BANGS — The first half of Bangs’ 50-23 homecoming loss to Llano has haunted head coach Chuck Lipsey for almost an entire week. Now Lipsey and the Dragons will look to put those memories in the past as they embark upon their first road trip of the season.
The Dragons (1-1) will not be facing an easy task, however, as the Goldthwaite Eagles (0-2) are hungry for their first victory after a pair of challenging contests to open their season.
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Eagle Field.
“I take my hat off to Llano, they did a good job of doing what they had to do,” Lipsey said, “but we made a lot of key mistakes. Whatever could go wrong went wrong, and that was very frustrating. We had five turnovers early and against any team, especially a good ball club, it’s hard to rebound from that. Two bad snaps killed us, we fumbled on the 5 going into score and tie it up right off the bat and we had two drops, one for a first down and one for a touchdown. All this happened early in the ball game when we’re trying to keep up with them and all the sudden we’re down 23-0. They didn’t make mistakes, we did, and they made us pay for them.
“Looking at the positives, we played hard for four quarters. We got down, but we kept fighting. Our no-huddle offense worked well but it was all catch up mode and that took us out of our game plan early in the game. We played hard, we could just never get over the hump.”
Goldthwaite, meanwhile, is coming off losses to Class 2A McGregor (42-28) and defending Class A Division I state champion Mason (31-14) — games in which the Eagles had a realistic shot of winning heading into the fourth period. The Eagles are off to their first 0-2 start in nine years.
“Being a young team is part of it,” said Goldthwaite head coach Gary Proffitt after the Mason game.
The Eagles were outscored 14-0 in the final quarter of both games. Against McGregor, the Eagles led by a point at halftime and were deadlocked at 28 heading into the final 12 minutes, while Goldthwaite was down 17-14 before the Punchers iced the game with two late touchdowns.
“I know Goldthwaite’s not happy and they need a win,” Lipsey said. “McGregor was a close game until the fourth quarter and Mason was close until the last five minutes. I know they’re going to play hard and they’re going to get after it.”
The Eagles enter the contest averaging 21 points and 349.5 yards — 243.5 rushing and 106 passing — per outing, while the Goldthwaite defense has yielded 36.5 points and 362 — 200 rushing and 162 passing.
Goldthwaite’s ground attack has been paced by Logan Harper’s 213 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, along with Dakota Perry’s 149 yards and a touchdown on 28 rushes. Through the air, T.R. Jones has connected on 13 of 26 pass attempts for 212 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions, while leading receivers include Taylor Stephens with six receptions for 80 yards and a score, Ryan Wright with three receptions for 63 yards, Eric Chavez with two catches for 42 yards and Harper with a pair of receptions covering 27 yards.
“They block well up front and they have backs that run hard,” Lipsey said. “The key defensively is to make some stops and create some turnovers. They don’t throw the ball a lot, but enough to keep you honest. If you start bringing your safety up in run support they’ll throw the ball over the top of you, so we have to be prepared to stop the run and cover the play action pass.”
Bangs’ defense is surrendering 32 points and 285.5 yards per outing — 158.5 passing and 127 rushing. The Dragons’ linebacking corps of Aaron Keller (27), Tanner Shaw (23), Josh Beckwith (19) and Josh Truelove (18) lead the teams in tackles, while Beckwith, Truelove and Carter have recorded interceptions. Truelove and Shaw have also recovered fumbles.
On the flip side of the ball, the Dragons are generating 25.5 points and 212 total yards — 184.5 passing and 27.5 on the ground.
Quarterback J.T. Newton has completed 24 of 37 passes for 365 yards with four touchdowns, while Cameron Deal has also tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass. Matt Carter has recorded all five of Bangs’ touchdown receptions and leads the team with nine catches for 167 yards. Keller has chipped in five receptions for 94 yards, Gabe Perez and Beckwith have caught three passes each totaling 36 yards and Deal has two receptions for 39 yards.
“We’re going to have to block them up front and that’s one area where we have a couple of injuries and that’s hurting us a little bit,” Lipsey said. “We’ve got to get some kids well and have five of them blocking on every play because we have to control the line of scrimmage. We know we can throw and catch, but we have to establish the running game and we didn’t do that the other night cause we got so far behind. We have to mix the run and the pass, keep them on their heels, execute and not turn the ball over. It wasn’t interceptions that hurt, it was fumbles and the snap. We run a shotgun offense so we have to get the snap back there or J.T. will be running for his life. All those things are fixable though, and we’re going to get better at that.”