For 59 minutes and one second, Denton seemed like it was in control and ready to exorcise the demons of one of its most heartbreaking losses of 2010.
Yet in the end, it was just deja vu all over again.
Despite leading for most of the game, winning the turnover battle and holding Dallas Woodrow Wilson scoreless for a little over three quarters, Denton once again failed to close out the Wildcats and lost a 13-point lead the game's waning moments to lose 14-13 on Friday night at Bronco Field.
"We just have to develop a finishing mentality," Broncos head coach Randy Patzkowski said. "When we get people down, we have to be able to put them away."
Last year, Woodrow Wilson was the one that had Denton down before allowing the Broncos to charge back into the game with 14 unanswered points in the second half and take a one-point lead. The Wildcats erased that comeback, though, scoring on a touchdown pass from quarterback Piers Christian with just two seconds left in the game to pull out a 35-28 win.
This time, the Broncos (0-1) seemed like the better team early on.
Woodrow Wilson (1-0) had the momentum early, gashing what was supposed to be a rejuvenated Denton defensive line with running back Shaquille Dottin and Christian. The Wildcats continually squandered opportunities, however, turning the ball over three times on four fumbles - including once on a Dottin fumble that actually came as he was falling into the end zone for a touchdown.
Denton finally capitalized on one of those mistakes after punter Damian Garcia fumbled the snap as the Wildcats tried to get rid of the ball on fourth down, scoring on a three-yard run by Matt Perry after taking over on the Wilson 21-yard line.
Quarterback Dentton Hudspeth expanded on the lead early in the fourth quarter, scoring on an impressive scramble off of a broken play from three yards out to give Denton a 13-0 lead with less than a quarter to play.
The Bronco defense, meanwhile, began to clamp down on the Wildcats and take away the ground game. After giving up over 50 points on three separate occasions last season and 35 to the Wildcats last year, Denton held Wilson scoreless and seemed on its way to pitching a shutout.
That defense began to tire, though, and Christian got his team back on track. He completed back-to-back passes of 21 and 27 yards to get the Wildcats moving and Dottin capped off the drive with a six-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to six points.
"We have some young kids, but they grew up tonight," Woodrow Wilson head coach Bobby Estes said. "They wore us out in the first half, but our kids got better today. No doubt, though, we were fortunate tonight."
After failed 4th down conversation on the Wildcats' 27-yard-line, Woodrow Wilson took back over and marched down the field one more time. In a flash back to 2010, the Wildcats took the lead with under a minute remaining yet again when Christian, this time with his legs, sliced through the Bronco defense for a three-yard touchdown run - into the same North endzone as he did a year ago.
Denton had one last chance to rally, but fell short after Hudspeth was forced to scramble with under 10 seconds left and failed to get out of bounds.
Despite yet another heartbreaking loss to open the season and its fourth straight loss in a season opener, Patzkowski said he saw plenty of positives in the result.
Still, he said, Denton is missing that killer instinct.
"We're a better team than we were a year ago - it isn't hard to see that," Patzkowski said. "We just have to learn to finish people off. We had many opportunities to put this one away and we just didn't do it."
MARSHALL MOORE can be reached at 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Woodrow Wilson 14, Denton 13
Dallas Woodrow Wilson 0 0 0 14 - 14
Denton 0 7 0 6 - 13
D - Matthew Perry 3 run (Michael Husbands kick), 11:29.
D - Dentton Hudspeth 3 run (kick failed), 10:38
WW - Shaquille Dottin 6 run (Damian Garcia kick), 7:16
WW - Piers Christian 3 run (Garcia kick), :59
First downs 20 11
Rushing yards 40-158 27-140
Passing yards 109 75
Total yards 267 215
Passes 10-17-0 11-18-0
Fumbles-lost 4-3 1-1
Punts-avg 2-37.5 3-32.7
Penalties-yds 5-24 6-40
Rushing: WW - Piers Christian 20-96, Shaquille Dottin 18-85, Damian Garcia 1-(minus 3), Team 1-(minus 20). D - Dentton Hudspeth 11-79, Matt Perry 12-36, Charles Boosa 3-20, Ke'von Buris 1-5.
Passing: WW - Piers Christian 10-17-0-109. D - Dentton Hudspeth 11-18-0-75.
Receiving: WW - Shaquille Dottin 4-45, Elliot Schwab 1-27, Andre Plata 2-19, Handy Dezmond 3-18. D - Ruperto Gutierrez 2-30, Deandre Coleman 4-23, Matthew Perry 4-12, Ke'von Buris 1-10.