As District 5-4A play commences tonight at Falcon Stadium with a showdown between two 2-1 teams, Denton and Lake Dallas will be trying to make the case that they should be in the playoff discussion with district favorites Guyer and Wichita Falls Rider.
Denton, fresh off victories over Carrollton R.L. Turner and Fort Worth Western Hills, is looking to build toward a playoff push while Lake Dallas aims to start its district schedule on the right foot after falling to Ryan and Rider to open district play last season.
Denton head coach Kevin Atkinson and Lake Dallas head coach Michael Young see different aspects of the Broncos’ two-game win streak.
“We’re 2-1 and hopefully that made us hungry, not satisfied,” Atkinson said. “There’s a fear in every coach once you string up a couple of wins that the kids might think they’ve arrived or the kids go through practice nonchalantly.”
Young says the wins will have Denton riding high.
“They are really sharp,” Young said. “What your players make of themselves means an awful lot. They have confidence. Losing makes it hard to practice, but they have been winning.”
The Broncos have eclipsed their win total from last year.
“The words for the week are ‘rise up,’” Atkinson said. “It’s time for our program to be thought of as more than a homecoming game. It’s time for the kids in this program to rise up and give respect back to this football team, this program, this school and this community.”
As the Broncos redefine their program with Atkinson and his new coaching staff at the helm, Atkinson praises Lake Dallas for its history.
“They are a team that I’d like to model our program after,” Atkinson said. “Years ago, they went through some lulls where they weren’t very good, but about five years ago they turned the corner. They started winning year in and year out and making a run to the playoffs. I’m hoping that’s what we can do.”
Coming off last year’s 1-9 season, Atkinson said he hopes his team is on its way to being taken seriously in this year’s District 5-4A conversation, and Young dispelled the notion that matchups with Guyer and Rider were any more important than the Falcons’ matchup with Denton.
“Any of these games that you play are important,” Young said. “Our game is important. These are the games you have to win to get into the playoffs. You need to win four out of five games to get in the playoffs. People say the Guyer and Rider games are the most important, but these games against Denton and [Trophy Club] Byron Nelson are.”
Both teams sport first-year starting quarterbacks, and Denton junior Cy Ward and Lake Dallas senior Marshall Dominy are early in their development, according to Young.
“There’s so much on quarterbacks these days,” Young said. “All you can do is ask them to get better each week. I think it takes four, five, six weeks to learn and get better. We just want ours to not make mistakes to hurt us. We can’t turn the ball over. We feel pretty confident in our defense. Punting is OK, but turning the ball over is not.”
Atkinson also stressed not turning the ball over and cutting down on penalties after the Broncos committed 17 penalties for 159 yards against Turner and 12 penalties for 115 yards against Western Hills.
“I know that they are a hard-nosed, blue-collar team and they are going to bring it to us,” Atkinson said of Lake Dallas. “I think it’s going to come down to special teams, who doesn’t turn over the football and foolish penalties. That’s what you look for when the game is on the line.”
With Azle, Nelson and Fort Worth Brewer all heading into district play with 3-0 records, the district race seems wide open.
“This will be the first game where they start counting, so there is a bit of pressure there,” Atkinson said. “When you move from your nondistrict season to your district schedule, there’s a sense of urgency.
“I raise my bar of expectations and the tempo, and they have to raise theirs as well. I think we have the right amount of talent to do it — we just have to do it.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .