Broncos rally comes up short in season finale

Friday at Northwest ISD Stadium in Justin, the Broncos fell just short of their first .500 season in ten years, losing 28-21 to playoff-bound Byron Nelson.

With the defeat, Denton closes the season on a two-game losing streak and an overall record of 4-6 on the season.

The night began with Nelson failing to take advantage of a 40-yard kick return, punting after going three-and-out. Denton would travel 78 yards, ending the drive with a one-yard touchdown run by senior Deavonte Doucet.

Byron Nelson responded 4:30 later with a touchdown of their own, a 19-yard completion to senior fullback Hayden Sanders. A personal foul at the end of the play moved the ensuing kickoff to the Denton 45-yard-line, forcing the Broncos to take the ball from deep within their own territory before punting.

The Bobcats would score again with a pass to Sanders, this time from 18 yards out. The rest of the quarter went by quickly and without any more scoring, the Bobcats taking a 14-7 lead into the locker room. The Denton offense only managed 114 yards, including just 30 through the air.

The second half began disastrously for the Broncos, with senior Maurice Wharton fumbling the kickoff. However, it would go without consequence, as Byron Nelson would fail to manage much of anything.

Senior Parker McCabe missed on a field goal from 32 yards, giving the ball back to Denton at the 20. However, the teams would exchange punts until the Broncos failed to convert on fourth-and-inches from their own 49-yard-line, giving Byron Nelson the ball back with good field position. Just six plays later, the Bobcats would extend its lead to 14 with a one-yard touchdown run by senior Jordan Ortiz.

Denton would punt, but got a new start to the drive, as it was muffed; senior Kyle Hubbert recovered. However, the Broncos would again turn the ball over on downs at the Bobcats’ 31-yard-line.

It would not take long for the Bobcats to put even more points on the board. Ortiz would break a forty-four yard run that set up a third touchdown pass to Sanders. Down three touchdowns, it appeared that all Denton could do with eight minutes left is play for pride.

“It looked pretty bleak for a long time,” head coach Kevin Atkinson said. “We couldn’t get things going. We were out of synch offensively, they kind of manhandled us up front, we couldn’t get the running game started.… There was a chance to fold.”

Senior quarterback Cy Ward would lead a 69-yard drive in which he completed four of seven passes for 58 yards. Sophomore Xavier Scott punched it in from a yard out, cutting the Bobcat lead to 14.

Denton junior Juan Campos would recover the ensuing onside kick. Five plays later came a 28-yard touchdown pass from Ward to junior Key’andre Hearvey. Down seven with 2:51 remaining, overtime, if not outright victory, seemed within Denton’s reach.

The next onside kick was narrowly missed by senior kicker Michael Husbands, but the Bobcats quickly went three-and-out, leaving Denton with one timeout remaining. A poor punt gave the Bronco offense the ball back at their own 34-yard-line just 26 seconds after scoring.

After a penalty, a short pass, and a sack, it was fourth and 14 with a minute and 28 seconds remaining. Ward dropped back and threw a laser to a double-covered Hearvey, who was running a fade. The junior hauled in the pass and was brought down at the Bobcats’ 23-yard-line after a 47-yard gain. Byron Nelson would take a timeout with 1:20 left.

On first down, Ward almost had Hearvey over the middle again, but it was deflected by a Bobcat defender. The next play, Ward threw another well-placed pass, this one to senior Ke’Von Buris in the corner of the endzone, but Buris lost control of the ball upon reaching the ground. On third down, Ward was sacked.

Hurrying to the line with less than a minute left and needing 18 yards just for a first down, let alone a tie game, the Broncos’ night would end with Ward being flushed out of the pocket and being stopped after a three-yard gain. The Bobcats took a knee to end the game having barely escaping with a win.

While it proved to be for naught, the attempted comeback at the end of the game showed resilience uncharacteristic of the Denton program the past few years.

“I’ve seen the fight in them,” Hearvey said. “I saw that they really wanted this win. And it’s sad that we didn’t get it, because… we worked so hard to get it, and we came up short.”

The Denton defense proved its worth, allowing only 264 total yards in the game.

“They were phenomenal,” Atkinson said. “We went three-and-out a lot. We didn’t give them any rest; they took a lot of snaps. Hats off to our defensive coaches, and our kids over there, because they could have folded.”