Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Denison beats Sherman in Battle of the Ax
SHERMAN -- D. J. Jones rushed for 287 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns as Denison defeated Sherman, 34-17, in District 9-4A action Friday night at Bearcat Stadium to claim the district championship in the 110th Battle of the Ax.
Jones, who went over 2,000 yards rushing for the season, had touchdown runs of 75 and 50 yards and returned the opening kickoff of the second half 79 yards for a touchdown for Denison (10-0, 7-0), which has won five of the last six meetings.
Madison Carter and Waymon James had touchdowns runs for Sherman (8-2, 6-1) and Abo Ahmed-Mahmood kicked a 38-yard field goal.
Denison 34, Sherman 17
Denison 0 9 14 10 - 34
Sherman 0 10 0 7 - 17
S - Madison Carter 23 run (Abo Ahmed-Mahmood kick), 11:43
S - Ahmed-Mahmood 38 field goal, 5:07
D - D.J. Jones 75 run (Hudson Milford pass failed), 4:49
D - Jacob Powell 39 field goal, 0:09
D - Jones 79 kickoff return (Cody Reeves run failed), 11:48
D - Jones 50 run (Jordan Taylor run), 8:17
S - Waymon James 6 run (Ahmed-Mahmood kick), 9:33
D - Taylor 11 run (Taylor run) 6:32
D - Powell 38 field goal, 1:08
Stats Sherman Denison
First downs 16 20
Rushes-yards 35-68 34-307
Passing yards 180 35
C-A-I 17-29-1 5-7-0
Punts-average 5-201 2-79
Penalties-yards 2-10 2-30
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Rushing -- Sherman: Waymon James 16-60, Madison Carter 17-8, Zac Whitfield 1-(-3), Kirk Thomas 1-3. Denison: D.J. Jones 21-287, Jordan Taylor 12-26, Hudson Milford 1-(-6).
Passing -- Sherman: Madison Carter 17-29-1 180. Denison: Jordan Taylor 5-7-0 35.
Receiving -- Sherman: Greg Jackson 5-39, Waymon James 4-26, Kirk Thomas 3-53, Geoff Hooker 2-29, John Welborn 2-23, Zac Whitfield 1-10. Denison: Devin Jackson 1-5, Jimmay Mundine 1-9, Hudson Milford 3-21.
Yellow Jackets defense.
BY Jason Della Rosa
They have been overlooked for most of the season, those 11 Yellow Jackets that aren't designed to touch the ball unless it's on interceptions and fumble recoveries.
It's not because they haven't been good at what they do -- holding seven opponents, including the last five, to 17 points less is a feat many defenses in this point-happy world would gladly take.
But Denison has rarely needed its defense to win. The Yellow Jacket offense became the highest-scoring unit in program history for the regular season following a 34-17 victory over Sherman in the 110th Battle of the Ax, a final point total that was the lowest output of the season.
In the midst all the extra bullet points -- the 10-0 record, the district championship, the fifth time in six years to take home the Ax-- it was an effort by the defense that made the difference.
"Everything about it is so overwhelming," said senior cornerback Aston Hughes, who closed out the game with an interception in the end zone. "We overcame the craziness, the loudness and played our hearts out."
The hype that surrounded the final game in District 9-4A -- the first time since 1997 that Sherman and Denison would decide who won the district title -- was supposed to be all about the offenses. Both defenses were afterthoughts.
"I think people didn't give them a lot of credit," Denison head coach Cody White said. "They've been outstanding except for the first half against McKinney and people have dwelled on that and dwelled on that."
Giving up 43 points in a half can be alarming, but the overall tone of the Denison defense has changed. Two years ago it gave up the most points ever. Last season that number decreased by several touchdowns. This year the point differential was down nearly 150 more.
It was still tough to get attention. Running back D.J. Jones has put together the greatest regular season by a Denison running back --2,200-plus yards and 34 touchdowns -- and the offense went into the Battle of the Ax averaging 49 points per game. The back-to-back shutouts, which happened for the first time in 11 seasons, came in games where the offense scored a combined 119 points.
"They kept saying it was going to be back and forth, back and forth," senior linebacker Brandon Jeffery said. "We wanted to put our stamp on it."
