BANGS — The win streak stands at six and a berth in the Division I-2A Region I championship game is at stake for the Bangs Dragons, who return to the site of their bi-district victory Friday night to face the Eastland Mavericks.
Kickoff for the regional semifinal showdown between Bangs (9-3) and Eastland (9-2) is slated for 7 p.m. Friday at Abilene Wylie’s Bulldog Stadium, where the Dragons knocked off Breckenridge, 27-19, to earn their second bi-district crown in three seasons.
Bangs also captured an area title last week with a 23-6 upset victory over District 2-2A champion Idalou, a game in which the Dragons limited the Wildcats’ ground-oriented offense to 238 total yards and forced three turnovers.
“It was a good overall team performance,” Bangs head coach Chuck Lipsey said of the Dragons’ latest victory. “Everybody talks about playing good for four quarters and we wanted to take it a quarter at a time and win all four. We played well the first quarter and it was 6-3, then we won the second, third and fourth quarters. The kids played hard and the defensive guys did a great job, both the players and the coaches.”
With six consecutive wins to their credit, including two in the playoffs, Lipsey believes the Dragons are not only peaking at the perfect time, but are as confident as they’ve been all season.
“I know that if we play a good game our kids believe that we have a chance to win and it doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” Lipsey said. “It’s definitely not overconfidence, it’s confidence in their ability that, if they play well, they have a chance to win each game each week. The confidence level is where it needs to be and the chemistry is right. Our motto is ‘we’re in it to win it,’ but everybody left is a good football team and we’re going to have to play well for four quarters if we want to keep going.”
Eastland, the District 4-2A champion, is in the midst of an eight-game win streak with a 48-34 area round victory over Muleshoe last week. The Mavericks had two weeks off before their postseason opener as they received a bye for winning their district, while their 4-2A bye fell in Week 10. Still, Eastland showed no signs of rust while racking up 420 yards and scoring three touchdowns each in the second and fourth quarters.
For the season, the Mavericks average 37 points and 416 yards — 222 rushing and 194 passing — per outing.
Tailback Brandon Allen has churned out 1,302 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground and also caught 27 passes, second-most on the team, for 274 yards and three scores.
Quarterback Josh Moylan has connected on 55 percent of his 262 pass attempts for 1,954 yards with 22 touchdowns and only four interceptions, while rushing for 608 yards and three touchdowns.
Clint Galyean leads the Mavericks with 44 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns, Mason Thayer has chipped in 26 receptions for 332 yards and four scores, Jeremiah Sloan has added 18 grabs for 143 yards and a trip to the end zone and Matt Majors has pulled down 15 passes for 191 yards and scored three times.
“We’re going to have to gang tackle No. 6 (Allen),” Lipsey said. “He’s a big ol’ back, about 6-2, 205 pounds and looks like Eric Dickerson back there. He’s not a speed burner but he’s a good runner and has good moves and vision. We’re going to have to get a lot of bodies on him, but at the same time they have other players who can hurt you. Their quarterback does a good job running the read, so we have to slow their running game down. We also have to make sure we don’t get beat on any tricks or play action passes.”
Bangs enters Friday’s game allowing 22 points per game on the season, but the Dragons have yielded 11.5 points per contest during their win streak and a total of 25 points in the playoffs.
Aaron Keller’s 129 tackles serve as a team-high for the Dragons followed by 116 from Tanner Shaw, 83 from Josh Truelove, 73 from Josh Beckwith and 67 from Jacob Beckwith.
On the flip side of the ball, the Dragons are producing 35 points and 337 yards — 193 passing and 144 rushing — on average. Last week, the Dragons finished with 290 yards of total offense against Idalou, with 195 coming through the air.
Quarterback J.T. Newton has thrown for 2,252 yards and 26 touchdowns and continues to lead the Dragons with 526 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.
Top receivers for the Dragons include Matt Carter (41-687, 12 TDs), Cameron Deal (27-455, 4 TDs), Keller (25-543, 5 TDs), Josh Beckwith (16-115, 2 TDs) and Gabe Perez (15-218, 3 TDs). Carter, Deal and Perez each caught a touchdown pass from Newton last week.
On the ground, Trenton Morgan has chipped in 377 yards and five scores, Deal has racked up 368 yards with eight trips to the end zone and Josh Beckwith has rushed for 231 yards and five touchdowns.
Eastland is giving up 21 points per game on average and has surrendered at least 20 points in five of the last six games. The 34 points scored by Muleshoe were the second-most allowed by the Mavericks as only Grandview, which tallied 49 on Sept. 14, has chalked up more.
Luis Ojeda leads the Mavericks with 189 tackles trailed by Cruz Cervantez with 156, Sammy Joiner with 127, Sloan with 116 and Jeremy Finley with 109.
“They’re a 3-3 stack football team and they run a lot of shifting fronts,” Lipsey said. “They do a lot of shifting with their front to try and mess up your blocking assignments. The key for us will be picking up their shifts up front. We have to control the line of scrimmage, continue to mix the run and the pass and, if they’re going to blitz, we have to toast them.”
As for what will determine which team advances to face either Wall (10-1) or Merkel (9-3) in the regional final, Lipsey feels the team with the fewest mistakes will prevail.
“In a game like this I know both teams are going to play hard, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Lipsey said. “We’re going to leave it all on the field and the same goes for Eastland. They’re like us in that they weren’t projected at the first of the year to get this far. It could come down to whoever has the ball last wins, and I don’t care if it’s a one-point win, I just want the win. The team that makes the plays and has the fewest turnovers will be the team that wins the game.”