Midway through the opening quarter of Denton’s road victory over Fort Worth Brewer, the Broncos had their confidence shaken, but they were able to rise to the occasion and turn the game in their favor to claim their first District 5-4A victory.
Today, the Broncos will go for another district win when Azle visits at 7 p.m.
Denton coach Kevin Atkinson preaches to his team about overcoming adversity, and when the Broncos fell behind 10-0 to the Bears, that adversity had reached new heights as the team’s playoff hopes seemed to be slipping along with the game.
“They [the Bears] drove the length of the field and scored,” Atkinson said. “We got the ball and went three-and-out coupled with going for a fake punt on our end. We didn’t execute it properly, and all of a sudden we’re giving them the ball at [our] 30-yard line. I was very proud that our defense held them on a goal line stand to a field goal and we got things going. We rode that momentum.”
Atkinson also talks a lot about confidence. The Broncos got into the flow of the game, started stacking productive plays and were able to dig themselves out of the hole with 37 consecutive points, with the defense holding the Bears to that field goal as the first building block.
“We talked to our kids [about how] in every game there is going to be a tipping point of adversity,” Atkinson said. “When that happens, we have to be a mature team and stick with our game plan and know that good things can happen.”
The Broncos could have thrown their offensive game plan out the window, but they held true to their coaching and fulfilled Atkinson’s vision for a winning recipe.
“I thought as a defense we executed really well and people did their job,” Atkinson said. “They had faith that their teammates were going to do their job. When you worry about the big picture, you end up costing your defense. When you go step by step, it leads you to a big play. When you try to go from step one to step six, you’re going to end up making a mistake. … That’s what’s been happening to us week after week after week, so we kind of settled down.”
Denton’s offense was as balanced as it’s been all season, with 185 rushing yards and 174 passing yards. Its offensive line won the battle with Brewer’s stout linebackers, and Atkinson said it was a complete team victory.
With some self-assurance under their belts, the Broncos (3-4, 1-3 district) still have work to do if they want to make the playoffs. They turn their attention toward Azle (3-4, 1-3), which sits in the same position as Denton — needing a victory to keep its playoff hopes afloat.
“You want to be able to stay alive in the playoff race as long as you can,” Atkinson said. “[Brewer] was the one we needed, and this weekend is the one we need. Guess what — Azle has the same district record we do and they need one. It’s going to be a tough fight.”
Denton’s defense had struggled with reading opposing offense, but dealt with the Bears’ intended confusion efficiently. It’ll again be tested in that area, as the Hornets offer even more unpredictability.
“They’re really good on defense,” Atkinson said. “They’re very blue-collar, strong — very sound defense. They run their offense really, really well. Some people just call plays; they have a scheme and everything feeds off something else. You can’t really tell what’s coming. It’s hard to get tendencies on them. They do a really good job.”
To say that Denton has been successful this season in Atkinson’s eyes is tenuous, but after the Broncos’ win over Brewer, he said the players finally had something complete to be proud of.
“My definition for success is for the kids to be able to look at each other in locker room after they play and they know without a doubt that they did everything possible for their teammates to be successful,” Atkinson said. “If we can do that, the wins will take care of themselves. This week, I think our kids could look at each other and know they did everything in their power to help us win.”
It’ll take more discipline for the Broncos to avenge last season’s 31-0 shutout loss to Azle and head into their final two games against Wichita Falls Rider and Trophy Club Nelson with a chance to squeak in the playoffs.
“The one thing we were lacking was confidence, and we’ve got some of that back,” Atkinson said. “Now we’ve got to go out and not be overconfident. That’s a scary thing for a young team. A lot of times you think, ‘Oh, we’re here. We’ve been grinding and working, so now I can relax.’ But the key is to keep grinding even more and be more hungry. Do you want to be the hunter or do you want to be the hunted?”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.