Burkhead: It's still great to be a Yellow Jacket

By: Lynn Burkhead
It's the Yellow Jackets Football Game 9 Blog...by Lynn Burkhead, exclusively on mySherDenBuzz.com! Each week, Jackets play-by-play voice Lynn Burkhead will have a writeup on the game, breaking down what happened on the field and what it means moving forward. This week, Lynn shares his in-depth analysis of the Jackets' 39-0 loss to Sherman in the Battle of the Axe and explains that, despite the defeat to the 'Cats, it's still great to be a Yellow Jacket!Special thanks to Katy Country, 93.1 FM.


It's Still Great ...

Yellow Jackets Football.jpgOn perhaps the toughest night in what may very well be the Yellow Jackets toughest season, one of Denison's grittiest players, senior linebacker John Cazelle roared into the middle of a play to make a tackle.
Nothing unusual there since he is the Jackets' leading tackler.
But in the process, a pounding hit occurred that put Cazelle on the ground in a total daze.
Normally, this likable young man is quick to pop up after a hit, a hit that he is usually on the delivering end of.
But not this time.
On a night when the inclement weather seemed to match the mood of the home crowd in the 112th Battle of the Axe, Cazelle stayed on the ground.
Down for the count - and perhaps out for the season - thanks to a concussion.
A few minutes later, a noticeably woozy Cazelle stumbled his way to the bench with the help of medical personnel as a quiet crowd looked on.
Against his sizable gridiron will, Cazelle was suddenly out of the picture trying to help his Denison teammates find a win against the neighbors from the south.
At first glance, it was far too easy to sigh, to grumble, and to complain that this play, this game, this season, is one better forgotten.
An uncustomary Yellow Jackets' season that stands in stark contrast to the end-zone board of glittering Denison football success earned in recent years gone by.
Certainly, fate hasn't been kind to the Yellow Jackets this season.
A loss of 18 starters to graduation a year ago put Denison behind the eight-ball early in the year with plenty of youthful inexperience.
A very difficult schedule awaited those new faces, with powerful foes like Kennedale, Frisco Liberty, and Belle Glade Central awaiting.
District 13-4A play brought even more tough foes like Texas High and Sulphur Springs.
In an increasingly disappointing year that has slowly drained a lot of optimism from even the Jackets' most stalwart fans, even supposed "gimme-wins" have turned out far differently than local fans had hoped for.
As head coach Cody White has alluded to on an almost weekly basis, the reasons for this year's abrupt turnaround from last year's 13-2 semi-final campaign are easy enough to pinpoint: less overall talent than in previous years; a killer schedule; a rash of concussions and injuries; turnovers; and at times, just bad luck.
In Friday night's 39-0 shutout loss to Sherman, the reason for that result was because quite simply, the Bearcats are the better team this year.
That's something that the Cats demonstrated from the opening kickoff, on through the lightning and the rain, and all the way to the game's end.
As White said to our sideline reporter Vince Collins at half-time and after the game's conclusion, Denison was hurt by the fact that they were never able to gain control of the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball.
Offensively, managing to get just two first downs in the first quarter and three more first downs in the fourth quarter, the Jacket O never seriously threatened to score. That limited offensive production resulted in the first shut-out loss that Denison has suffered to their arch-rivals since a 21-0 loss in Sherman back in 1994.
(Editor's Note: For what it's worth, in that 1994 game state ranked Denison came into slippery Bearcat Stadium after a week of extremely heavy rains. The Bearcats, also state ranked, were able to grind out some tough yards on the almost unplayable quagmire of a field. An early touchdown separated the teams for most of the game before two later Sherman scores put the game away for good. Bob Brown's squad, which finished the regular season at 9-1, relied on a speedy running game and never could get untracked.)
Last Friday night, on the defensive side of the ball, Denison was able to somewhat hold the aerial circus of Sherman quarterback Thor Long and standout wide-receiver Nathan James in check by taking the deep pass away much of the game.
But that left ample running room underneath, something that Gary Kinne's Bearcats squad exploited, especially behind the running of Long.
Combined with the stop-and-start nature of the game thanks to the weather and the bottom line last Friday night was that Denison was never able to move the ball consistently; to stop Sherman consistently; or to even sink their teeth into the flow of the game.
As the gloomy night wore on, it became apparent to all at some point that there would be no heroic 19-point comeback this time. On this occasion, the Jackets would fall to their arch rivals for the first time in three years and only the second time in eight seasons.
Somewhere in the mix, the frightening moment when Cazelle went down to the turf occurred.
In the moments that followed, what matters most in this difficult season shone through the damp darkness.
Things like hope, faith, and admiration, all displayed as the remaining fans quietly prayed that Cazelle would be ok and then applauded as he made his way to the sideline.
Other things like camaraderie, playing together as a team, and covering each other’s back. Those traits were displayed as the fog slowly cleared from Cazelle - who sat with a towel over his head - as a steady parade of teammates came by, clasped his hand, and mumbled words of encouragement.
And finally, as the game ended, control of the Axe was relinquished to the visitors from down south, and the home crowd dispersed, another bit of knowledge stood clear.
And that was the iconic words coined by Marty Criswell a quarter century ago when he and a group of players finally got it all turned around in Denison.
A phrase that has inspired Denison children, adults, players, and coaches for more than two decades now.
"It's Great to be a Yellow Jacket!"
Even in defeat.

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