Bangs (0-0) at Comanche (0-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday — Indian Stadium
2006 Result: Comanche 21, Bangs 7
BANGS — The roles have been reversed in the latest season-opening showdown between the Bangs Dragons and the Comanche Indians, who are facing each other in the first game of the season for the fourth straight year.
This season it is the Indians who are breaking in a new coach and a new system, which is exactly what Bangs went through a year ago in a 21-7 home loss to Comanche, the first of five straight defeats to open the season.
Eddie Pettit’s first year as Bangs head coach ended with four wins in the final five games, however, and the Dragons are hoping to build on that momentum and start on the right foot in 2007.
“We feel like it’s really important to get an early win to get some confidence for these guys,” Pettit said. “We definitely want to get off to a better start than we did last year, but we also know if we things don’t go our way Friday night it’s not the end of the season. But a win could springboard us and would help us mentally, I know.”
Jeryl Brixey, former offensive coordinator at 5A Katy, has taken over at Comanche, which returns just eight lettermen from last year’s 2-8 squad. Brixey stated in a preseason interview that despite the lack of returnees, the Indians plan to develop depth and collect victories early in the season.
“I see non-district games as a chance to get better and to create some depth,” Brixey said. “We’re going to play a lot of kids in a lot of positions so we don’t have any questions about what they can do when district gets here. I want us to play hard and get better. We’re going in planning to win.”
The Indians’ new Pro-I offense is the most notable difference for Comanche, and it could present a challenge for the Dragons. But the defensive side of the ball was not a weakness for Bangs in the early portion of the 2006 season.
“The biggest changes we’ve seen for them are on the offensive side of the ball where they are more wide-open,” Pettit said. “But defensively, we expect to be right where we left off last year. Coach (Ronnie) Fowlkes does a great job with the defense and he’s really had them going. Things haven’t changed on that side of the ball for us. We’re running the same defense. We still believe in the attack mode and that’s what we’re going to try and do every Friday night.”
The Dragons’ defense will be led by Jeremiah Johnson and Bo Torres at linebacker, Adrian Brown, Joey Lewis, Joey Brooke and Bradley Lee in the secondary, and Cody Cross, Caleb Stone, Mitchell Hunter, Theron Parson and Nic Carruth up front.
Key contributors for Comanche offensively are expected to be Bynam Ballard and Jerick Roberts at quarterback, Todd Bearden at receiver and Trent Pyburn and Wesley Dudley in the backfield.
Whether or not the Indians struggle with their new offense the way the Dragons did last year is yet to be seen, but Pettit and company aren’t heading into the game assuming Comanche will.
“That’s always hard to tell,” Pettit said. “They have a new coach trying to implement some new things and their numbers are down a little bit. Comanche is traditionally pretty tough in football and we expect nothing less from them.”
Bangs’ offense improved greatly in the second half of the season after it abandoned the spread attack, and though the Dragons haven’t reached that level of consistency yet in preseason practices, Pettit anticipates a much better start offensively in 2007.
“Our execution is definitely not where we want it to be, but it seems like it gets better every day,” Pettit said. “We had a little trouble hanging on to the ball in our scrimmages, but other than that, our offense is about where it needs to be. We’re not going to be just run-oriented or pass-oriented. We’re going to try and mix it up and be able to do a little bit of both.”
The Dragons’ offense will be run by quarterback Justin Greenhaw, who took over in midseason a year ago. Johnson, last year’s leading rusher, is also back, along with Lee and Brooke at wide receiver. Up front, Parson, Carruth and newcomer Ty Bolton will anchor the line.
As for what it will take for the Dragons to emerge from Comanche with a victory, Pettit stated Bangs must avoid giving the Indians opportunities to hurt them.
“No. 1, we have to take care of the football,” Pettit said. “Turnovers are going to play a big role in probably every stadium Friday night. Special teams are also going to be a big factor because it will be the first time for live action with the punting and kicking teams. Turnovers and special teams are going to determine a lot of winners Friday night.”