BANGS — “I don't know if a win's ever felt better than it does now.”
Those were the words of a teary-eyed Bangs first-year head coach Kyle Maxfield moments after the Dragons' 27-0 homecoming victory over the Grape Creek Eagles Friday night.
The win was the first in District 4-3A Division II action, the first of the 2018 season and the first since Sept. 9, 2016 for Bangs, which snapped a 20-game losing streak in grand fashion.
“These kids really wanted to break that streak and they got it done tonight,” Maxfield said. “It's for the other guys before them that weren't able to do it. We were playing for all Bangs Dragons, and I thought we did it pretty well, too. This wasn't just a fluke, we earned it. Grape Creek had been playing some really good ball and our kids played well tonight.”
A defense that had struggled in all aspects, allowing an average of 54 yards and 559 yards per game with no opponent scoring fewer than 36 points in a game all season, pitched the Dragons' first shutout since 2010 and gave up just 119 total yards.
“We told them there's no magic pill, but if we get enough reps maybe the light bulb will come on, and for some of them tonight it did,” Maxfield said. “Grape Creek's scheme fit us better than the other teams we've played. We matched up a lot better against them and it showed tonight.”
Bangs yielded just 94 yards rushing on 34 carries — an average of 2.7 yards per attempt — to nine different Eagle ball carriers, while Grape Creek connected on just 4 of 8 passes for 25 yards — 23 of which came on a hook and lateral on the first completion of the game — with one pick.
Offensively, the Dragons churned out 246 yards, including 210 on the ground behind the blocking of linemen Hayden King, Cael John, Hunter Lawrence, Trey Ivey and Charlie Smith. Ethan Sanchez led the way with 119 yards and a touchdown, Seth Anderson finished with 56 yards and a score and quarterback Justin Wilson chipped in 47 yards and two trips to the end zone.
“The big biscuits, as I call them, earned this one for us,” Maxfield said of the offensive line. “We did it the old fashioned way. We still have to work on our passing game, but tonight was really satisfying.”
Bangs also committed just one turnover after giving way the ball 11 times over the first four outings.
“It's a great feeling, it completely changes how we feel, but we can't let it go to our head,” Anderson said of the victory. “We still have things we need to work on, things we can do better.”
The Dragon defense set the tone early in the first period as Grape Creek advanced to the Bangs 20 on its first possession, and the 16 on its second drive which began after the Dragons' only turnover. Grape Creek was turned away both times, however, as an Eli Carbajal sack of quarterback Garrett Steele on fourth and 10 ended the first threat, while Anderson picked off Steele in the end zone to thwart the second march.
“That was huge because in the past we haven't made those plays,” Maxfield said of stuffing Grape Creek early. “We had our leaders step up and make plays tonight and those were big turning points in the game.”
Anderson said of his interception, “That was very big. It was another play where we caught momentum off it, and we just kept playing hard and playing fundamental, assignment football.”
The game remained scoreless well into the second quarter, but a wheel route from Wilson to Anderson for a 35-yard gain down to the Grape Creek 25 sparked the first scoring drive.
“It wasn't the greatest read by Justin, but any time you throw it up to Seth you have a chance to make a big play,” Maxfield said. “I know that was what he was thinking and Seth answered the call and that led us to a touchdown on the drive.”
Anderson said, “The play wasn't supposed to be to me, it was supposed to be to Wesley Mitchell. Then when Justin bombed it I was thinking there was no way I was getting to this. But the more I ran, the closer and closer I got and next thing I know it's in my reach and I catch it. It was definitely a momentum booster for sure.”
Four plays later, Anderson scored on a jet sweep around the right end from 14 yards out, and the Dragons had all the points they needed with 4:06 left before halftime.
Leading 7-0 at the break, the Dragons began the third quarter with the ball and marched 59 yards in just four plays before Sanchez scored on a 26-yard carry. The PAT failed, but Bangs held a commanding 13-0 lead just 1:51 into the second half.
“I ran the ball pretty good, but the line did an amazing job blocking tonight,” Sanchez said. “We've made some major strides from last week to this week.”
Bangs followed with its third touchdown on its second possession of the second half, as a 66-yard, eight-play drive ended with a 5-yard touchdown run by Wilson. Sanchez ran in the two-point conversion as the lead stood at 21-0 with 3:10 left in the third period.
Wilson also put the finishing touches on the scoring, finding the end zone from 14 yards with 4:58 left to wrap up an 11-play, 56-yard drive.
Defensively, the Dragons did not allow a first down in the second half until after scoring their final touchdown. Bangs ended up yielding just 37 yards after halftime and three first downs — all on Grape Creek's final possession.
“We made our reads right this game, we hardly ever made a wrong read tonight,” Sanchez said. “If we did screw up, we'd come right back at them.”
With the victory, the Dragons are suddenly thrust into the thick of the District 4-3A Division II playoff race. Two weeks into the league slate, Bangs (1-4, 1-1) is in a six-way tie for second place with Ballinger (3-2, 1-1), Coleman (2-3, 1-1), Grape Creek (2-3, 1-1), Anson (1-4, 1-1) and Merkel (1-4, 1-1) as the top four teams move on to the playoffs.
“We're not thinking about playoffs, we just want to enjoy this one tonight and watch it in the morning with the kids,” Maxfield said.
Sanchez added, “This is big now and for the future. We aren't going to get cocky, but it feels great to get our first win in three years.”
Next week, former Bangs head coach Chuck Lipsey brings the Ballinger Bearcats to town, who knocked off Anson, 55-39 Friday night. Anson handed Bangs its first district loss, 52-28, a week ago.
“There's some history with Coach Lipsey over in Ballinger, he won a lot of games here at Bangs,” Maxfield said. “They're going to be a quality opponent next week and maybe we can use this for some momentum. We still have a long ways to go, but we're going to enjoy this one right now.”
GRAPE CREEK 0
SCORE BY QUARTER
Grape Creek 0 0 0 0 - 0
Bangs 0 7 14 6 - 27
B: Seth Anderson 14 run (Anderson kick), 4:05, 2nd — 7-0
B: Ethan Sanchez 26 run (kick failed), 10:09, 3rd — 13-0
B: Justin Wilson 5 run (Sanchez run), 3:10, 3rd — 21-0
B: Wilson 14 run (kick failed), 4:58, 4th — 27-0
First Downs 8 18
Total Offense 119 246
Rushing Yards 34-94 39-210
Passing Yards 25 36
C-A-I 4-8-1 3-4-0
Fumbles Lost 0 1
Punts 4-34.8 1-42.0
Penalties 6-80 9-70
G: Garrett Steele 9-32, Kairo De La Torre 4-27, Keaton Prather 6-25, Ben Armendariz 5-10, Koby Hasty 4-5, Dylan McKenzie 1-1, Mason McPeak 1-(-2), Weston Hill 5-(-3).
B: Ethan Sanchez 19-119, Seth Anderson 8-56, Justin Wilson 7-47, Colton Martin 3-13, Team 2-(-25).
G: Steele 4-7-1-25, De La Torre 0-1-0-0.
B: Wilson 3-4-0-36
G: John Deluna 1-23, McPeak 1-3, Prather 1-0, Hasty 1-(-1).
B: Anderson 3-36.