Denton got the win it was looking for last week against Wichita Falls to snap a four-game losing skid. But the Broncos' quest for a playoff spot isn't over.
Coach Billy Miller didn't mince words this week when he said Friday night's District 5-5A game at Denison is critical in determining whether his team climbs out from near the district cellar and puts itself in a position to return to the playoffs for a fourth straight year.
Denton (3-4, 1-2 district) sits in fifth place behind Ryan, Denison, Sherman and Wichita Falls Rider heading into this week. Its best-case scenario is to win its final three games against Denison, Rider and Braswell to avoid any tiebreaker scenarios.
"With [Denison] beating Rider, that muddies the playoff picture a little bit, and we've already lost to Sherman," Miller said. "We climbed out a bit with this last win, but we've got to win this one.
"This team is better than 3-4. They deserve better."
Playing at Denison (5-1, 2-0) won't be easy. The Yellow Jackets have won their past seven home games dating to 2016. That includes a 24-23 win against Class 4A Division I state runner-up Abilene Wylie in Week 3. Through six games, Denison is averaging nearly 38 points per game.
Last week, the Yellow Jackets rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in the first quarter to win 41-38 in overtime. Quarterback Austin Emery scored the game-winner in overtime and finished with 20 carries for 135 yards while also passing for 120 yards.
Emery accounted for five touchdowns, four on the ground, to give him 17 total touchdowns on the year. The Yellow Jackets have rushed for 1,616 yards this season as a run-heavy team.
But a key stat heading into Denton is Denison is finding itself in a lot of close games this year. Five of its six games have been decided by 11 points or less. The Yellow Jackets are 4-1 in those games and are 3-0 in games where the margin of victory was four points or less.
If this week's game is in the balance in the fourth quarter, Miller said he likes his team's chances.
"Any time our kids can feel like they have a chance late in the game, I feel like they're going to go out there and make a play," Miller said. "That was biggest deal with me coming in, giving them that sense of belief that they're always going to have a chance. If we're there, we'll have a chance."
Miller also said last week's win proved his point that if the Broncos don't turn the ball over, they will win. Denton was coming off a six-turnover performance in its loss to Sherman, but it turned the ball over only twice against Wichita Falls — both in the first half.
"We need to take care of the football and be efficient on offense and defense," Miller said. "When we do that, we have proven we are a good football team. We have the personnel to match up well with other teams. We just can't shoot ourselves in the foot."
STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.
What You Need to KnowMatchup: Denton at Denison
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Munson Stadium
What happened last year: Denton won 21-20
Steve Gamel — Denton 40, Denison 38
Jimmy Isbell — Denison 31, Denton 24
Brady Keane — Denison 38, Denton 24
Clay Massey — Denton 42, Denison 35