When sophomore running back Xavier Scott crossed the goal line with less than four minutes left in the first half to bring Denton within a touchdown, the Broncos looked as if they had put their sluggish start behind them.
However, their defense couldn’t keep its head above water long enough to match the Coyotes’ dynamic playmakers as Wichita Falls sent Denton to its third consecutive District 5-4A loss with a 41-21 victory on homecoming night at Bronco Stadium.
Junior wideout O.J. Clark’s 14-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter gave the Coyotes a 28-14 lead, and it was the next play that seemed to break the Broncos’ back.
On the ensuing kickoff, Denton couldn’t handle it and Wichita Falls’ Armani Donaldson recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown, giving the Coyotes (4-2, 3-0 district) a commanding 35-14 lead.
“We’d had some success running the ball and we came up a little bit short,” Denton head coach Kevin Atkinson said. “We had momentum and we couldn’t get off the field. It really points back to one thing ... beating ourselves with foolish penalties. I thought we’d be a little more in tune with that and before we can really start talking about beating other opponents, we have to stop beating ourselves.”
Denton’s defense didn’t get off to a great start as the Coyotes needed only three plays to take a 7-0 lead, as Clark hauled in a screen pass from Butler, avoided several tackles and scored from 36 yards out 1:34 into the game.
Clark displayed his speed and athleticism all night, finishing with 123 yards on six catches. Butler was 10-of-14 passing for 227 yards.
After Denton’s first drive fizzled, Wichita Falls missed a 43-yard field goal to give the Broncos solid field position.
With senior quarterback Christian Rodriguez in the game, senior wideout Deandre Coleman caught a 38-yard pass to the Coyotes’ 21-yard line. But on the next deep, fading pass to the end zone, Rodriguez was intercepted.
Needing a defensive rebuttal, the Broncos (2-4, 0-3) were able to jump on a fumble by Butler at the Coyotes’ 4-yard line on the exchange with the running back and Rodriguez was able to find senior fullback Jacob Audirsch for a 6-yard touchdown to even the score at 7 with 44 seconds left in the first quarter.
On the next Coyotes’ possession, Clark again torched Denton’s secondary for his second touchdown of the game with a 55-yard touchdown catch from Butler to give Wichita Falls the 14-7 advantage.
“He was a really special athlete,” Atkinson said of Clark. “He went down there and made some news when he got in the end zone and I kind of went, ‘Oh, wow!’ It was pretty special. They are hot right now and they are doing things that aren’t hurting them.”
Following a three-and-out, the Coyotes began to dice up Denton’s defense with their ground game. Three straight double-digit-yard runs put them in Denton territory and sophomore running back Dae’on Weaver punched in the 1-yard touchdown to give the Wichita Falls a 21-7 lead with 5:56 left in the half.
“We’re going to have to fix it somehow,” Atkinson said of his team’s run defense. “We’re going to look at tape and make some adjustments. We’re going to face a [Fort Worth] Brewer team next week that primarily runs the football. We just have to get some positive things happening because everything is contagious right now. It’s contagiously going negative for us. We’ve got to put a tourniquet on it to stop the bleeding somehow.”
In danger of falling out of contention, the Broncos delivered a crucial scoring drive with a taste of the Coyotes’ own medicine. Scott took three straight double-digit runs into Wichita Falls territory and finished off the drive with a hard-nosed, 10-yard touchdown run into the teeth of the Coyotes’ defense to put Denton back within a touchdown at 21-14 with 3:50 remaining in the half.
“We got the fumble and we’re like, ‘Hey, here we go,’” Atkinson said. “The defense got the ball back and we went in and scored. It’s 21-14 and we get the ball in the second half. We wanted to get some positive things going and that didn’t happen for us.”
Clark matched his first screen reception for a touchdown with another one in the third quarter after Denton sputtered to start the half with three runs and a punt. Clark’s 14-yard touchdown gave the Coyotes the 28-14 with 5:43 left.
Weaver’s 1-yard touchdown gave the Coyotes’ a 41-14 lead with 9:49 left in the fourth, and Scott, who finished with 88 yards on 12 carries, added his second rushing touchdown with 2:55 left.
“I thought he did an outstanding job,” Atkinson said of Scott. “Up front, we had some times that we looked pretty good. We moved them and created some running lanes. Xavier made some outstanding cuts, read the defense like he should and created some big plays.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.
Wichita Falls 41, Denton 21
WF — O.J. Clark 35 pass from Eric Butler (Chance McWhorter kick)
DN — Jacob Audirsch 6 pass from Christian Rodriguez (Michael Husbands kick)
WF — O.J. Clark 55 pass from Eric Butler (Chance McWhorter kick)
WF — Dae’on Weaver 1 run (Chance McWhorter kick)
DN — Xavier Scott 10 run (Michael Husbands kick)
WF — O.J. Clark 14 pass from Eric Butler (Chance McWhorter kick)
WF — Armani Donaldson 15 fumble return (Chance McWhorter kick)
WF — Dae’on Weaver 1 run (Chance McWhorter kick failed)
DN — Xavier Scott 1 run (Michael Husbands kick)
Rushing — DN: Xavier Scott 12-88, Deavonte Doucet 5-16, Christian Rodriguez 2-6, Cy Ward 4--1, WF: Mikal Penn 4-42, Eric Butler 14-25, Dae’on Weaver 8-23, Chris Lawry 5-18, Jacob Blackwell 2-17, Quentin Sims 2-11, O.J. Clark 1-10, Jacob Williams 1-10, Robert Williams 2-6, Milek Shrubs 1--2.
Passing — DN: Christian Rodriguez 17-24-2-162, Cy Ward 11-15-0-77, WF: Eric Butler 10-14-0-227.
Receiving — DN: Deandre Coleman 8-107, Adrian Harris 9-79, Ke’Von Buris 5-24, Xavier Scott 2-15, Key’andre Hearvey 2-8, Jacob Audirsch 1-6, Deavonte Doucet 1-0, WF: O.J. Clark 6-123, Dwight Ross 1-51, Mikal Penn 2-37, Devon Bazile 1-16.