If the Denton Broncos’ playoff aspirations are still attainable, then they must perform against the teams above them in the District 5-4A standings. Their table has been set, as their three remaining games are against district-leading Wichita Falls Rider and two 2-2 teams in Trophy Club Byron Nelson and Azle.
The Broncos already have eclipsed the low expectations others had for them this season, but head coach Kevin Atkinson’s focus is still on his young team learning from mistakes.
“I just want to keep improving,” Atkinson said. “I’d like to get a little win streak if I could. We have to go back to Wichita Falls, and that’s hard to win up there two times. Our work is cut out for us.”
With the Broncos struggling at home this season, their road victories against Carrollton R.L. Turner and Wichita Falls have been their strongest performances.
Azle, tonight’s opponent, is 3-0 at home.
“Azle is a hard place to play, ever since I was in high school,” Atkinson said. “It’s a tough environment.”
With the Broncos struggling last week against Fort Worth Brewer with just one offensive touchdown, the defense was the bright spot for Denton. Last year’s district rushing leader, C.J. Washington, was held to 48 yards on the ground, and the Broncos were able to stop him for several times for losses.
“I thought defensively and schematically we played a great game,” Atkinson said. “We had a couple pass interference calls and personal fouls that kind of got to us. It takes discipline, and the type of discipline that we want takes awhile to develop. Those kinds of things are taken care of in the offseason. I’m just trying to get the message across as much as I can, and what I don’t get done will be real-life examples they can learn from.”
Atkinson attributed his offense’s lack of production to its inexperience and said he expects that his offense can rebound with last week’s lessons.
“Football is such a team sport,” Atkinson said. “All 11 guys have to be taking care of their assignments, and if one guy doesn’t, you can really pay a price for it. That’s kind of what happened to us offensively last week. It was a different guy each play. It was inopportune times, and it’s part of a team that is young and not very experienced. We only took 42 snaps, and normally you take 75-80 in a game. Sometimes you are going to have games like that, and we aren’t experienced enough to overcome that.”
The Broncos received some good news this week as sophomore wide receiver Key’andre Hearvey has been cleared for contact and may return tonight after suffering a broken collarbone earlier this season.
“It will give us some options,” Atkinson said. “He does a good job catching the ball.”
Despite Denton’s total of 11 rushing yards in last week’s loss to the Bears, several sacks and fumbles were figured in along with sophomore Tre’Von Jackson’s solid performance carrying the ball. Jackson continues to pick up steam as the season goes along, which was evident in the Broncos’ victory over Wichita Falls two weeks ago as he rushed for 86 yards on 10 carries.
“We need to run the football better than we have, and if you look at the games we’ve won, we’ve been able to run the football,” Atkinson said. “We ran the ball really well last game.”
The Broncos’ defense will look to continue improving and will face another mobile quarterback in Azle’s Corbyn Koiner.
“They are a very disciplined team,” Atkinson said of Azle. “They’re not real exotic with anything they do, but what they do, they do very well. Their running back [Hunter McDonald] is very consistent and they have a quarterback that’s very mobile. He can hurt you with his legs extremely. They really run to the ball well.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is email@example.com .