BANGS — With four consecutive victories to their credit heading into the postseason, the Bangs Dragons will attempt to capture their second bi-district championship in three seasons as they clash with the Breckenridge Buckaroos.
Kickoff for the Division I-2A Region I postseason opener between the District 3-2A second seeded Dragons (7-3) and the 4-2A third seeded Buckaroos (4-6) is slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Abilene Wylie’s Bulldog Stadium.
The Dragons fell in the first round to Godley a year ago, but upset Eastland in 2010 to advance to the area round, which came on the heels of the only season in which Bangs has not made the playoffs under head coach Chuck Lipsey.
“Some teams are content or breathe a sigh of relief just making the playoffs, like the pressure’s off,” Lipsey said. “We’re not going to be like that. We earned the right to be in the playoffs, so let’s do something about it. We need to stay focused and worry about bi-district with Breckenridge first. We need to have our guys prepared better than Breckenridge Friday night to come out on top, then we can shoot to get as far as we can. But we can’t be satisfied with just being in the playoffs. If we do that, that will get you beat.”
Since suffering a 57-20 home loss to eventual district champion Wall, Bangs has rolled through the remainder of its league slate — defeating Early, Comfort, Ingram Tom Moore and Brady by a combined score of 195-44.
“We set a goal after Wall beat us in the second game of district to improve each week, learn from our mistakes, get better and win the last four games,” Lipsey said. “We took them one game at a time, but we did a good job with that and I’m proud of our coaches and players.”
Bangs is coming off a 42-6 rout of Brady in its finale, a game in which 35 of the Dragons’ points came after halftime. The Dragons finished with 411 yards of total offense, with 239 coming through the air, while limiting Brady to 163 yards, including 44 rushing on 35 carries.
“Going into the last game we knew we were already in and that they couldn’t get in, but that Brady was going to play hard and get after it,” Lipsey said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy and they did play us tough, it was only 7-0 at halftime. We had some turnovers in the first half and we were frustrated, but we didn’t get down. We came back in the second half clicking on all cylinders and played really well, especially in the third quarter. The defense did a great job all game and we were good in all phases of the game the second half. We’re where we need to be, everybody is healthy and we’re looking forward to the playoffs.”
Breckenridge, meanwhile, is coming off back-to-back victories as it begins another postseason voyage under former Brownwood head coach Steve Freeman. The Buckaroos defeated Comanche, 35-27, last week to secure the final playoff berth from 4-2A after posting a 15-0 victory against Dublin the week prior.
The season began with four consecutive losses for the Buckaroos at the hands of Colorado City (18-15), Vernon (55-12), Sweetwater (33-14) and Graham (44-0). Breckenridge also dropped district contests to Eastland (46-20) and Merkel (43-35), while the Bucks’ additional league victories came against Clyde (21-7) and Jim Ned (28-21). Clyde is the only common opponent for both teams, as the Dragons downed the Bulldogs, 28-14, in their season opener.
“Breckenridge played a tough pre-district schedule and then they were in a tough district with Eastland and Merkel coming out on top,” Lipsey said. “They’re big on both sides of the ball, like always. They have good skill kids in the secondary and on offense, but their quarterback accounts for about 75 to 80 percent of their offense. They also have a big, tall receiver they usually go to for big plays down the field. We’re going to have to play assignment football, line up properly on defense and play hard for four quarters.”
The Buckaroos enter the game averaging 19 points per contest, while allowing 29. Quarterback Pedro Ramirez is the spark to Breckenridge’s offensive attack, while tailback Antonio Mendez and receivers Caleb Spoon and Ashton Salazar also play significant roles.
Bangs heads into the playoffs averaging 37 points and 337 yards — 202 passing and 135 rushing — behind the blocking of offensive linemen Corey Martinez, Jacob Beckwith, Justin Hoskinson, William Roberts, Christian Bosquez and Gareth Petty.
Quarterback J.T. Newton has connected on 119 of 190 pass attempts for 1,958 yards with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions, while also rushing for a team-high 361 yards and eight scores.
Cameron Deal (344 yards, 7 TDs), Trenton Morgan (306 yards, 5 TDs), Efrayin Guerrero (132 yards, TD) and Josh Beckwith (126 yards, 4 TDs) are also threats on the ground, while leading receivers include Matt Carter (34-584, 11 TDs), Aaron Keller (24-533, 5 TDs), Deal (24-414, 3 TDs), Josh Beckwith (14-97, 2 TDs) and Gabe Perez (9-96, 2 TDs).
“We always need to improve, but we’ve done a good job this year, especially at spreading the ball around,” Lipsey said. “Trenton, Cameron and Josh have done a good job running the ball, along with J.T. Then you put those guys in our formations along with Matt, Keller, Gabe and Truelove, and we’ve done a good job spreading the ball around from sideline to sideline.
“One thing we didn’t do much last year is run the ball with J.T., but he’s gotten better using his legs whether it’s a running play or scrambling. We’re going to continue to mix the run and the pass, but J.T. being an athlete if something bad happens definitely helps the play calling. They’re going to blitz a lot and we’ve done a great job against teams that blitz. Our receivers have to run good routes and we need to get the ball where it needs to be. And J.T. can use his legs to get him out of trouble.”
While the Dragons have allowed 24 points and 246 yards per game on average this season, Bangs is yielding just 11 points and 208 yards during the current four-game win streak. Keller leads the Dragons with 107 tackles followed by 94 from Tanner Shaw, 64 from Truelove, 62 from Josh Beckwith, 52 from Deal and 50 from Jacob Beckwith.
“Our defense has been playing well as a unit,” Lipsey said. “The big thing about our defense is we have people flying to the football, but you also have to be smart about that and pay attention, and we’ve been doing that as well. They’re an excited bunch and they’re playing as well as they have all season. We just have to make sure that we line up to their formations, get off our blocks, play smart and fly to the football.”
If Bangs is victorious Friday night, the Dragons will face District 2-2A champion Idalou (8-2) at 7 p.m. Friday in Sweetwater in the area round of the Region I-2A playoffs.