The Denton Broncos could be looking at a must-win situation against Wichita Falls tonight if they are going to make a run to the playoffs.
Both 2-3 on the season and winless in two District 5-4A games, the Broncos and Coyotes share the same pressure, as the loser will find itself in last place and the only team without a district victory.
For head coach Kevin Atkinson and the Broncos, the first step toward breaking their district drought is having a short memory. Last week’s 62-0 “debacle,” as Atkinson referred to the Broncos’ flop against Guyer, was a case of two very different levels of play.
“We have to realize that when we play a team more talented than us, we have to play at a high level, and we did not play at a high level,” Atkinson said. “So, as a coach you become disappointed because you want your kids to raise the bar and we didn’t. We need to build up our mental toughness. We were just wide-eyed. They’re pretty strong, big and fast, and they intimidated us. It was just one of those games where everything needed to go right for us and it didn’t. We can’t dwell on the past. We have to look forward and handle our business right now.”
The Broncos will get a reprieve from the ground attack that Guyer and past opponents have used to exploit Denton’s defense, as the Coyotes sport an offense similar to the Broncos’.
Atkinson sees a foe with just as much hunger as his team and isn’t taking Wichita Falls lightly.
“I just see a team,” Atkinson said. “I don’t look at where they are, who they are or what they are ranked. They are as hungry as we are. They are 0-2 in district and we are 0-2 in district. This is the biggest game of the year. I think [Denton] had a close game with them last year. They run an offense very similar to ours. It will be quite challenging. It’s hard going up there and winning. It’s very difficult.”
With their focus now on the Coyotes, the Broncos will look to start better than in their past two losses.
The Broncos surrendered an opening-play 63-yard touchdown against Guyer, and an early turnover against Lake Dallas led to a quick score for the Falcons.
Few Broncos performed well against Guyer, but Atkinson said it’s the entire team that needs to step up.
“This week we need to set the tone early,” Atkinson said. “We are a young team, and young teams don’t do well with adversity at the start of the game. If we start on offense or defense, we need to start off with success and build from that. We are trying to build things up, and for us it’s mainly just getting our unit to be successful and get the flow of the game going the way we need it.”
Atkinson remains encouraged after a solid week of practice and says that if his team performs the way it should, then even a loss would give him hope.
“We probably had our best week of practice,” Atkinson said. “The thing you want to do is go out and execute and be a better football team than we were last Friday. If that is enough to win, then I’m going to be really, really happy. If that’s not enough to win but we still got better and we still go out and execute and we just happen to lose a hard-fought game, then I’m going to be OK with that too.”
Facing the voyage up to Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls, the Broncos know what weight the game carries and don’t want make a long journey home knowing their chances at the playoffs could have just shrunk considerably.
“We are definitely not out of the playoff race,” Atkinson said, “but this is going to be a good implication if we are going to make a serious push.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .