BANGS — With two victories under their belts and the District 8-2A opener on the horizon, the undefeated Bangs Dragons will wrap up non-district action against the team that ended their 2008 campaign — the Cisco Loboes.
Bangs (2-0) ventures to No. 9 Cisco (3-0) for a 7:30 p.m. Friday contest as the teams cross paths for the third time in 12 months. The Loboes handed the Dragons losses of 43-6 and 43-19 last year — the second coming in the area round of the playoffs.
Second-year head coach Chuck Lipsey stated the Dragons learned plenty about the Cisco program last season, and will have a better idea of what to expect when they head into battle Friday night.
“Cisco is a well-coached team that plays mentally and physically tough,” Lipsey said. “We’re going to have to be very aggressive, but Cisco is the kind of team that the harder you hit them, the harder they play.”
Though Cisco returned just three offensive and five defensive starters from last year’s Class 2A Division II state finalist squad, the Loboes have rolled past their first three opponents — Early (20-7), Whitesboro (34-13) and Ballinger (58-35).
In last week’s victory over Ballinger, the Loboes finished with 548 yards of total offense — all rushing — with just 10 first downs. On 40 carries, the Loboes averaged 13.7 yards per rush.
Vegas Hastings, Cisco’s leading rusher, piled up 309 yards and four touchdowns — covering 18, 81, 45 and 27 yards — on just 18 carries. Quarterback Tanner Garcia scored on runs of 1 and 55 yards, while fullback Bradley Tolar added a 59-yard scoring sprint.
Stopping, or at least containing, Cisco’s run game is the No. 1 priority for the Bangs defense entering Friday’s contest.
“We have to do a good job of hemming them in and not allowing big plays,” Lipsey said. “They block well up front and have one of the better running backs in the area. He’s very elusive and has great vision. The quarterback is also a good runner. We have to keep them hemmed up and not let them get into the secondary.”
As impressive as the Loboes offense was last week, the defense was suspect at best. Cisco surrendered 421 yards of total offense, including 316 through the air, to Ballinger.
Despite Cisco’s struggles against the pass last week, the Dragons are preparing to run a balanced offensive attack Friday night.
“They’ve got some young guys on defense, but they’re still plenty good,” Lipsey said. “You can’t go into a game definitely saying you’re going to run it all the time or pass it all the time. Good teams have to be able to do both. We have to throw and catch and we’re going to try and establish the run.”
The Dragons have shown they possess the weapons to be successful both rushing and passing. In last week’s 32-6 homecoming victory over Hamilton, Bangs finished with 293 yards of total offense — 193 rushing and 99 passing.
Tyler Fuqua completed 10-of-18 passes for 92 yards with a touchdown, while Marcus Berniard rushed for 78 yards and a pair of scores on nine carries. Jorden Mason grabbed a team-high three receptions for 34 yards with a touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, Bangs yielded 238 yards of total offense — including 208 on the ground — to Hamilton, but the Dragons forced four turnovers, including three first-half fumbles. Grant Bear returned one fumble 60 yards for a touchdown, while Clinton Almgren pounced on another. Quenton Sprowls also caught and returned a missed field goal attempt deep into Hamilton territory.
“I was pleased with the win, but the kids realized they didn’t play as good as they could and we can get better,” Lipsey said. “The special teams and defense did some good things, and we were up 24-0 at halftime. But I wasn’t pleased with a missed goal and a fumble right before the half. We also have to get better on the offensive line and defensive line.”
With defense of their 8-2A championship slated to begin when Early visits next week — along with Comanche, Brady and San Saba looking to be legitimate playoff contenders early — a win Friday night would give the Dragons a huge momentum surge heading into league play.
“This would be a huge win for us whether district started next week or not,” Lipsey said. “Any time you can pull off a win against a top program like Cisco it will boost your confidence. It’s going to be a fight. If they’re going to beat us, they’re going to have to earn it because we’re going to fight to the end. We’re not just going to give it away.”