BANGS — Both the Bangs Dragons and Anson Tigers are seeking their first victories of the season as play in the eight-team District 4-3A Division II begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Anson.
Bangs (0-3), led by former Brownwood head coach Kyle Maxfield, has opened the season with losses to Early (60-20), Hawley (69-32) and Winters (36-6). Anson (0-3), coached by former Brownwood assistant Chris Hagler, has fallen to Hamlin (42-12), Jim Ned (48-30) and Stamford (61-28) thus far.
After a rocky beginning to the season, Maxfield welcomes the fresh start that comes with the beginning of the district portion of the schedule.
“Everybody’s starting with a clean slate going into district,” Maxfield said, whose team is coming off its bye week. “Last week was a good time for us to get back to the fundamentals of the game, get some players heathy, and move some personnel around to get them where they can be the most successful. It was your typical open week stuff, plus it was a perfect time to get caught up on academics and spend some time there.”
Though Anson, like Bangs, has yet to pick up a victory, Maxfield realizes the challenges the Tigers will present the Dragons will be many.
“We have to travel to Anson and they’ve had a tough schedule,” Maxfield said. “We feel like ours has been tough for us but there’s has been very challenging for them.”
Anson enters the contest averaging 23 points and 395 yards — 244 rushing and 151 passing — per outing, while giving up 38 points on average.
Offensively, the Tigers are led by quarterback Drew Hagler, who has completed 38 of 77 passes for 461 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, while rushing for 328 yards, second-most on the team, and two more scores. Elijah Moser leads the ground game with 402 yards and six scores, while top receivers include Julian Garcia (10-92, TD), Daniel Davis (8-113), and Issak Fernandez (7-191, TD).
“Their offense has put up some points against some quality defenses, and it all starts with the quarterback, you can tell he’s a coach’s kid,” Maxfield said. “He’ll scramble around so you have to stay in coverage and still contain him. They have a big, tall receiver they’ve completed a lot of deep passes to, and their running back is plenty good, too. They’ve got some huge guys on the line, so it’s going to be very challenging.”
The Dragons are coming off their best defensive outing of the season at Winters, but Bangs is still yielding 55 points and 560 yards — 332 rushing and 228 passing — on average per game with six takeaways.
Leading tacklers for Bangs include Riley Taylor (32.5 tackles, 3 TFL), Ethan Sanchez (32 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 FR), Kolt Bradley (18.5 tackles), Wesley Mitchell (15.5 tackles, 1 INT), Seth Anderson (14 tackles, 1 INT), Hunter Lawrence (11.5 tackles), Evan Belez (11 tackles, 2 INTs) and Cael John (10 tackles, 1 TFL).
“Defensively we’re growing up,” Maxfield said. “We’ve still got a long way to go on our tackling but we have gotten better at it. It’s just a daily process. Contain the quarterback, don’t give up the big play and tackle better, that’s what we’ve been preaching on defense.”
On the flip side of the ball, the Bangs offense struggled for the first time in its last outing at Winters as the Dragons were held to a season-low six points. For the year, Bangs is producing 19 points and 293 yards —211 rushing and 82 passing — per game, but has coughed the ball up nine times.
“Offensively we had some opportunities to score a few more times against Winters,” Maxfield said. “We just got into the red zone and either turned it over or had a miscue here or there. (Quarterback) Justin (Wilson) going out in that game really handcuffed our offense, but we feel like we’re in the best possible place we could be right now.”
Wilson (19 of 39 for 218 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs) is expected back in the lineup after leaving the Winters game with an injury, while Anderson (336 rushing yards, 5 TDs; 9-94, 1 TD receiving) continues to be the big-play threat for the Dragons. Other weapons to keep an eye on include Sanchez (198 rushing yards, 2 TDs) out of the backfield and Mitchell (6-34, TD), Jacob Howell (2-36), Taylor (2-33) and Belez (2-18) are viable receiving options.
“For us, the No. 1 thing is ball security, taking care of the ball,” Maxfield said. “Anson is going to make us earn it. We’ve scored some points and put up some yards, but we have to be more consistent, put some really good drives together and keep the ball away from them as much as we can because they can be pretty explosive.”
Competing in an eight-team district allows a little more room for error compared to the typical six-team league, still Maxfield and company would like to start 4-3A Division II action with a victory as the Dragons pursue their first postseason berth since 2014.
“It’s always nice to start with that first district win, it puts you in good shape, but we don’t feel like it’s a must-win being in an eight-team district,” Maxfield said. “It’s still a big game and the way the kids have been working and trusting the process, it’d be good to see a ‘W.’”
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Bangs is a 20-point underdog.