The 6-foot-3, 170-pound senior has always wanted to be one of Hillgrove’s go-to wide receivers. After two games of the 2013 season, he’s already showing that he can be the most dependent target for quarterback Elijah Ironside.
Denton got repetitions last season as a junior, but he was often overshadowed by Evan Engram, now a tight end at Mississippi. Now, Denton is doing what Engram often did — finding ways to get open.
In two games this season, Denton has already surpassed his total from the entire 2012 season, with 216 yards on 15 catches, and he also has five touchdowns to show for. A year ago, he had just 179 yards and one touchdown.
“He’s really coming into his own,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. “He’s not the fastest guy, but he has a natural catching ability and can get into position. He’s a great route runner.”
Denton had three first-half touchdowns in Hillgrove’s 26-6 win over Westlake in last week’s season opener. It was Denton’s touchdowns that helped the Hawks build an early lead that they sustained.
On Friday, in Hillgrove’s 47-35 win over Walton in the “Battle of I-75” showcase at McEachern, Denton finished with 142 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also played a major role in thwarting a Walton comeback attempt.
Both of Denton’s touchdowns came in the fourth quarter. He caught a 14-yarder early in the period to keep the Hawks ahead, and then caught a 64-yarder for a score after Walton answered back.
“I’m a little surprised,” Denton said of his strong start. “I kind of expected it, as well, from the way we’ve been working all summer. We’ve all been working together (as a team), and I’m proud of everybody.”
So far, the communication between Denton and Elijah Ironside has been impeccable. They worked together all throughout the offseason, learning routes and playing in 7-on-7 tournaments together.
The two have played football together since the sixth grade, and they have firm understandings of Hillgrove’s up-tempo spread offense.
“Now, I know what routes he will run,” the younger Ironside said.
Denton spends ample time in the film room as well, studying opposing secondaries and figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of each defender, especially ones who could potentially guard him.
While Denton isn’t likely to blow away opposing cornerbacks with his speed — he runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash —he has a knack of knowing where the cornerbacks aren’t going to be.
When he’s on the field, Denton said he’s most comfortable in the red zone, and he has good hands. And when he’s on the same page with his quarterback, the more effective he is.
With eight more regular-season games still to go, it’s now up to Denton and fellow receivers Omar Black, Richard Hallman and Richardre Bagley to keep the scoreboard lit up.
“We’re getting the ball in our hands and making plays when we get the opportunity,” Denton said. “We’re believing in the system and getting everyone on board. I learned a lot from Omar and learned a lot from Evan. We’ve got guys learning from us so they can keep this program going.”