Denton coach Kevin Atkinson doesn’t remember much about his team’s only district win, including the score, against Wichita Falls last season, and what he does remember isn’t overly positive.
“I remember us turning over the football and throwing a pick in the end zone,” Atkinson said. “I remember we gave a lead away and we had to come back in the second half and win it. I don’t even remember the score. A lot of times if we are playing the same staff, then we’ll go back and watch what we did a year before, but since this staff is turned over, I haven’t even watched a snap from last year.”
Denton beat Wichita Falls 28-19 by outscoring the Coyotes 20-6 in the second half. With the Broncos (2-3, 0-2 District 5-4A) in the same spot this season as they were last season, earning a victory this time around is just as important for staying afloat in the district playoff pool.
“When we play, it’s a faceless opponent each week,” Atkinson said. “I don’t think our kids focus on if we are playing Wichita Falls or Guyer, or I hope they don’t. I think our kids are so resilient. They bounce back and don’t really think about that long-term like adults do.”
Atkinson has plenty of respect for the Coyotes. Wichita Falls (3-2, 2-0) heads into today’s game at Bronco Field with district wins over Azle and Fort Worth Brewer, which are winless in 5-4A play.
In nondistrict play, Wichita Falls was shut out 24-0 by Dallas Bishop Lynch, a team Denton lost to 30-23 to open its season.
“[Coyotes] coach [Danny] Russell has done a really good job, and he’s a defensive-minded coach,” Atkinson said. “He was a defensive coordinator at Garland. They run a very aggressive, blitzing-style defense that can be feast or famine, and they’ve been feasting on it. They’ve scored a defensive touchdown in the last two games and actually had another one called back, so they’re opportunistic.”
The Broncos know a thing or two about scoring defensive touchdowns, as their defense came up with 55-yard fumble return for a touchdown to salt away last year’s victory over Wichita Falls.
As for how Denton plans on depriving the Coyotes of defensive feasts, Atkinson said the bulk of the pressure hangs on his offensive line constantly plugging the targeted weak areas.
“If they are running a certain blitz, then we have to be blocking down and kicking out in that area, or there’s going to be a gaping hole,” Atkinson said. “If that happens, they’re going to get us, and they’ve been really getting it in the right area, which has caused havoc for defenses.”
Last week did not go well for the Broncos in a 66-7 loss to Guyer, but in Atkinson’s eyes their energy and focus never wavered.
“The biggest thing was attitude and effort,” Atkinson said. “I was proud to see the attitude was completely different from the year before, and our effort was phenomenal. They could have lain down, but they didn’t. Each series, we are coaching hope. It was like it was 0-0 each time they came to the sideline, and I was very encouraged by that.”
As for what he hopes his team took from the Guyer loss, Atkinson wants his team to heed legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s words.
“Last week I felt like we tried too hard. You lose your fundamentals; you kind of try to do things better and you end up hurting yourself,” Atkinson said. “One of John Wooden’s favorite quotes is ‘Be quick but don’t hurry.’”
If the Broncos are to earn their first district victory and hand Wichita Falls its first district loss, Atkinson wants them to control the clock and extend drives.
“We’ve got to get more first downs,” Atkinson said. “Our defense is coming off the field and they can’t get their breath. They can’t really make any adjustments or talk about anything, and all of a sudden we’re punting. If we get first downs, then everything else is going to roll and be better. The defense will be able to make some adjustments, and that’s either going to work to our advantage in field position or get us some points.”
The Broncos managed just 21 rushing yards last week. When the Broncos can effectively run the ball, their passing game starts to pump out the big plays Atkinson has seen this season.
“We’re going to try to run the football and open up our pass with that,” Atkinson said. “We’re going to be a run-first team.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.