In order to do that they would tangle with a running back who has given them fits the previous two years. Waymon James has had two of the best games in his career against the Yellow Jackets, including a 285-yard, four-touchdown contest in the 2006 contest that remains his zenith -- the only time since 2002 Sherman has won.
"He's a hoss," White said. "It takes more than one to bring him down. You saw that."
Last season James had "only" 182 yards and three touchdowns but Denison slowed him down enough to pull off an improbable comeback. No one, however, expected what occurred Friday night to actually happen.
"Our kids executed what they had to. What can you say about them?
They played their hearts out," defensive coordinator Zack Smith said.
"Any time you play a great back like him you have to gang tackle him.
All 11 hats to the ball." James had the third-worst outing of his 29-game career, held to 60 yards on 16 carries. He hadn't finished with less than 100 yards all season and only last year against Rider -- 44 yards on 14 carries --and as a sophomore against Greenville -- 48 yards on 12 carries -- were lower totals.
"When you hit him one yard deep and he runs for six yards, that's what I see," Smith said. "I don't see us stoning him every time."
When asked what he thought James had finished with, Jeffery kept counting backward, not believing he had to keep going.
"One hundred fifty? 120? 98? Seventy-something?"
James' longest run of nine yards came on the third to last play of the game and half of his carries were for fewer than five yards. He had just 21 yards on eight first-half carries as Sherman went to the locker room with a 10-9 lead. It was a staggering contrast to Jones, who was racing all around the field finishing with 291 yards on 22 carries, including three total touchdowns.
At the start of the second half, when James didn't touch the ball except for a pair of catches on long-yardage situations during Sherman's first 11 plays, Bearcat fans began chanting, "Where is Waymon?" Denison had the answer -- he was usually under a pile of Yellow Jackets.
Watching their own back run wild gave Denison's defense no cause for celebration with the second half to be played.
"We knew at any time they could break out and score," Hughes said.
"Just wrap him up and don't let go. Tackling drills paid off."
The win may be costly for the Jackets, who lost two defensive starters due to injury.
Linebacker Stacy Golston hurt his knee when Madison Carter scored on the second play of the second quarter. Later cornerback Cody Reeves landed awkwardly on his right shoulder diving for an interception along the Sherman sideline.
A pair of juniors stepped in seamlessly -- Aaron Crawford for Golston and Christian Herd for Reeves.
"We preach that to our guys all the time," Smith said. "As a backup you're only one snap away."
Quarterback was a position where Denison had been missing its starter for more than a month. But Jordan Taylor returned from a broken collarbone and had both stands holding their breath -- Sherman due to the 19-point comeback he orchestrated last year and Denison because of the potential for another injury that could impact the playoffs.
The one most nervous was the one you would expect.
"Very," said his mother, Karen. "Every time he got hit I was hiding. I didn't feel better until he looked more comfortable."
The defense helped out its quarterback early on as Denison's gained just 52 yards on its first three drives, including a fumble by Taylor.
It was a rocky start even for the special teams as the Jackets were forced to call time-out or take a delay of game when Jacob Powell lined up the opening kickoff."He couldn't hear the whistle blow," White said. "We don't break the huddle until the whistle blows. He didn't hear it and the clock started."
The seconds started melting away and after a scoreless first quarter it became apparent that fireworks weren't in the cards. And while it took the offense more than a half to find its groove, the defense was on point from the start, helping earn the program's 25th district title and sixth undefeated regular season.
"I think as a staff we believe we're going to win every game," White said. I don't know if that's realistic or not. It is now."
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I REALLY MISS ABOUT LIVING IN TEXAS IS THAT I CAN NOT FOLLOW MY HIGH SCHOOL, DENISON TEXAS YELLOW JACKETS, FOOTBALL. SHERMAN IS THE MAIN RIVAL OF DENISON AND EVERY YEAR THE PLAY FOR AN AXE TROPHY. THE GAME IS CALLED THE BATTLE OF THE AXE AND IT HAS BEN PLAYED 110 TIMES NOW. IT IS THE LONGEST HIGH SCHOOL STATE FOOTBALL RIVALRY IN TEXAS AND I HAVE SEEN A FEW OF THE GAMES LIVE AND EVEN GOT TO SIT ON THE SIDELINES FOR 1 GAME BACK IN 1983.
THEY ARE NOW 10-0 AND ARE GOING TO THE STATE PLAYOFFS. GO JACKETS AND WIN STATE BABY!!!!