Broncos fall in shootout to Rider

Friday night, Denton lost in a shootout to Rider, 51-41. The senior night loss breaks Denton’s two-game winning streak and makes their record 4-5 (2-4 in District 5-4A play) with one game left to play in the season.

After the Raiders went three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, Denton took an early lead with a screen pass to senior Ke’Von Buris, who would take it 70 yards for a touchdown. The Broncos failed on their two-point conversion attempt, however, only taking a six-point lead, which Rider would answer with a touchdown of their own two minutes later. They would not go for two, kicking an extra point to make it 7-6.

Continuing to set a tone of high-scoring offense, the Broncos scored another touchdown, this one coming on a fade to the corner of the end zone to junior Key’andre Hearvey. This time, the two-point conversion was successful, giving Denton a 14-7 lead going into the second quarter.

Rider, taking the ball at their own 20-yard-line, marched down the field in under three minutes, ending the drive on a ten-yard touchdown pass to sophomore T.J. Vasher. Vasher would finish the game with 112 yards on nine receptions.

Not to be outdone, Denton would again respond quickly with a touchdown drive of their own. Junior Christian Rodriguez would again hit Hearvey from ten yards out to make the game 20-14 after another failed two-point conversion attempt. Rodriguez had a brilliant night, going 15-22 (68.2%) and totaling 296 yards and three touchdowns through the air, throwing no interceptions.

Rider senior quarterback Chase London would throw another touchdown pass, this time to junior Cody Taylor for 32 yards. After a successfully executed fake point-after attempt, the Raiders again took the lead back, now up 22-20.

The subsequent Bronco drive would be stopped on the Raiders’ own three-yard-line, giving them a last chance to put points on the scoreboard before halftime. However, London would again lead Rider down the field, the drive ending on a two-yard touchdown run from senior Carlos Fleeks. Taylor would find Vasher for two points with eight seconds left.

Denton would threaten to score in the final seconds on the ensuing kickoff return from senior Maurice Wharton, but Wharton would be stopped after running 49 yards to the Rider 26-yard-line as the clock expired, leaving the score 30-22 going into halftime.

Coming out of the locker room with the ball, Denton went three-and-out. Two plays later, Fleeks was again in the endzone. After the teams exchanged punts, Denton got the ball back with just over a minute left in the third quarter. The drive would make it to the Raiders’ 39-yard-line, but on a 27-yard completion to senior Adarian Harris, Rodriguez would be pummeled by the Rider pass rush. Rodriguez left the game and would not return.

Senior Cy Ward, who normally rotates in and out at quarterback with Rodriguez, had only played for one possession of the game before the injury, but was forced to take over full-time. A few plays later, a nine-yard run from senior Deavonte Doucet made the game 37-27.

Rider would score another touchdown on their next drive. The second play of the Broncos’ ensuing drive was an easy, looping interception caught by senior Josh Price, who returned it 21 yards to set up an easy Rider touchdown a few plays later.

Now down 51-27 with just six minutes left, the Broncos attempted to at least catch up, getting a good start with another screen to Buris that would go 90 yards.

Senior Michael Husbands would recover a Price fumble on Rider’s next drive, and three-and-a-half minutes later Ward would throw a three-yard touchdown pass to Harris. However, with just 30 seconds left, it was too little, too late.

“We just didn’t quite have enough,” head coach Kevin Atkinson said. “We didn’t make enough plays, and they made every play.”

Denton’s receivers finished with 513 yards and five touchdowns. Burris alone had eight catches for 279 yards to go with his two touchdowns.

“I thought they played exceptional[ly],” Atkinson said.

With 7-2 (4-2) Byron Nelson having defeated Azle, 41-17, the Broncos are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Denton is now playing for is their first winning season since 2003.

“The culture’s changing; the program’s changing; and it’s very evident in the way our kids played tonight,” Atkinson said. “We didn’t win on the scoreboard, but our program is winning, because we’re setting a tone, and we’re doing things the way we need to be doing them.”