Game Recap -- Sherman at Denison by Jason Della Rosa
So it's good that we settled all that last week right? After a season-long battle between local warring factions, Denison and Sherman finally played each other to determine who had the better team. The Jackets came away with the 43-28 victory and maintained their recent stranglehold on the Ax -- I point this out as mere coincidence but I have covered seven Battles of the Ax and Denison has won six. Just saying. -- and captured the District 9-4A title in the process, the program's second straight district title and fifth in the last seven years. The regular season is over. Bring on the playoffs.
It was over when -- Denison scored with 10 seconds left before half-time. After the Jackets scored with 1:44 left in the second quarter, the Denison defense forced a three-and-out by Sherman and, using its time-outs, got the ball back at its 31 with 51 seconds left. Jordan Taylor finished off the drive with a five-yard run to make it 29-7 at the half and deflate a lot of Bearcats' spirits. Without that late touchdown, Sherman was going to get the ball at the start of the third quarter with a chance to make it an eight-point game.
It was really over when -- Taylor scored his final touchdown of the night, a 25-yard run where he followed a kickout block to the left and burned everyone to the end zone with 2:26 left in the third quarter for a 36-14 lead. Taylor capped the nine-play drive to answer Sherman's opening possession of the second-half that was a touchdown. The key play came when he hit Jimmay Mundine for 25 yards on third and seven at the Sherman 40.
Player of the Game -- Another outstanding performance for Taylor. As I wrote in my story this week, the senior QB burst onto the scene in the Battle of the Ax two years ago when he led a stirring comeback victory as a sophomore. He didn't do a lot of the heavy lifting last year but was the main man in his last home game. Taylor ran for 175 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries and completed 13-of-15 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. From a statistical standpoint, he is the best quarterback in school history -- holding the six records for touchdowns and yards in a game, season and career. His rushing numbers are pretty good too. He's 3-0 against Sherman and the only thing Erick Harper has on him is a state title. Six weeks from now, that might not be the case.
Play of the Game -- Hayden Chapman recovered a Sherman fumble at the Denison eight-yard line. Holding a 7-0 lead, Denison was on its heels as the Bearcats were putting together their best drive to that point. On third-and-two from the Jacket 11, Madison Carter got past the line of scrimmage to the right and probably had the first down. But as he was getting hit he tried to pitch the ball to Zac Whitfield. The ball was right at Whitfield's feet and Chapman dove on it. Instead of tying the game, Sherman was still behind. And even though Denison had to punt three plays later, the eventual exchange in field position allowed Denison to go up by two scores and maintain a lead for all but the first 4:14 of the game. (Honorable mention goes to a play that won't get its due because a third of it was wiped out by a penalty. Kyle Galyon had one of the best catch-and-runs you will see for what would have been a 69-yard touchdown on the drive right before half-time. A penalty called it back to make it only a 44-yard gain but the moves he made downfield are worthy of a mention.)
The good -- Another strong first half offensively. The Jackets scored on four of six drives and had 304 yards in the opening two quarters. The balance between the pass and run is almost 50-50. Late in the game Taylor had thrown for 147 yards and ran for 146, numbers like that make it tough to game-plan against one facet of the game or the other. Reeves had a 78-yard punt, albeit helped by the wind and a good bounce, but he essentially kicked from his own end zone and Sherman started the drive at its own two. The defensive pressure on Carter was very, very good. Sherman's senior signal-caller was never able to really get comfortable and 132 of his 188 yards came in the fourth quarter as the Bearcats tried to play catch-up down 43-14. He was sacked three times and had 22 yards on 13 carries. From a running standpoint, Denison allowed 70 yards on three carries by Whitfield and then 82 on the other 29. Knowing that Sherman had to onside kick after its first fourth-quarter score, Denison faced its first true onside attempt against them this year and Jared Mitchell came away with the ball.
The bad -- Well there was the 44-yard kickoff return by Nathan James to set up Sherman's first touchdown. And then there was the 12 penalties for 140 yards. But I mention those only briefly because they end up in this section every week. Outside of that duo you can't be upset when you hold a four-touchdown lead on your rival with eight minutes left in the game.
District dish -- The 111th Battle of the Ax and the 9-4A title went Denison, which meant that Sherman took second place. McKinney picked up a 35-14 victory over Frisco Liberty, which put the Lions into the playoffs even though Frisco Wakeland defeated McKinney North 43-25. McKinney, Liberty and Wakeland all tied for third but Wakeland lost out on the tie-breaker. The other game in district play was Frisco Centennial's 70-47 victory over Frisco. Playoff-wise, Denison is the top seed in Division II and faces Richardson Pearce at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco. Liberty is the second seed in Division II and will face Rockwall-Heath. Sherman is the top seed in Division I and plays Carrollton Newman Smith at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Clark Stadium in Plano. McKinney is the second seed in Division I and faces Highland Park. Starting next week this space will become a Division II Region II breakdown.
Stinging stats of the week -- It was the 10th straight win at Munson Stadium...The victory was the third straight for Denison in the Battle of the Ax, tying for the second-longest streak by the Jackets in the series, which has been done six times. The best streak is four from 1945-48...The 121 points in the three wins is the best point production against in a three-game stretch vs. Sherman, as is the 165 over the past four Ax games...Denison has won six of the last seven against Sherman, which ties for the best stretch in school history, matching a run from 1942-1948...It was Denison's 15th straight district victory, which is the second-longest streak in school history behind only a 17-game stretch from 1994-98...The Jackets now have 21 wins over the last two seasons, the sixth time that has happened in school history. The others are 1984-85, 1995-96 and 1996-97 (29), 1994-95 (25), 1997-98 (21)...Denison had its streak of rushing for 300 yards in a game snapped at five after finishing with 272...Mundine has caught at least three passes in every game this season. He is two touchdown catches from setting the single-season mark, Warren Dade had 13 in 1990. The 12 touchdowns are tied for second in a career. His 767 yards this season is the third-best season total, his 40 catches this year ties for second-most in a season...The 109 yards gave Jones more than 1,500 yards this season, making him the third Jacket with a pair of 1,500-yard years along with Chris and Corey Robertson...Jones now has 4,764 yards, which is 455 yards from surpassing Corey Robertson for the top spot...It was Jones' 23nd 100-yard game, which is four from passing Corey Robertson's school mark...Reeves needs 14 catches to pass Dade as the school's all-time leader in receptions. His 27-yard TD catch made him the third Yellow Jacket with 1,000 career receiving yards...The touchdown pass to Reeves gave Taylor the school record for passing yards in a season. He now has 1,505, breaking the old mark of 1,370 held by Eric Chavez set in 2007...Denison has gone three games -- 153 plays -- without a turnover...It was Cody White's 25th victory at Denison (and overall), making him the seventh Jacket head coach to do so...Aaron Morrison had 12 tackles (six solo)...Ty Carter had eight tackles (five solo)...Mundine added two sacks...Reeves made six solo tackles.