BANGS — Win or lose Friday night, the Bangs Dragons know they will be the second seed from District 3-2A Division I heading into the playoffs next week. The Dragons also know they will face either Breckenridge at Abilene Wylie, or Comanche at Early, dependent upon the outcome of that District 4-2A Division I encounter.
Though, on paper, the Dragons (6-3, 4-1) have nothing to play for, Bangs head coach Chuck Lipsey wants to see his team ride a wave of positive momentum into the postseason as they host the Brady Bulldogs (2-7, 2-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Bangs is seeking a fourth straight victory after rolling past Early (42-7), Comfort (56-24) and Ingram Tom Moore (55-7) in successive weeks.
“We need to keep playing the way we have the last three or four weeks,” Lipsey said. “We need to be prepared to play for four quarters, keep getting better at what we’re doing and eliminate mistakes.”
During its current three-game win streak, Bangs has outscored its foes 51-13 on average, a considerable increase over the Dragons’ 36-26 scoring edge for the entire season.
“We’ve been doing a better job of blocking and doing a good job of mixing up the run and the pass,” Lipsey said. “The receivers are doing a good job, we’re running the ball solid and J.T. (Newton) is doing a great job of getting the ball to our play makers.
“Defensively, we’re playing as well as we’ve played all year. Andrew Quintana, William Roberts and Jacob Beckwith are getting off the ball up front. Aaron Keller, Tanner Shaw, Josh Beckwith and Josh Truelove at our linebacker spots are doing a good job and our secondary has played as well all year. It’s all coming together.”
Brady, under the direction of former Brownwood and Early assistant Andy Howard, has reeled off back-to-back victories over Ingram Tom Moore (27-14) and Grape Creek (62-26) after opening the campaign with seven consecutive losses.
The Bulldogs are led by quarterback Mason Bierman, running backs Travis Simmons, Aaron Eagle and Sladyn Howell, as well as receiver Caleb Sillmon.
In a 35-20 district loss to Early on Oct. 5, the Bulldogs finished with 213 yards of total offense — 142 rushing and 71 passing — and one turnover, while allowing 320 yards — 213 rushing and 107 passing — while forcing a turnover.
Simmons rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown while Howell added 35 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught a 43-yard pass.
“They’ve played together more,” Lipsey said of Brady’s gradual improvement. “Everything was new to them early on. They changed offenses and are running more shotgun and misdirection plays now. A lot of that takes timing. They’ve got a lot of things going in motion and a lot of faking. Early on they struggled but now they’re getting their timing down. Defensively they’re playing hard and flying around to the football.”
Bangs heads into the game averaging 330 yards — 199 passing and 131 rushing — per outing.
Newton has completed 106 of 173 passes for 1,725 yards with 21 touchdowns while rushing for 266 yards and seven scores. Other threats on the ground include Deal (62-327, 5 TDs), Trenton Morgan (39-289, TD), Efrayin Guerrero (23-132, TD) and Beckwith (21-107, 3 TDs), while top receivers for Bangs include Matt Carter (32-554, 11 TDs), Aaron Keller (20-432, 3 TDs), Deal (18-316, 2 TDs), Beckwith (13-93, 2 TDs) and Gabe Perez (9-96, 2 TDs).
Defensively, the Dragons are allowing 255 yards — 147 rushing and 108 passing — per game.
Keller’s 96 tackles are a team-high trailed by 87 from Shaw, 57 from Truelove, 52 from Beckwith, 45 from Deal and 44 from Jacob Beckwith. Guerrero, Truelove and Carter lead Bangs with two interceptions each.
“We’ve got to play well defensively and pay attention to who is lining up where so we don’t give up the big plays,” Lipsey said of the goals for the Brady game. “Offensively, we need to mix the run and pass and try and put up a lot of points.”
While Friday night concludes the regular season, it also signals the Dragons’ roster being as close to full strength as its been all season — which couldn’t happen at a better time, according to Lipsey.
“It’s big because it may be the first time all year we’ve finally got everybody suiting up,” Lipsey said. “We’ve always had one or two out with this and it’s helping to finally get them well and not hurt in practice during the week. Being healthy helps any team, but especially at small schools where you have a lot of two-way starters, so this is coming at the right time.”