In their final game of the season, the Denton Broncos will be looking to spoil Trophy Club Byron Nelson’s playoff aspirations tonight while using a matchup with a quality District 5-4A team as a springboard to next year.
With the bulk of Denton’s seniors playing on the defensive side of the ball, an inexperienced offense has shown glimpses of head coach Kevin Atkinson’s vision. Underclassmen fill several key positions, especially on the offensive line.
“The strength of our team is on defense, and where the majority of our seniors are,” Atkinson said. “We only started two seniors on offense with five sophomores, so we are just really young. It’s a learning and growing year, and we are looking to get better. We want to send our seniors out with a win, and for the underclassmen we want to go out with a fighting attitude.”
Last week’s 40-7 loss to Wichita Falls Rider saw familiar story lines doom the Broncos. A poor start, fueled by an early turnover, forced Denton (3-6, 1-5 District 5-4A) to play from behind and derailed the offensive game plan.
“Offensively we weren’t executing,” Atkinson said. “We had a couple drives going early on and we would either have a penalty that was a drive killer, or it was something else that killed it. We started out with a bad decision on the first possession by throwing a pick, and we couldn’t get going.”
Atkinson had a plan for his team to improve from week to week, but untimely losses after victories kept the Broncos from building momentum. When the defense would play well, the offense struggled, and when the offense picked up steam, an undisciplined penalty or turnover typically sealed their fate.
“We kind of missed out on that [improving] a little bit,” Atkinson said. “It hasn’t panned out exactly the way I would have liked. We haven’t been getting a ton better every game like I would like, and that’s why I am looking forward this week.”
Despite the inconsistency, Atkinson remains optimistic about the foundation of his team. With his first full season at Denton coming to an end, he continues to find areas for improvement.
“We’ve learned that we have some issues that are correctable when it comes to discipline and time management,” Atkinson said. “I’ve been to places before where you didn’t quite have the ingredients and you have to substitute ingredients and it tasted OK. But the good thing here is that we have the ingredients. We have talent here, and now we need to mature mentally and be ready to be a better team.”
With today’s home game dedicated to the seniors, Atkinson hopes he can send them out with a bang.
“This senior class is going to be known as the ones that laid down the foundation for us to build this program on,” Atkinson said. “While the results really haven’t favored the Broncos, I’m going to make sure no one forgets these seniors and the time and dedication that they have given us.”
With the Broncos’ playoff hopes squashed earlier in the season, Atkinson commended his team for its commitment and fight, but he is looking for a more well-rounded effort against Nelson, which is 6-3 on the season and tied with Lake Dallas at 3-3 in district play.
“The one thing that has been constant — no matter what’s gone on — our kids have always played really hard and given great effort,” Atkinson said. “I’d like to see us execute offensively, defensively and special teams-wise the way we are coached.”
A physical altercation at the conclusion of last week’s game against Rider will result in suspensions for some players, and Atkinson is teaching his players a lesson about retaliation.
“Our kids reacted in a bad way,” Atkinson said. “The reason there were suspensions handed down was because two wrongs don’t make a right. Even though those things went on, we have to be the bigger person to walk away.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .