Before the Denton Broncos can embark on the second phase of their season when they host district rival Lake Dallas in two weeks, they have to be mindful of the task at hand.
When Denton hosted Fort Worth Western Hills last season, the Broncos were riding high after a 35-6 road victory over Carrollton R.L. Turner and receiver Ke’Von Buris helped govern a 41-33 victory over the Cougars with a touchdown in each of the first three quarters.
“If I execute what I did last year, then it’s going to happen again,” Buris said. “We basically did a zombie-pass play that got me three touchdowns, but we haven’t put that in yet for this game. I think this game is really, really important because it determines how we go into district [play]. If we win, we’ll have motivation to beat Lake Dallas, and we don’t want to have a downfall heading into a bye week.”
Buris snagged two of his three scores on gadget plays with former receiver Wendell Williams finding him all alone behind the secondary as the defense bit on the short pass.
Whether the Broncos (1-1) will dip into their bag of tricks tonight at Western Hills is in question, but what isn’t in question is the team’s mindset.
“Our kids are getting more confident, and that’s the makings of a good team,” Denton coach Kevin Atkinson said. “Being a good athlete and performing well has a lot to do with confidence and thinking you can do it. There is still a lot to work on, but I’m excited. I just think they know they’re putting in work and that they are going to get rewarded for it.”
With the Broncos’ confidence on the rise, Atkinson is encouraged at his team’s progression, especially after the Broncos made strides in several areas in last week’s 51-18 win over Turner.
Denton got out to a better start, won the turnover battle and clamped down on some coverage issues.
“It was a lot cleaner game than it was a year before,” Atkinson said. “You don’t want them to be satisfied. You want it to make them hungrier. Our goal is to get 1 percent better every day. You have to keep them focused and fighting for that. We aren’t letting up. If anything, we are pressing harder. We are going to squeeze every bit of work, athleticism and football out of these guys as we can.”
Atkinson and his staff stress the importance of each game. The staff has utilized a subtle yet significant message to corral the team’s attention, as each coach wears a shirt with the word “chip” on the back of their shoulder as a daily reminder to the players.
“You have to have a chip on your shoulder until we get things right here, because we don’t have the respect of the state or area,” Atkinson said. “We are picked last in almost every poll, and they aren’t taking into account all the things we are doing, not only athletically but character-wise also. We are making wholesale changes in all those areas. Our kids aren’t just going to be a better football team; they are going to be better people.”
Buris was one of three Denton receivers to finish last week’s game with a touchdown, with senior Deandre Coleman and junior Key’andre Hearvey pulling in two scores apiece.
With so many weapons on the offensive side of the ball for the Broncos and only one football to go around, there have been chances for players to lose focus, but Atkinson has been pleased with everyone’s commitment to the success of the entire team.
“We tell them all the time to be ready for their break,” Atkinson said. “It’s going to be there; they just have to be ready to take advantage of it. I think they’ve been prepared, and it’s that mental training that we do during boot camp and offseason that conditions their mind to handle those situations, and that’s something we didn’t get to do [last year].”
Atkinson likes to think of the season as three seasons, with the nondistrict schedule as the first season, district play as the second and the playoffs as the third.
So, with the end of the first season on the horizon, he looks at today’s game against the Cougars (0-2) as a big step toward rebuilding a once-strong football reputation. He says the Broncos are in heading in the right direction.
“If we can carry our momentum over from the first season to district, we can do some things here that haven’t been done in a while,” Atkinson said. “I told the seniors, ‘You have a chance to be the foundation of the winning tradition that we want to establish here. Everyone is going to point to you in years to come.’ If we build this thing right, it’s going to rest on their shoulders.”
The Broncos’ winning attitude is beginning to spread.
“The buzz is catching on,” Atkinson said. “Although we are 1-1, it feels like we are 2-0. We’re 2-0 compared to what we were last year, and the kids are feeling that. Everything is contagious, good and bad. Right now, the positive is contagious.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.