BANGS — One victory is in the books for the Bangs Dragons, but the second win could be a more difficult challenge than originally anticipated as the Class 3A Llano Yellowjackets come calling at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the homecoming contest at Memorial Stadium.
The Dragons avenged a 14-13 regular-season ending loss to Clyde last week with a 28-14 triumph, while Llano, coming off a 1-9 campaign a year ago, suffered a narrow 27-26 to Class 3A No. 4 Wimberley — which won the Division II-3A state championship last season with a flawless 15-0 record.
“You hear the score 27-26 and you wonder if Llano is that good or did Wimberley lose a lot of people,” said Bangs head coach Chuck Lipsey, whose team has defeated Llano each of the last two seasons. “That really doesn’t matter, though. Coach (Craig) Slaughter has them playing hard and getting after it and they’re going to be a good test for us.”
Lipsey was pleased with the opening performance from the Dragons, particularly defensively, as Bangs allowed 276 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers — three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Tanner Shaw led Bangs with nine tackles followed by seven each from Josh Truelove and Aaron Keller and six by Trenton Morgan. Truelove also intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble, while Beckwith and Matt Carter pounced on loose balls.
“The defense played good for four quarters,” Lipsey said. “Our linebackers, Beckwith, Truelove, Keller and Shaw, did a great job, Matt Carter and Trenton Morgan covered well and Cameron Deal and Efrayin Guerrero made some big plays at safety.”
Offensively, the Dragons scored all four of their touchdowns in the first half en route to a 256-yard effort that featured 144 yards through the air and 112 on the ground.
J.T. Newton completed 9 of 16 passes for 140 yards with a touchdown, while Deal chipped in a 4-yard scoring toss. Morgan led the rushing attack with 51 yards followed by 43 from Deal and 28 from Beckwith, while Newton chipped in a touchdown. Carter caught three passes for 42 yards, including a pair of touchdowns, while Beckwith also grabbed three receptions covering 14 yards. Deal caught two passes for 39 yards, Keller pulled down a 40-yard reception and Gabe Perez chipped in a 9-yard catch.
“We really got off to a good start offensively and played well the first half,” Lipsey said. “We got a little sloppy in the second half and didn’t sustain a few drives and that was a little frustrating.
“We still have to block better up front, but I felt good about what we did offensively in the game. Deal, Morgan and Beckwith all ran the ball well, J.T. did a good job distributing the ball and every receiver we have had catches, including Carter with the two TDs. But we have to stay balanced offensively between the run and pass and continue to get better up front each week. If we do that, we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
Slaughter has taken over at Llano this year after spending the last couple of seasons at Sweetwater, where he turned the Mustangs into a more competitive program. Though one game does not make a season, Slaughter seems to already be making an impact in Llano.
“Llano was ahead 26-21 with three minutes left and Wimberley came back and scored,” Lipsey said. “I’m sure Wimberley’s not playing the way they were in Week 15 or 16 last year, but they still have a very good ball club.”
The Yellowjackets surrendered 336 yards to Wimberley, but knocked out quarterback Reed Jones in the second quarter after numerous sacks. Matt Center also returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown.
“Defensively they run a 4-3 and don’t blitz or get out of position a lot,” Lipsey said. “They’re very sound at what they do defensively.”
Offensively, Llano is led by quarterback Layton Rabb, Center at receiver and Rhett Brooks in the backfield. The Yellowjackets amassed 283 yards against Wimberley.
“They’ve got a lot of the same players from last year, including that 6-5 quarterback with a good arm. They moved Brooks to running back and have a good receiver in Center. They have a lot of formations, but run five of six main plays and do a lot of high-percentage passing.”
Preventing significant gains on defense are among the keys to a homecoming victory, according to Lipsey.
“We can’t give up big plays,” Lipsey said. “They like to run it, but they’re capable of going over the top with a couple of trick plays. We also have to stop both running backs because they both run hard. We have to play assignment football and get a lot of bodies to the football.”
On the injury front, Lipsey stated the Dragons have a few nagging injuries, but expects the entire roster to suit up Friday.