BANGS — Since opening the season with a two-touchdown victory, the Bangs Dragons have followed with a pair of ugly losses. With District 3-2A Division I action slated to begin in a week, Bangs head coach Chuck Lipsey wants to see the Dragons return to opening week form as they visit the Coleman Bluecats at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the non-district finale.
Bangs (1-2) is coming off consecutive losses to Class 3A Llano, 50-23, and Class A Goldthwaite, 47-14, both of which featured a plethora of first-half mistakes by the Dragons.
Against Goldthwaite, after surrendering a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, the Dragons’ first possession stalled and a snap over the punter’s head was recovered at the Bangs 1, which led to a Goldthwaite touchdown and a quick 14-point advantage. The Dragons also turned the ball over twice going into score on bad snap exchanges.
“We’ve given up 40 points in two ball games because of snaps to the quarterback or snaps to the punter,” Lipsey said. “It’s hard to comeback on teams when you have problems like that. It’s not that people are stopping us so much as we are stopping ourselves. We’re not executing and that’s leading to short fields and the defense having to be on the field a lot.”
The Dragons have used four centers the last two weeks, but starter Jacob Beckwith will be back in the lineup Friday night, which Lipsey hopes remedies the offensive issues. Also, linebacker Tanner Shaw is expected to return to action, as well.
“When it’s 50-23 or 47-14, those are not fun games to be in,” Lipsey said. “We’re getting a few people back who haven’t played, so that’s going to help us out. We’re 1-2 and we’d love to be sitting at 3-0, but we still did some good things and the kids still have a good attitude. The skill kids are where they need to be, but we still need to shore up the offensive line and get the quarterback-center exchange handled. Defensively, we still have areas to fix, but it will help getting those two guys back.”
While the Dragons are in the midst of a two-game skid, the Bluecats (1-2) snapped their season-opening two-game drought with a 34-0 victory at Early last week. Coleman had scored just eight points in its previous two games before lighting up the scoreboard last week en route to 362 yards of total offense. On the defensive end, after allowing 62 points over the first two contests, Coleman gave up just 34 yards against the Longhorns.
“Defensively they do a good job and are sound up front,” Lipsey said. “Shelton Zarate at mike linebacker is one of the leading tacklers in the area and we have to account for him. They’ve got good linebackers who get to the football and safeties that help in run support.
“Offensively, they’re an option team that runs the midline and the veer and their fullback is a load. You have to get bodies on the fullback because when he gets to the second level he’s hard to tackle. The quarterback is also a good ball carrier and the slots have some speed and are pretty quick. But the emphasis will be on stopping the fullback and taking care of the option responsibility.”
Coleman, which averages 14 points and 234 total yards — 200 rushing and 34 passing — per game, is led by D.J. Terrell’s 320 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Quarterback Anthony Thomas has chipped in 165 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while completing 8 of 27 passes for 103 yards with a pair of interceptions. Jaquan Hemphill leads the Bluecats with three receptions for 58 yards.
The Dragons are giving up 37 points and 326 yards — 170 rushing and 156 passing — through three games. Aaron Keller’s 42 tackles are a team-high for Bangs followed by 26 each from Josh Truelove and Josh Beckwith, 23 from Shaw, 20 from Cameron Deal and 16 from Trenton Morgan. Truelove has also intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble, while Beckwith has picked off a pass and recorded two sacks.
“Defensively we have to play sound, assignment football and get a lot of bodies to the ball,” Lipsey said. “We can’t give up a big play on a play-action pass or a reverse or something like that.”
The Bluecat defense has yielded 21 points and 246 yards — 225 rushing and 21 passing — per game, while the Bangs offense is generating 22 points and 221 yards per outing, with 179 yards coming through the air.
Quarterback J.T. Newton has completed 38 of 66 passes for 534 yards with five touchdowns, while Matt Carter leads all Bangs receivers with 12 catches for 208 yards and six scores. Keller (6-121), Josh Beckwith (6-20), Efrayin Guerrero (4-48), Deal (3-53), Gabe Perez (3-22) and Truelove (2-28) have also served as receiving threats.
On the ground, Morgan has rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown, Beckwith has chipped in 55 yards and a score and Deal has contributed 43 yards.
“The main thing we need to do on offense is protect the football,” Lipsey said. “We’re stopping ourselves and that’s what’s frustrating. At times like we look like a great offense, but we have to protect the football, keep the chains moving and put the ball in the end zone.”
With the 3-2A Division I opener against Grape Creek set for next week, Lipsey would like nothing more than for the Dragons to put forth a Friday night performance fitting of a team that is ready to battle for a district championship.
“We need to play a little upset and mad because of what happened the last two weeks,” Lipsey said. “I still have total confidence in our defense and total confidence in our offense, we just have to get it all together.”