Ennis menaces Denison to open playoffs

Lions put up big numbers at home to set up Hachie grudge match with Mansfield Timberview

Don Hullett
Daily Light correspondent
Ennis' T.T. Cox (17) directs a yellow stream of Denison pursuers into the end zone on an 88-yard pass reception from Jackson Gilkey during Friday night's Class 5A Division II playoff action at Lion Memorial Stadium. The Lions advanced with a 47-25 victory.

ENNIS — The Denison Yellow Jackets had 2 big struggles ahead of them last Friday night when they opened the playoffs on the road and at Ennis’ home Lion Memorial Stadium.

First, the Yellow Jackets had to defeat the Friday afternoon traffic coming through the heart of Dallas in rush hour traffic, and they won that battle. The game was another story altogether. Denison came out strong but faded late, and the Lions rolled into the area round of the 5A Division II playoffs with a 47-25 victory.

Denison was coming into the game as the fourth place team in District 7-5A and that alone was nothing to be ashamed of as they play in one of the toughest, most competitive districts in Texas. The Yellow Jackets had plenty of leadership as they suited up 31 seniors, they had a once-every-20-year running back in the person of Jadarian Price, and that, combined with a tough defense, had given Denison much hope coming into the game.

The Jackets took the opening kick off and maneuvered their way down the field quickly, as they went with a no huddle set which might have caught the Lions a little surprised. The impressive drive, however, bogged down and they were forced to attempt a 20-yard field goal that was good, as Logan Voight split the up rights, making the score 3-0 with over half the opening quarter to be played.

Then the Lions took the ensuing kickoff and had a drive of their own. Starting out on their own 34, EHS drove 76 yards in 12 plays with senior running back Dee Johnson slipping in from 3 yards out. Eric Acosta added the extra point to make it 7-3.

The second quarter started with Denison having 2 drives that stalled and they were forced to punt. Ennis was able to capitalize on one punt when Ashton Ehly returned the kick for a touchdown for the second time in 2 weeks, when he serpentined his way into the end zone from 67 yards. Acosta missed the PAT to make it 13-3.

Ennis had another drive that was stalled when the Lions could not convert on a fourth down play. Denison once again was forced to punt and the Lions took advantage of the Jackets’ offensive funk. EHS set up with a fresh set of downs from their own 28-yard line and drove the length of the field in 9 plays, that culminated when Jackson Gilkey pinpointed freshman Gracen Harris from 31 yards out. Ennis tried a 2-point play, but it was smothered, and the first half ended with Ennis on top, 19-3.

The Lions received the second half kick and their offense was clicking again, as they rumbled 88 yards in 4 plays with Johnson taking care of the last 80 yards with a run up the gut in which he eluded the defense, and was only touched when his teammates swarmed him along the home sideline after the score. This time, Allan Hernandez tacked on the extra point to make it 26-3.

On the next Denison possession, they coughed up the ball, but E-town was unable to move and had to punt the ball back to the visitors. Thereafter, the Yellow Jackets marched 60 yards in 10 plays and Price powered in from the 1-yard line, and with the Voight kick, the score was now 26-10.

EHS could not move the ball after the kick off and punted it back to the now energized visiting team, as Denison took 8 plays to move 72 yards with Price taking the hand off and out-running the Lion defenders from 48 yards out. With the 2-point conversion, the Jackets were now within a touchdown, as the new scoreboard showed 26-19.

Ennis had seen this type of a late push before from other teams this season, and they answered it the exact same way, with a 3-play touchdown drive to close out the third period, when Gilkey hit senior WR T.T Cox with a swing pass. Cox did the rest and he sprinted away from defenders for an 88-yard touchdown, with Hernandez making the point-after, so the cushion was restored at 33-19.

After the Jackets missed an attempted field goal, the Lions drove 73 yards in 3 plays and Cox added his second TD for the night. This time, he cruised in from 67 yards out. And once again, the extra point was provided by Hernandez to make the score 40-19.

Denison had one more drive in it as it plodded down the field in 7 snaps that covered 52 yards and Jack Aleman ended the Jackets’ scoring for their season from 4 yards out. Voight’s kick was again true and it was now 40-25.

Ennis ended the game by driving 51 yards on 11 plays, as Gilkey scampered in from 8 yards out. The Hernandez PAT was good.

The Lions were paced by Gilkey going 12 of 15 for 311 yards and 2 TDs and no picks. Johnson was the EHS leading rusher with 19 carries for 142 yards and 2 TDs, and added another 5 catches for 101 yards. Cox also had 2 receptions for 131 yards and 1 TD, and pitched in 2 carries for 71 yards and 1 rushing TD. Harris had 4 for 51 yards and a TD, and Simmons had a catch for 28 yards.

The Lions (11-0) now move into the area round and will face Mansfield Timberview (7-4). The game will be played at Lumpkins Stadium in Waxahachie on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. The Lions are designated as the home team. Remember: Timberview is the team that ended Ennis’ season early last year.