Penalties and the loss of a couple of key players hurt the Greenville Lions in a 34-27 loss to Denison in the District 7-5A-II football opener on Friday night at T.A. “Cotton” Ford Stadium.
The Lions were penalized 12 times for 111 yards and had a 70-yard touchdown run by Micah Simpson called back because of a penalty. Two more big plays to the goal line by Simpson were also brought back in the first half by penalties, including a 28-yard pass from Simpson to JaQuaylyn Davis and 38-yard run by Simpson.
Greenville lost big yardage to holding penalties and a couple of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
“Those kids from Denison never stopped us without them calling a penalty on us,” said Lions coach Darren Duke.
Denison was penalized nine times for 80 yards.
The Lions also lost their punter-placekicker Archer Odeneal to an injury early in the game and then his replacement Andrew Molina-Ibarra following an ejection. Without a placekicker, the Lions had to go for two points following one touchdown and Edwin Garcia was called on to try his first varsity punt: booting a 35-yarder.
“I thought we played hard,” said Duke. “I thought we had chances to win the game. We were out of a kicker and punter by the end of the game. We at least got a punt away.”
Simpson, who two weeks ago was the Class 5A state player of the week after rushing for 444 yards and six touchdowns in a win over Frisco Liberty, ran for a game-high 188 yards on 22 carries. He scored on runs of 48 and 58 yards. Simpson would have been close to the 300-yard mark had two big runs not been called back.
Simpson was also 4-of-8 passing for 110 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Davis, who finished with three catches for 69 yards.
“He made some plays,” said Duke.
Kamron Neal scored the Lions’ first touchdown on a 76-yard run and finished with 83 yards on just four carries.
“Kam had a couple of really nice runs,” said Duke.
Denison, which improved to 3-1 for the season, outgained the Lions 469-389 in total yardage. The visiting Yellow Jackets ran for 317 yards as Jack Aleman dashed for 153 yards on 23 carries, scoring on runs of 3, 13 and 1 yard.
“We didn’t get the run stopped in the second half once they got to it,” said Duke.
Denison quarterback Josh Kurtenbach ran for 44 yards on 12 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run and was 9-of-15 passing for 152 yards.
Kyson Lusane of Denison ran 44 yards for the winning touchdown with 11:06 remaining on a reverse.
The Lions couldn’t score on their two ensuing possessions. They lost a fumble at their 15 but got it back at the 18 on the next play following a fumble recovery by the Lions’ Richard Medina.
The Lions then drove to the Denison 29 but Denison’s defense forced two incompletions to stop the drive.
Denison then ran the final 5:29 off the clock.
The Lions, now 1-2 for the season, are to resume district play on Friday at Princeton, which is 1-3 for the season and 0-1 in district play following a 14-10 loss to Mesquite Poteet.