BANGS - Not only playoff positioning, but district championship ramifications are at stake as the Bangs Dragons prepare to host the Coleman Bluecats in a battle of 8-2A unbeatens Friday.
Bangs (5-2, 3-0), which is looking for its first playoff appearance since 2005, has won its first three district contests - the only team in 8-2A to achieve that feat thus far. Coleman (6-0, 2-0), meanwhile, has not lost this season, and has been challenged on only a couple of occasions.
The winner of Friday’s 7:30 p.m. showdown at Dragon Memorial Stadium will remain atop the district standings with fellow 8-2A unbeaten Brady (6-0, 2-0) - which takes on Comanche (1-6, 1-2) - still on the schedule for each team. The Dragons also would all but lock up a playoff berth with games against last-place Dublin and Brady the only two remaining on their schedule.
“A lot of good things could come from this game,” said Bangs first-year head coach Chuck Lipsey. “The bottom line is we need to be on top at the end of the ball game. We want our guys to play hard for four quarters and not be looking ahead to next week or the week after. They need to be totally focused on Coleman. We’ve done well every since we’ve started taking it one game at a time.”
Bangs owns a pair of narrow district victories, including last week’s 35-28 decision over Comanche, and surviving those contests could help the Dragons if Friday’s game goes down to the wire. Coleman, meanwhile, has defeated just one opponent by less than 10 points, though Bangs may be the Bluecats’ toughest foe to date.
“How bad you beat somebody isn’t that big,” Lipsey said. “You’d like to go in there and wear your opponent out every Friday night, but you for sure want to play good and get the win. Having three wins in district is good for us. We have some confidence and we have to carry that over to Friday night.”
The key to the Dragons’ success has been the rushing attack, which continues to improve on a weekly basis. Last week against Comanche, Bangs ran for 385 of its 458 total yards. Quarterback Bradley Lee finished with a team-high 171 yards and two scores, while DeShawn Johnson chipped in 141 yards and three TDs. Michael Peters provided another strong outing as well with 73 yards.
For the season, Johnson has rushed for 731 yards and 11 touchdowns, followed by Lee’s 681 yards and eight touchdowns. Peters, meanwhile, has added 174 yards on the ground in three district games. As a team, the Dragons are averaging 309.7 yards per game rushing in district action.
“Everything has helped our running game,” Lipsey said. “It’s not just Bradley or DeShawn, the offensive line is getting better, we’re blocking good on the perimeter and the backs are running hard. We can also bring Peters in and he does a good job taking the pressure off Bradley and DeShawn. We’re still more of a spread running team, so we have a threat to throw the ball. We still have to improve on the passing game a little bit, but we feel like we’re in pretty good shape.”
Coleman is similar to Bangs in that it too has a dangerous rushing attack, but the Bluecats clearly have the edge through the air. The Bluecats are averaging 54 points per game in district wins over Comanche and Dublin and 38.7 points per game for the season.
Dual threat quarterback Colton Buzzard drives the Coleman offense, while running backs Glen Edington, Zach Doyle and Kahlam Salazar are each capable of a breakout game. The go-to receiving target is Dalton Deleon, who is arguably the best receiver in the district.
“Coleman is impressive offensively,” Lipsey said. “Their line does a good job coming off the ball, they have hard-running backs and their quarterback does a good job and is a competitor. They have a lot of big play potential, and we’re going to have to toughen up in the trenches with them. They’ll line up and run at you, then Buzzard will keep one and go the distance or find a wide open receiver.”
The Dragon defense was hurt by the big play last week in Comanche, and will have to avoid that this week to stay in the game with the Bluecats. The defense did stiffen after allowing 21 first-half points and allowed just one touchdown after intermission - led by a pair of Devin Rowland interceptions.
“They had two fourth downs they converted for touchdowns and a third and long they converted,” Lipsey said. “You have to give them credit for doing that, but it’s frustrating to give up big plays. We’re going to have to make some plays on defense, slow Coleman’s run game down, build a fence around Buzzard and cover their receivers.”
Bangs also gave away the ball three times last week, which is an area that must improve against a Coleman team that can score from any point on the field in a single snap. The Dragons also expect tough sledding against a sizeable Bluecat defense.
“We need to eliminate turnovers and try and prevent those things from happening,” Lipsey said. “The key to their defense is Stanley Cole, the inside linebacker. He’s averaging 15-20 tackles a game and does a really good job finding the football. They’re also big up front and it’s hard to get movement, so we’ll have to stay with our blocks longer. We want to run inside and outside and throw the football and to do that, we have to win the war up front. That’s our goal.”
When the dust settles Friday, “how” the Dragons will have won the game isn’t nearly as important as “that” the Dragons won the game, according to Lipsey.
“We can talk all day long about Xs and Os and personnel,” Lipsey said. “We just have to outplay them for four quarters.”