BANGS — In their final contest prior to the start of District 4-3A Division II action, the Bangs Dragons face their stiffest challenge to date in the Jim Ned Indians.

The Dragons (0-4) continue to pursue their first victory of the season while Jim Ned (3-1) is coming off its first loss, a 32-28 home setback to Sonora.

“Jim Ned is the best team we’ve played so far,” said Bangs third-year head coach Jim Bird. “They’re a team that’s hot right now. They’ve blown three teams out and their last game was against a tremendous Sonora team and they had the lead in the fourth quarter and ended up getting beat by a few points.

“This is another opportunity in our first five games for us to try and get a little better before we roll into district. Jim Ned is a good football team and we’re going to have to play a good game and put things together on both sides of the ball.”

Bangs is coming off its closest brush with victory last week at Coahoma where the Dragons rallied from a 20-0 deficit before the Bulldogs emerged with a 34-26 victory. Bangs finished with 436 yards of total offense — 288 passing and 148 rushing — but lost three turnovers, while Coahoma notched 263 yards, including 239 on the ground.

“I was proud of the kids, they played as hard as they have all year,” Bird said. “The thing that got us in the long run was the turnovers. We just weren’t able to overcome that and the last one happened at a horrible time when we had all the momentum.

“We had a slow start offensively, we were shooting ourselves in the foot a little bit, but the defense played really well and were physically getting after it,” Bird said. “Coahoma has a good running game, big and physical, and they were coming straight at us but we were standing in front of them. We just couldn’t get any traction offensively.

“The second half we got things going offensively. Coahoma went up 20-0, but we eventually tied at 20. We forced another stop and they punted and we had it deep in our territory but we felt good about things because we went the length of the field before. But we had a fumble on the first play of the drive and they got the ball on the 20 and scored on the next play. After that we traded touchdowns and they ended us beating us by a touchdown.”

In Jim Ned’s loss to Sonora last week, the Indians yielded 513 yards of total offense — 258 rushing and 255 passing — while finishing with 244 yards, but just 75 yards on the ground.

Quarterback Colby Rives completed 13 of 24 passes for 169 yards, while rushing for a team-best 28 yards. Jordan Torrez, Cooper Castro, Cade Ford and Matthew Gray each caught three passes for 85, 35, 24 and 17 yards, respectively. Riley Perry added 27 yards on the ground and Castro rushed for 20.

The week prior, Jim Ned put forth its most impressive performance with a 55-16 trouncing of Anson. The Indians racked up 500 yards — 259 passing and 241 rushing. Rives completed 16 of 22 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown, while adding 71 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Perry added 87 yards and two scores while Jon Thormeyer tallied 58 yards and four scores.

“They’ve got some size and they like to run the ball, so it’ll be a good test for us,” Bird said. “They’re a run-heavy team that’s balanced. They have the ability to throw the football and they do it fairly well, but if you don’t stop the running game they won’t throw it as much.

“Defensively, they play very good technique and they’re very sound with their responsibilities.”

Coming into the game, Bangs is averaging 18.5 points and 327 yards — 183 passing and 144 rushing per outing — with seven turnovers. Quarterback Colton Brewer has completed 57 of 121 passes for 453 yards with four touchdowns and one interception, while rushing for a team-best 199 yards with five scores. Primary receivers include Justin Wilson (20-277, 3 TDs), Tyler Williford (10-144), Stephen Montgomery (9-83), Seth Anderson (9-60) and George Nicholas (7-131, TD), while threats out of the backfield include Terick Flores (164 yards, 2 TDs), Ethan Sanchez (98 yards) and Anderson (85 yards).

Defensively, the Dragons are yielding 41 points and 458 yards — 340 rushing and 118 passing — per outing, with seven takeaways.

While the Dragons would like to emerge with a victory Friday, playing their best game of the season heading into district — regardless of the outcome — is what Bird is hopeful of seeing.

“The main thing for us is we have to play a complete game,” Bird said. “We’ve been pushing defense to the kids and trying to make that our focus, especially playing better defense against the run. I felt like we did a lot better of that the other night.”

Last season, Jim Ned knocked off Bangs by a 33-19 count.

According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Bangs is a 42-point underdog.