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Football: Broncos find defense to be strength

Profile image for By Patrick Hayslip / Staff Writer
By Patrick Hayslip / Staff Writer

Denton coach Kevin Atkinson had been worrying about his offense in the weeks of practice leading up to Friday’s scrimmage against Little Elm at Bronco Field.

It hadn’t been clicking like he had seen in the past, but against Little Elm, Atkinson finally got a clearer picture on why his offense had been struggling.

“Now I kind of understand why we haven’t been really successful in practice offensively, and it’s because our defense is pretty good,” Atkinson said. “You wonder about that sometimes, because we have been getting stymied in practice and kids have gotten frustrated a little bit. Our defense played exceptional tonight. We lined up correctly and most importantly we swarmed to the football.”

Denton’s defense shut down Little Elm’s offense in the live scrimmage portion, holding its offense to three-and-outs on its first three possessions.

With the Broncos changing from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense, Atkinson is hoping the Broncos are able to more effectively utilize their athleticism.

On the offensive side of the ball, it took the Broncos’ offense just five plays to get on the scoreboard.

Senior quarterback Christian Rodriguez found starting running back Xavier Scott in the right flat for a 38-yard touchdown that was capped off by a stutter-step cut into the end zone.

On their next 11-play drive, Rodriguez found Hearvey for a 9-yard catch and then a 10-yard catch that saw Hearvey outleap a cornerback and snag the ball away.

Hearvey, the Broncos’ top wide receiving threat last season, is returning for his senior season while Scott is returning for his junior season. Rodriguez said he wasn’t going out of his way to find his big playmakers from a season ago, they just found a way to get open.

“I didn’t come out here picking them out because they are coming back,” Rodriguez said. “That’s who is making themselves open. Everyone comes out here wanting the ball, but I didn’t force it. It was there like it was last season. It was great.”

For Rodriguez, Friday’s scrimmage meant getting back to the team and its family atmosphere.

“It felt great to get back out there,” Rodriguez said. “To get back out there with my team and people I’ve been working with since spring — that feeling is great. We’re a unit and a team.”

Asked what he saw from his teammates, Rodriguez simply said, “I saw desire.”

“We haven’t had much success here in Denton High in a long time and everyone is out here for their community, their school and each other,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone was out here wanting it no matter if we had a negative play or a positive play.”

In his third year as coach, Atkinson said after the first two scrimmages in the past two years, it was nice to come away with a more concrete feeling of positivity.

“I told them that there can’t be a sense of being relaxed and that you’ve arrived,” Atkinson said. “It’s got to make you hungry. It kind of whets the appetite a little bit. We haven’t been 1-0 since we’ve been here and we hadn’t had a scrimmage where we felt like we had the upper hand.”

With a few wide receiver spots still yet to be sorted out, Atkinson said he likes what he saw from senior Curtis Stephenson, sophomore Chris Miller and junior running back Jackson Anderson.

Rodriguez, who was behind a newly modified offensive line, was complimentary of its progress, as was Atkinson.

“Offensively we executed,” Atkinson said. “I was proud to see our offensive line. We’ve kind of strung that together. They played pretty well.”

The Broncos will open at Wilmer-Hutchins at 7 p.m. Friday.