BANGS - Following their latest nail-biting victory over a postseason contender, the Bangs Dragons are on the verge of officially returning to the playoffs.
With a victory Friday at Dublin, the Dragons would secure their first postseason berth since 2005 and put themselves in position to earn an outright district championship on Nov. 7 against Brady in the season finale, which follows next week’s bye.
Bangs (6-2, 4-0) - which has won four straight - and the Dublin Lions (1-6, 0-3) - who have dropped three in a row - will square off in District 8-2A action at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium in Dublin.
“Our main goal is to get in the playoffs and have a chance to play for the district championship, but we have to take it one game at a time, and we’ve done a good job doing that,” said Bangs first-year head coach Chuck Lipsey. “We don’t need to worry about anything else but our opponent for this week. This is just like any other Friday night. If you aren’t ready to play somebody could slip up and beat you and Dublin’s capable of doing that. We have to have our ‘A’ game and get after it.”
The Dragons are coming off a 9-7 win over the previously undefeated Coleman Bluecats, who averaged 54 points and 574.5 yards of total offense in their previous two district contests. Bangs limited Coleman - which had not scored less than 28 points in a game - to a fourth-quarter touchdown and 186 yards of total offense.
“It was as good of a defensive game from a team as I’ve seen in a long time,” Lipsey said. “Coach (Jim Bob) Williams and the defensive coaches had them ready to go. We built them up all week and told them we’d have to play the best game defensively we played all year. A lot of it had to do with how we controlled them up front. We were able to stop the running game and our secondary has gotten better each week. Bradley (Lee), Grant Bear, Grant Lawrence and Devin (Rowland) did a good job covering and our linebackers were able to fly to the ball. That was what we wanted to do, we went out and did it and all the credit goes to the kids.”
Bangs held Coleman to just 81 yards of total offense before the Bluecats’ 98-yard go-ahead drive resulted in a 2-yard Stanley Cole touchdown run with 2:01 left.
But the Dragons needed just 71 seconds to march 76 yards and erase their only deficit of the night on a 20-yard touchdown run by Lee with 50 seconds remaining.
“I was proud of the win and proud of the defense, but I was really proud of how they pulled together that last drive,” Lipsey said. “The most impressive thing had to be with two minutes left and no time outs we drive it down there for the winning touchdown. They knew we could still do it and went out and scored to beat them.”
The Dragons had several other chances to score as five trips inside the Coleman 20 yielded no points, which is an area Bangs is focusing on this week.
“We felt like we had some chances earlier to score some more points and you can’t take anything away from Coleman, but we missed some opportunities,” Lipsey said. “We did a good job blocking and running, but we still need to be able to hit open receivers for this offense to be hitting on all cylinders. We missed some open receivers and if we had completed some passes earlier it could have taken some pressure off us.”
Bangs finished with 292 yards of total offense - including 258 rushing on 49 carries - but completed only 3-of-14 passes for 34 yards.
Entering Friday’s action, Lee has completed just 34-of-86 passes for 462 yards with four touchdowns, and over the last two weeks he is 5-of-23 for 107 yards and no touchdowns.
But the ground game has consistently improved for the Dragons as DeShawn Johnson is up to 866 yards rushing with 11 touchdowns, followed by Lee’s 805 yards rushing and nine scores. Michael Peters has chipped in 210 yards and a touchdown on the ground in district action.
Dublin’s defense, which surrenders 34.3 points per game, is expected to try several different approaches at slowing down the Bangs offense, which averages 21.4 points per outing.
“Defensively we’ve seen them in a 3-4, a split and a 4-3. They’re mixing up their defenses,” Lipsey said. “We have to be prepared to block everything they do.”
Offensively, Dublin - which has had two weeks to prepare for Bangs with its district bye occurring last week - is averaging just 16.6 points per game, and 60 of its 116 points came in a 40-point win over Class A Valley Mills, which has not won a game. In district play, Dublin has not scored more than seven points in three contests.
“Dublin runs a little bit of the spread and some power stuff,” Lipsey said. “They have been a spread team, and they still run it a lot, but they have gone to some power and I-back sets. No matter what offense they’re in, we have to get to the football. That’s what we did last week. We had a lot of bodies on the football.”
As for the keys to a fifth straight district win, Lipsey stated the Dragons must keep up their intensity and not be fooled by Dublin’s record.
“We have to be ready to play like we were after the Early game,” Lipsey said. “We need to stay focused on Dublin and play well and not worry about Brady right now. We need to get a win and then we can get focused on the next game.”