Shutting out Fort Worth Western Hills 63-0 last Friday certainly gave Denton some momentum heading into a bye week before its district opener, but Broncos coach Kevin Atkinson’s hoarse voice suggests that winning isn’t enough for a squad that wants to make the playoffs.
“The energy and tempo of practice start with me,” Atkinson said. “We’ve had pretty intense practices [this week], so it’s a pretty good sign. I don’t do a lot of screaming on Friday nights, but I raise my voice to get things going for sure. It’s going to need a lot of rest this Saturday and Sunday.”
The Broncos’ recent triumph put some wind in their sails that Atkinson hopes doesn’t diminish Denton’s hunger for winning.
“Our goal is to qualify for the playoffs,” Atkinson said. “I think they realize that we have a chance to make some noise in this district. As a coach, I would like to not have a bye week. I like going when I’m hot and we were going pretty good, so there is some concern when you have a week off if we can get back in our rhythm.”
With rival Lake Dallas set to visit Bronco Field next Friday, Denton has a chance to avenge last season’s 21-12 loss, but Atkinson said he wants his team’s focus on itself, not its opponents.
“I don’t focus on beating another team,” Atkinson said. “I focus on us executing our game plan. If we line up, execute our game plan, don’t have foolish penalties and win the turnover battle, I’m going to be satisfied because we got better.”
The players enjoy the extra time to get ready for an opponent, and senior quarterback Cy Ward has embraced the opportunity for mental preparation.
“It means a lot more that we have two weeks,” Ward said. “It’s better than having one week because not only is it a big game, but we get to prepare for it even more and we are going to put ourselves in situations that might come up in the game.”
Ward didn’t have the best of games last season against Lake Dallas, throwing three interceptions in a close contest, but he expects this year to be different, considering the strides he’s taken.
In three games, Ward has missed on only nine passes, including missing just one pass in each of the Broncos’ two wins, and totaled seven touchdowns with no interceptions.
“They were a very physical team,” Ward said. “They could fly a little bit. We made a lot of mistakes though that we shouldn’t have, and that won’t happen this year. I just quit forcing things. I just take what the defense gives me and not force it like I did last year.”
Atkinson attributed Ward and the Broncos’ recent success to night-and-day differences from a season ago.
“We are just a much better football team than we were last year, and we know what to ask of our kids and what not to ask of them,” Atkinson said. “That’s going to help with us, but they trust us more. That’s a big part of executing your schemes. We are emphasizing the things they do well.”
With the Broncos yet to install an official game plan for next Friday, Atkinson said this week has been all about refining the fundamentals, particularly in third-down and red zone situations.
“We are also trying to shore up things that needed some work in the first three games, and on top of that we are trying to cull things out that didn’t work that great,” Atkinson said. “We want to continue being good at running the football and being efficient with our passing game. Defensively, we have to be better at defending the pass and we need to be better at controlling the line of scrimmage up front.”
When the Broncos practiced their top offensive players versus their top defenders last season, sometimes the competitive juices got flowing too freely. But this season, Atkinson said, there is a noticeable camaraderie and respect among the players.
“You can tell that we are growing as a team, because we were very competitive but weren’t combative,” Atkinson said. “That’s a smart team. I think we are a talented team but we aren’t a real deep team, so you have to be careful with 1s on 1s and do it the right way. There wasn’t anything out of control, which is a sign of a maturing team.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.