BANGS — The start of the 2017 football season was not what the Bangs Dragons envisioned, as third-year head coach Jim Bird and company will attempt to regroup and produce a better result in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. home opener against the Hawley Bearcats.
Bangs opened the season with a 45-6 loss at Early, a game that closely resembled last year’s 34-8 victory by the Dragons — except the roles were reversed.
“We battled back and forth there for a couple of series, then they struck first and then it snowballed from there,” Bird said. “Early on we felt good about things, but like I’ve talked about previously, offensively we’ll make some plays and then we’ll shoot ourselves in the foot with a bad snap or a penalty, something like that. The first play we went for about 40 yards and got a holding penalty so it only went for about 20. Inconsistency on offense was the major player in why we didn’t strike first.
“The defense played great through the first two series or so and at that point, offensively, we feel like we need to be scoring. We’ve got to work hard to get more consistency and not have those negative plays.” Self-inflicted wounds have been the theme for the Dragons thus far through a pair of scrimmages and one regular season contest.
“I want to quit shooting ourselves in the foot on offense,” said Bird, whose team was flagged 13 times for 105 yards. “I don’t want to follow 10- to 20-yard gains with a minus 14, or a minus 6 or a 10-yard hold penalty. We have to consistently move the ball down the field. We only had one drive where we took the ball from one end, drove it and finished. That’s not going to win you games. We’ve challenged the kids to shake that stuff off and eliminate the negative plays.
“Defensively, we just need to stand in front of people, fly to ball, and give great effort. We also have to play better assignment football and do what we’ve been taught.”
Against Early, Bangs surrendered 446 yards of total offense — 234 passing and 212 rushing. Among the bright spots, the defense did create three turnovers.
Offensively, the Dragons generated 223 yards, but only 30 yards through the air on 3 of 15 passing. Freshman Ethan Sanchez nearly eclipsed 100 yards on the ground — finishing with 95 in his high school debut — while Terick Flores tacked on 53 yards and a touchdown. Colton Brewer added 40 yards on the ground and 30 yards through the air, with Justin Wilson hauling in two catches for 30 yards. Bangs also went the entire game without a turnover.
“We showed some potential in both areas,” Bird said. “We had a freshman in Ethan Sanchez that stepped up and ran the ball really well. He had almost had 100 yards in his first high school game, broke tackles, and kept his legs moving. Colton and Terick played hard and played well.
“In all aspects we showed some promise in different areas, but we’ve got to keep working hard and keep working to get in better shape. I think that was a factor late in the game, our endurance, so we’ve been working pretty hard on that this week. We had a lot of young kids on the field and we were pleased with their effort and physicality.”
The Dragons welcome a Hawley squad coming off a 34-21 victory over Munday in the season opener.
The Bearcats finished with 300 yards of total offense — 153 rushing and 147 passing – with one turnover. Quarterback Quay Stokes rushed for 61 yards and three touchdowns and completed 7 of 15 passes for 147 yards with a pick. Stokes is out indefinitely, however, with an ankle fracture. Colton Marshall added touchdown runs of 5 and 8 yards, while Robert Ibarra caught a team-high four passes for 71 yards.
Defensively, Hawley gave up 301 yards — 245 rushing and 56 passing — but forced six turnovers, four fumbles and a pair of interceptions.
“Hawley is a big, physical football team,” Bird said. “They are 2A Division I but they’re a good football team. They have a great quarterback, great linemen, great receivers. They’re tough on defense, just a good, tough, hard-nosed football team. We’ve got to get better at what we do and make sure we’re playing low and nasty if we’re going to be able to mix it up. We think both offensively and defensively we’re right there on the cusp, but our inexperience in some areas usually keeps us from getting the job done as well as we want to.”
Coming off a lopsided loss in the opener, showing improvement in Week 2 — and each week going forward — is imperative for the Dragons.
“All these games are important and we’d like to go out and win every one of them. Everybody starts with that,” Bird said. “Obviously we didn’t win the first one and hopefully we use it as motivation to improve on ourselves both as players and as coaches and as a team. Going forward, we have to focus on us. We took the whole practice Monday and just worked on us. If we work on us and we improve on a week by week basis we still feel like we can accomplish our goals, and we have a shot to get in our playoffs in our district. But our main goal is to work hard and improve and let the rest take care of itself.”
Last year, Hawley thumped Bangs, 56-7.
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Bangs is a 40-point underdog.