The Denton Broncos have seen run-focused teams the past two weeks in Sanger and The Colony and used a combination of defense and timely scoring to emerge with victories, but in today’s game at undefeated Keller Timber Creek, the Bronco defense is preparing for a change of scenery.
The Falcons boast a potent aerial assault headlined by senior quarterback Cade Schrader, who in three games has posted 995 passing yards and eight touchdowns on 64-of-88 passing with no interceptions.
His top target, junior wide receiver Eric Ezukaunma, has 419 yards and five touchdowns receiving with another 108 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and the Falcons have scored at least 38 points in all three of their wins.
“He’s an operator and he does a good job executing what they ask him to do,” Denton coach Kevin Atkinson said of Schrader. “They can run the ball decent, but their quarterback makes them go. They’ve got a couple of really talented receivers that are going to be hard to deal with.”
Denton cornerback Chris Miller, a Colorado commit, has been on the field but hasn’t seen much action in three games.
Still, he knows what the Falcon offense is capable of.
Miller said he feels he is only one play away from getting picked on, so staying focused has been and will be key.
“It’s going to be the first game where I probably get the ball thrown my way a lot,” Miller said. “I’ve only had it thrown my way once or twice a game, so this game I should be challenged. I want to go up against good competition. It’s hard, but you have to be disciplined because at corner they are looking at you always.”
One side effect of Miller’s lack of attention has been the ability of his teammates to make plays.
Following Denton’s game-winning, 12-play touchdown drive against The Colony that gave the Broncos a 35-26 lead late in the fourth quarter, defensive back Tony Tony-Itoyah’s interception helped close out the victory.
On the season, the Broncos have forced nine turnovers.
“Our defense is playing really good this year, and I’m just trying to do my part, trying to cover up the receivers and playing my zone,” Miller said. “If I’m playing good and they’re not throwing it my way, it gives the defensive line and linebackers more chances to make plays.”
The Broncos enter today’s game 3-0 and No. 7 in The Associated Press’ Class 5A poll, and Atkinson sees potential for greatness.
“I know what it looks like,” Atkinson said. “There are a lot of coaches that say or want to know what it looks like to go deep in the playoffs, and there are only a handful of coaches that really know what it looks like — and this looks like it. You have to have a defense that is determined to run to the ball fast and have a camaraderie and chemistry to support each other, and you can check the box on all of those.”
The Broncos fumbled on their first offensive play of the game last week against The Colony and yielded a touchdown less than three minutes into the game, but they responded and lead 28-16 at halftime.
The adversity the Broncos have faced and expect against a capable Class 6A squad in Timber Creek is a great learning experience as they close out their nondistrict schedule.
“Every team we’ve played is a quality playoff team,” Atkinson said. “The past few years, we’ve played teams that haven’t made the playoffs. It’s good to get seasoned like that, and of course we want to stay healthy. We want to close out this [nondistrict] season on a positive note.”
Atkinson said ball control and long Denton drives will be needed to keep the Falcons’ passing game in check.
Miller, also one of the Broncos’ top wide receivers, sees room for growth in the Denton offense and wants to get a solid defensive start, after the Broncos gave up the opening touchdown in their last two games.
“At receiver, we want to establish our blocking game, and we’ve been doing a lot of running, so we just want to let teams know we’re not finesse-type receivers,” Miller said. “We’re trying to work on starting out with a jump like we do the second half. Once we get that down, we’ll be really good.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.