BANGS — The Bangs Dragons cleared their first postseason hurdle last week, knocking off the Breckenridge Buckaroos, 27-19, for their second bi-district title in three years.
On Friday, head coach Chuck Lipsey’s squad looks to advance to the third round of the playoffs by eliminating the District 2-2A champion Idalou Wildcats (8-2), who are coming off a bye as a result of being the top seed from their league.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. Friday at the Mustang Bowl in Sweetwater.
“A lot of people are happy just being in the playoffs but we know we have the opportunity to do something here if we stay focused,” Lipsey said. “Some teams feel like if they make the playoffs but don’t win, everything is all right. We made a pact that we weren’t going to let that happen and we were playing to win. It was nice to win and get a bi-district trophy, but there’s another challenge and another rung on the ladder we want to climb.”
In last week’s victory over Breckenridge, the Dragons finished with 381 yards of total offense, including 282 yards rushing. But Lipsey felt the Dragons could have put themselves in better position earlier in the contest.
“The bottom line is we played well enough to win,” Lipsey said. “We did some good things and some frustrating things. We made some mistakes and didn’t capitalize on a few things. We should have got the ball in the end zone four more times than we did. They made a good stop inside the 5 then we had two touchdowns called back and fumbled at the 1. That’s the kind of stuff we can’t do this week.”
Idalou rolls into the playoffs with five straight wins under its belt — defeating Brownfield, Denver City, Slaton, Kermit and Lamesa by an average score of 42-11. The only losses on the Wildcats’ resume came to 3A schools Lubbock Cooper (32-22) in the season opener and Shallowater (20-15) in the pre-district finale.
“Idalou is traditionally always a good football team,” Lipsey said. “They’ve been to state championship games before, they won a state championship three or four years ago. They always have a good run of kids. The kids that won state are gone, but they still have a good tradition. They’re 8-2 and lost two games in pre-district to 3A teams and waltzed through district pretty easily.”
Bangs heads into Friday’s game averaging 36 points and 342 yards — 193 passing and 149 rushing — per contest, but is facing an Idalou squad that yields just 12 points per game on average.
“They’re big, strong and physical in the front four,” Lipsey said of the Idalou defense. “They’ve got linebackers and a secondary who do a good job covering and running to the football. We haven’t noticed any weak spots and nobody stand outs, they’re just a solid bunch all the way through.
“Offensively, I’d like to keep a 50-50 balance between the run and pass, but whatever it takes to win is what we have to do. I would have never guessed we would have ended up rushing for that many yards and not hardly passing last week, but that’s what Breckenridge decided to take away.”
J.T. Newton continues to be the driving force behind the Bangs offense with 2,057 passing yards and 23 touchdowns to go along with a team-high 513 rushing yards and nine scores.
Other contributors in the rushing attack include Trenton Morgan (367 yards, 5 TDs), Cameron Deal (361 yards, 8 TDs) and Josh Beckwith (166 yards, 5 TDs), while leading receivers for the Dragons include Matt Carter (38-630, 11 TDs), Deal (26-430, 2 TDs), Aaron Keller (24-533, 5 TDs), Beckwith (14-97, 2 TDs) and Gabe Perez (11-133, 2 TDs).
Defensively, Bangs is surrendering 24 points per game and will tangle with an Idalou offense that generates 33 points on average. The Wildcats are heavily ground-oriented and Lipsey compared Idalou’s size to that of Comfort, but with more talent. Quarterback Seth Reagan leads the way for Idalou, while Koal Houchin and Tylo Kirkpatrick are the leading rushers and Kaden Lackey is the primary receiving threat.
“They play smash mouth football with some big kids up front, but it seems like everybody’s been bigger than us up front,” Lipsey said. “Their kids are strong, they block well and they’re going to try and run the ball over you. They throw a few play action passes and sometimes they try and spread it out and get the quarterback moving and throwing.
“We’ve played big teams and have used our quickness to get off the blocks and that will be the key for us. We also have to be sure we don’t get burnt on the play action pass.”
Keller’s 119 tackles serve as the high water mark for the Dragons, followed by 102 from Tanner Shaw, 70 from Josh Truelove, 67 from Josh Beckwith and 60 from Jacob Beckwith.
While Lipsey would have preferred a crisper performance last week against Breckenridge, surviving a close game could bode well for the Dragons with potentially close encounters on the horizon.
“We hadn’t been in a close ball game in five or six games,” Lipsey said. “Everybody that’s left is a good football team so there’s a good chance they’re going to be close games. We’re going to have to be able to keep our composure and play the way we’re capable of playing. It was a big benefit that we continued to play well in the second half of a close ball game last week and were able to put it away at the end.”
In regard to what it will take to advance, Lipsey stated the Dragons must play their best football in all three phases of the game this week — and for the remainder of the season.
“If we put our best first quarter, second quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter of the year together, then we’d have a pretty good football team,” Lipsey said. “We have to be consistent and we’re going to strive to do that on both sides of the ball this week.”
Friday’s winner will face either Eastland (8-2) or Muleshoe (9-2) in the Division I-2A Region I semifinals next week. If Bangs were to face Muleshoe, the game is tentatively slated to take place Friday at Midland, while a showdown with Eastland is tentatively slated for Abilene Wylie.