BANGS — The Bangs Dragons garnered the positive momentum they were searching for with a 28-21 victory at Coleman last week in the pre-district finale, and will shoot for their first winning streak of the season in the District 3-2A Division I opener.

The Dragons (2-2) are headed west to take on the Grape Creek Eagles (2-2), who themselves have experienced a see-saw ride during the first four games of the season, at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Bangs snapped an ugly two-game skid against Coleman as the Dragons had fallen to Goldthwaite by a 47-14 count and Llano, 50-23, in its two prior outings.

“That was huge for us,” Bangs head coach Chuck Lipsey said. “We’ve had our ups and downs in pre-district and we’ve been dealing with injuries, but we knew we needed to play good for four quarters against Coleman to win the ball game and for the most part we did a good job of that.”

The Dragons put forth their most balanced offensive outing of the season with 168 yards coming through the air and a season-high 162 yards via the ground attack.

“We did some good things and we also shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times,” Lipsey said. “It could have been 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, but we bounced back from that and played well the rest of the game. When you come up with a game plan you expect things to work out, and they did. We had opportunities there, we just didn’t take advantage of them and that was frustrating. Once we settled down we got going, and the O-line played a lot better. We got Jacob Beckwith back and moved him to guard and Corey Martinez to center and that helped a bunch.”

Defensively, the Dragons allowed just 228 yards including 185 yards on the ground, but Coleman averaged less than 4 yards per carry.

“They’ve got a hard-nosed fullback and we knew he was about 75 percent of their offense, but we held him to about 30 or 40 yards, so we did a good job with that,” Lipsey said. “We gave up one big pass and a couple of reverses, but aside from giving up some big plays we played a great game defensively.”

Heading into district action, Lipsey feels good about where the Dragons are at this point in the season.

“I think we’re in good shape, we just can’t make mistakes,” Lipsey said. “Defensively, we’ve given up some big plays and that happens at times, but we have to prevent them from happening as much as possible. Offensively, we’re not where we need to be playoff wise, but we’re close to where we need to be going into district. Snaps have been our problem the last two games and we only had two bad ones in about 60 plays the other night, so that helped tremendously.”

The Dragons are currently averaging 23 points and 242 yards — 177 passing and 65 rushing — per contest.

J.T. Newton has completed 49 of 89 passes for 702 yards with five touchdowns, while Matt Carter leads Bangs with 18 receptions for 295 yards with six touchdowns. Other receiving threats for the Dragons include Aaron Keller (8-163), Cameron Deal (6-92), Josh Beckwith (6-20), Efrayin Guerrero (4-48) and Trenton Morgan (3-38).

On the ground, Morgan has rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns, Deal has chipped in 69 yards and two scores and Josh Beckwith has tallied 59 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, the Dragons are yielding 33 points and 302 yards — 163 rushing and 139 passing — per outing.

Keller has recorded a team-best 54 tackles followed by Josh Truelove with 34, Tanner Shaw with 31, Josh Beckwith with 27, Deal with 26 and William Roberts with 20.

Grape Creek enters the district opener averaging 22 points per game, while giving up 37. The Eagles have knocked off Harper, 30-29, and Junction, 38-22, and been routed by Hawley, 40-6, and Ozona, 55-14.

“Grape Creek is 2-2 right now and everybody used to think they were terrible, you didn’t have to prepare for them and it was an automatic win,” Lipsey said. “But they’ve got new coaches and they’re playing hard.”  

In last week’s loss to Ozona, Grape Creek gave up 49 points in the first half and allowed 490 total yards for the game, with 378 coming on the ground. The Eagles finished with 281 total yards, but just 30 yards rushing on 27 carries. Sean Ricks was 17 of 36 for 251 yards with a touchdown while Jacob Schmidt caught eight passes for 172 yards with a touchdown, Jacob Schultz added four receptions for 46 yards and Ryan Hurst finished with three catches covering 25 yards.

During the Eagles’ loss to Hawley, Grape Creek was down 30-6 at halftime and gave up 415 total yards, with 325 coming on the ground. The Eagles amassed 297 yards, but just 38 rushing, and turned the ball over four times. Ricks was 18 of 34 for 257 yards with a touchdown, caught by Schmidt who grabbed six balls for 55 yards.

“They’re scary because they have a 6-3 quarterback and 6-5 and 6-6 receivers who are big play guys,” Lipsey said. “We have to contain the quarterback because he’s fast and can get out and run. He can pull it down and take it the distance or scramble and find the open receiver. We have to make sure we contain him and if he does scramble, we have to stay with their receivers.

“Defensively, they run a 4-2-5 and play hard and get after it. They’re athletic on the perimeter and in the secondary and can be a scary team if you don’t play well, so that’s what we have to do. We just can’t make mistakes on drives. Once we get the ball we have to keep moving the chains, put the ball in the end zone and not shoot ourselves in the foot.”

The Wall Hawks are looming on the Dragons’ schedule Oct. 12 in a game that many expect will determine the district championship, but with a bye next week, Lipsey isn’t concerned about Bangs looking ahead.

“Everybody is 0-0 right now and you have to take them one week at a time and Grape Creek is the first rung on the ladder,” Lipsey said. “We need to get after them, play well and improve on what we did last week. Then we’re open the following week, so we’ll have two weeks to get ready for Wall. I’m not worried about being ready and focused on this game.”