BANGS — The Bangs Dragons expected to come off last week’s bye with a postseason berth to play for in Friday’s regular-season finale against the Brady Bulldogs. Instead, the Dragons (5-3, 3-2) will be wrapping up their season as — for the second year in a row — they attempt to deny the District 8-2A champion Bulldogs (9-0, 5-0) an undefeated regular season.
By virtue of San Saba’s 17-14 win at Comanche last week, the District 8-2A playoff seeds were settled and the 2008 district champion Dragons were left on the outside for the first time in Chuck Lipsey’s head coaching career.
“It’s a deal where we didn’t take care of business,” Lipsey said. “You can’t always count on somebody else to do something. It’s a lesson learned that we need to take care of our own business. We were close in two games, but we didn’t get it done and it’s our fault, nobody else’s. The playoff scenarios are set, so basically our playoff game is going to be Friday night against Brady.”
Though the mood around the Dragon program was admittedly gloomy early Monday, Bangs has shifted its focus to ending its season with a victory — a feat it could not have achieved in the postseason unless it claimed a state championship.
“We talked to the seniors on Monday about this being the last game they get to play and they want to be remembered for going out on a good note,” Lipsey said. “I still think we’re a good football team. It’s frustrating that we were so close, but we’re not getting in. But we need to go out on a good note and try and upset Brady.”
The Dragons expect Brady to be gunning for them after Bangs not only ruined the Bulldogs’ bid for an undefeated season last year, but denied head coach Glen Jones’ squad a district championship.
“They came in here 9-0 last year and we played really well that ball game and were able to beat them,” Lipsey said. “That that gives Brady some motivation. They want to end their regular season with a perfect record. Our kids know the situation. We need to go in there and play lights out and try and upset them. That’s our goal and that’s how we’ve practiced this week.”
Bangs put forth its most complete performance of the season in its last outing, a 49-0 home victory over Dublin on Oct. 23. Brady faced Dublin last week and cruised to a 45-8 win.
Against Dublin, the Dragon defense pitched its first shutout of the year and held the Lions to just 29 total yards, two first downs and forced five turnovers. Offensively, Bangs established a new season-high in points and finished with 358 total yards, including 210 yards on the ground.
Tyler Fuqua rushed for a team-high 58 yards and two touchdowns, Marcus Berniard chipped in 43 yards and a score and Corey Sanchez and Skyler Ogden added TD runs of 7 and 15 yards, respectively.
Fuqua also completed 13-of-24 passes for 148 yards with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Smith. Jorden Mason also scored when he scooped up a blocked punt and returned it 16 yards.
In the Bulldogs’ win over Dublin, Brady limited the Lions to 9 yards of total offense in the first half and 146 yards for the game. Brady emptied the bench, letting several players in on the action as the Bulldogs amassed 320 total yards, including 233 rushing.
Brady’s most dangerous weapon, quarterback Mackenzie Hirt, did not play last week. Hirt did, however, spark the Bulldog offense in its most impressive performance of the year, a 44-30 win over Comanche on Oct. 16. Hirt rushed for 97 yards and three TDs in the contest, while passing for 64 yards.
“Offensively they run the wing-T and they do a good job at it,” Lipsey said. “If you stop the run, they’ll run the bootleg and throw the ball a little bit. Hirt is an excellent quarterback that makes good decisions. He’s someone you’d like to have run that kind of offense. He’s a very smart player.
“They don’t have have a 1,000-yard rusher, but they’ve got three or four guys with 300 to 400 yards rushing. They do a good job distributing the ball and they do a good job blocking up front. We’re going to have to play well defensively, read our keys and stop the big plays.”
For the season, Brady averages 40 points per game and allows just 15. The defense has held its opponent to single digits in points on four occasions this season, including last week.
“Defensively, they run the split and stunt a lot,” Lipsey said. “We’re going to have to pick up the stunts and make them pay when they stunt.”
Win or lose Friday night, Lipsey wants the Dragons to play with their most intense effort of the 2009 campaign.
“I want to walk off that field Friday night knowing we left it on all on the field on both sides,” Lipsey said. “You can talk Xs and Os and game plans, but it’s the last time those seniors are going to get to play and I want them to leave it all on the field. We’re going to play as hard as we can for 48 minutes and go from there. If we leave it all on the field, then I’ll be happy.”