The decision by Denison head coach Chad Rogers to forgo spring football looked like a smart one after the Yellow Jackets put together a strong effort on both sides of the ball in a scrimmage against Princeton at Munson Stadium on Saturday before facing Wichita Falls Rider in a second scrimmage on Friday.
“What I saw from the sideline was good, from the effort and the attitude,” Rogers said. “We wanted to have the opportunity to adjust and see what we could do before playing a Wichita Falls Rider.”
Princeton, which has Baylor commit Jourdan Blake at quarterback, was 9-1 in the regular season as the 12-3A runner-up to Melissa and was defeated by Gainesville in the 3A Division I region semifinals. They averaged 40.9 points per game and allowed 17.8 during the regular season. The Panthers’ other D-I prospect, Texas Tech commit and wide receiver Jakari Dillard, did not play against the Jackets.
The format for the scrimmage was 15 plays by the first- and second-team defenses, then each first-team units got a pair of 10-play possessions.
Denison started out on defense. Garrett Hestand, Sergio Orona and Stephon Collins were the linemen. Kyle Siems, Arlton Ardrey, Jordan Heath and Derick Bennett were the linebackers. Yavel Hernandez and Quashawn Carrell were the corners. Jamond Wilson and Yefri Chavez were the safeties.
Princeton ran 17 plays and gained a total of 45 yards. The Panthers scored a one-yard touchdown run on the final play of the possession.
Heath had an interception on a third-down throw when Wilson tipped up a pass. The Jackets also got a turnover on downs and a fourth-down stop with a sack on fourth-and-one. Princeton got its TD after completing a screen pass for 20 yards when it faced third-and-18 at the Denison 25. Three of the 17 plays gained a total of 73 yards, the other 14 totaled minus-29 yards.
“The pursuit was good. He broke contain a couple times and someone got him down,” Rogers said.
The Jacket first-team offense then took the field. Chance Rogers was the quarterback with Denard Whitfield the tailback and Colton Henslee the fullback. Jaleel Dade and Devon Blanton were the receivers and Tyler Reeves was the tight end. The line was Chandler Glenn, Blake Cunningham, Justin Bigelow, Justin Guth and Jamie Wood.
Denison ran 16 plays on its first possession and gained 125 yards. On the sixth play, Dade was wide-open down the left sideline and Rogers connected with him for a 59-yard touchdown pass. Wade Walters handled all the extra points.
The first play after the TD was a fumbled snap by Rogers and recovered by Princeton. The Jackets then went on a drive that included a 22-yard catch-and-run by Eddie Moreno to the Princeton 20 but the possession ended with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-five at the 14. Play selection was almost even with seven runs and nine passes.
When Denison’s second-team defense took the field, it had to overcome a shaky start. Princeton scored on the first play it ran — a 70-yard quarterback keeper — and added a 26-yard touchdown pass after the Panthers converted fourth-and-five on a throw-back screen for 12 yards on the eighth play. Princeton picked up 130 yards on 15 plays, minus-six on the final six.
Will Parker led the Jackets’ second-team unit at quarterback and a pair of touchdown drives in 22 plays. Steven Wagoner picked up a first down with a 33-yard grab to the Princeton 24 on third-and-long and Drew Marr caught a TD pass over the middle on the ensuing play.
Denison then had a 14-play, 70-yard drive capped by a Henslee one-yard TD plunge. Eric Hines kept the drive alive with a 15-yard run on third-and-14 across midfield and Wagoner had a 25-yard catch to the Princeton eight. The Jackets totaled 158 yards on the 22 plays.
Denison’s first-team defense returned to the field and pitched a shutout. McShane Wyatt, Brendon Luper and Devan Patterson were subbed in on the back end. Princeton gained 42 yards on 14 plays and drew a pass interference call against Patterson on third-and-13 that would have ended that drive.
Denison got a third-down stop on the second-to-last-drive and got a sack on fourth down to finish the possession.
The Jackets got a pair of long touchdowns when the first-team offense returned to the field and earned 140 yards on the 10 plays. Whitfield went untouched for 47 yards on the sixth play and Dade caught a receiver screen sprung by Bigelow and Wood for a 47-yard TD down the left sideline to end the possession. Four of the 10 plays gained at least 12 yards.
“I thought the offensive line was very, very efficient,” Rogers said.
Denison held Princeton to 15 yards on 10 plays in its final appearance of the day. Wyatt came up with an interception that would have been returned for a touchdown if the officials let the sequence play out and the Jackets ended three other possessions on downs.
The Jackets closed the scrimmage with a sixth and final touchdown when Henslee scored from two yards out. Parker guided this drive — 70 yards in the 10 plays — and connected with Marr for a four-yard first down to the two on fourth-and-four.
Defensively, Denison’s first-team offense forced two turnovers and allowed 37 yards on 28 carries. 12 of the carries went for negative yardage and three were for 10 or more yards, with a long of 30. Princeton was 4-of-12 passing for 64 yards and two INTs. The completions were 14, 7, 23 and 20 yards.
Offensively, the Jacket first-team offense was 9-of-15 passing for 181 yards and gained 149 yards on 23 attempts with a fumbled snap as the lone turnover.
Chance Rogers 7-for-12, 173 yards, 2 TDs
Will Parker 7-for-11, 111 yards, TD
Colton Henslee 12-66, 2 TDs
Denard Whitfield 6-80, TD
Eric Hines 5-26
Cody Crouse 3-12
Quashawn Carrell 2-5
Eddie Moreno 1-4
Devon Blanton 1-4
Chance Rogers 3-(-1)
Jaleel Dade 2-106, 2 TDs
Steven Wagoner 2-58
Drew Marr 3-44
Eddie Moreno 3-36
Denard Whitfield 2-28
Devon Blanton 1-7
Quashawn Carrell 1-5