in time for a try.

District dish — Sherman kicked off the schedule with a 55-44 victory against McKinney North on Thursday night. Wylie defeated Lovejoy 30-21. The match-ups this week besides a little something called the Battle of the Ax include Wylie against Wylie East, Greenville facing Lovejoy and McKinney North against Royse City. The winner of Sherman-Denison is the only one guaranteed to be in first place going into next week.

Stinging stats of the week — Denison won two straight games for the first time since the last two games of 2011...It is the first time Denison has opened district play with a win in four seasons. The Jackets beat Wylie East for the first time in two meetings...Chad Rogers earned the 100th victory for his career, 96 of them coming at Snyder...The 47 points was the most by the Jackets since a 49-35 win over Mount Pleasant to end the 2011 season...The last game Denison won by a point was 65-64 against McKinney in 2008...The 93 points match the same total from last year’s game against Wylie East, a 57-36 Raider win...Three Yellow Jackets had at least 100 yards rushing — Devon Blanton (192), Denard Whitfield (178) and Colton Henslee (117). It was the first time a Denison trio had done that in the same game since Corey Robertson (242), Mario Polk (142) and Anthony Hines (117) in a 46-35 victory against Greenville in 2003...The Jackets’ 524 rushing yards were the most since 564 in the 2008 win against McKinney...Whitfield crossed 1,500 rushing yards for his career, moving to 16th on the Denison all-time rushing list. He is five yards from 1,600 and 138 yards from the top 15. He became the 17th Yellow Jacket to score 20 times on the ground. The three TDs also moved him into the top 20 for scoring in Denison history...The 192 yards and two rushing touchdowns were career highs for Blanton...Whitfield tied his career high with three touchdowns...Henslee’s 117 yards and two touchdowns were a career high. The touchdowns were the first of his career...Eddie Moreno had a career-best 61 yards on four carries...Arlton Ardrey had his first interception of the season...Jaleel Dade had the only catch for Denison...Wylie East had 11 penalties for 75 yards. Two weeks after Denison had 12 penalties for 116 yards against Frisco Liberty, the Jackets were flagged just three times for 30 yards.