Since Denison made the state semifinals in 2009, the Yellow Jackets have struggled in trying to get back to the postseason — particularly on defense.
But in last Friday’s 33-16 homecoming victory against Frisco Liberty, Denison did something that hadn’t been done since that fabled squad made it deep into December.
The Jackets held Liberty under 100 yards both rushing and passing — 83 yards on the ground and 80 yards in the air — something the program hadn’t done to an opponent since the 50-14 area round victory four years ago over Dallas Conrad, which had zero yards rushing and 64 passing.
Liberty’s touchdown in the third quarter snapped a streak of five quarters where Denison had not allowed an opponent to reach the end zone.
In this age of scoreboard-busting point totals produced by high-flying offenses, the feat is the culmination of improvement over non-district play.
“We’re doing a really good job of running to the ball,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “Since the Centennial game, we haven’t given up those long runs. Long runs being into the secondary that go for scores.”
The Jackets are allowing 295 yards per game so far in 2013, a far cry for the 447.3 per contest opponents picked up last season for a program-worst 4,473 in a season.
“We’ve still got to be consistent. That’s what we’re getting better at,” Rogers said. “We’ve got to be able to play better on third and long.”
Hello to work
After going into district play without a win last season, Denison heads into its bye this year with some positive momentum.
While two of the previous campaigns might have welcomed a break to regroup, this year’s squad might have welcomed a chance to return to the field as quickly as possible to build on its recent success.
The two weeks between games, however, isn’t a vacation.
“There is no bye week,” senior defensive end Garrett Hestand said. “We’re focused on Wylie East. There’s no days off.”
Compared to last season there has already been improvement — the three-game point and yard totals are up on offense and down on defense.
The focus before facing Wylie East on Sept. 27 is all about fine-tuning certain areas for both units and find a way for Denison to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
“Every week this group is ready to work,” Rogers said.
Lovejoy is the only 13-4A program with a winning record and the Jackets are one of five teams sitting with a 1-2 record. Denison finished sixth in the standings in 2012 after two straight fifth-place finishes.
Denison has picked its captains for the rest of the season, tweaking the process from last year when the Jackets had four different seniors for each of the three non-district games before voting on three permanent captains to go with a rotating spot in District 13-4A action.
The players voted to name senior Yefri Chavez and junior Devon Blanton as permanent captains. The other two captains will be chosen on a weekly basis.
“I liked this setup a little bit better,” Rogers said. “The kids picked Yefri and Devon. We’ll rotate guys who have earned a spot based on other things, including practice.”
Last Friday against Frisco Liberty, Sergio Orona, Eddie Moreno, Colton Henslee and Kyle Siems were the captains.
In the game against Paris the captains were Blake Cunningham, Jamie Wood, Will Parker and Denard Whitfield. For the opener against Frisco Centennial, the captains were Jaleel Dade, Chavez, Justin Bigelow and Derick Bennett.
Denison saw a disturbing trend emerge during non-district play and it comes in an area the Yellow Jackets can’t continue to see continue its upward trajectory.
There were 12 penalties for 116 yards against Denison in its victory over Frisco Liberty last Friday, an increase in both categories since the season began.
The Jackets had five penalties for 45 yards in an opening loss to Frisco Centennial and then penalized eight times for 96 yards against Paris.
“Obviously as a coach you don’t want penalties,” Rogers said. “Last year we’d get these penalties and we’d melt down.”
Denison was able to overcome the flags against Liberty to earn its first victory. The early calls on offense weren’t a hindrance but Liberty was able to stay in the contest with a pair of interference penalties, including one on fourth and goal, and a personal foul in the middle of the fourth quarter when the Redhawks scored to cut the deficit to 26-16.
“I didn’t hear any whining from the kids,” Rogers said. “We overcame them.”