BANGS — Two weeks into the season and Bangs head coach Chuck Lipsey feels much better about the direction in which the Dragons are heading despite an 0-2 start. Bangs will attempt to claim its first win of the season, as will the Goldthwaite Eagles (0-2), at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the first varsity game on the new field turf at Dragon Memorial Stadium.
The Dragons, who opened the season with a 61-33 defeat at the hands of Clyde, are coming off a 21-14 loss at Class 3A Llano a week ago. Goldthwaite, meanwhile, dropped a 26-7 decision at Class A No. 1 Mason last week after kicking off the season with a 45-24 home defeat against Class 2A McGregor.
Bangs spotted Llano a 13-0 lead last week, rallied to take a 14-13 advantage into the fourth period, but was unable to complete another comeback in the final period.
“We’re getting closer,” Lipsey said. “When we got home I watched the film and couldn’t go to sleep that night. We’re getting better, but there’s seven guys on offense that didn’t start on varsity last year and six on defense. I wish we were 2-0 right now, but it’s going to take a little time. We still need to grow up in a hurry and we have a big test this week against Goldthwaite.”
The Dragons finished with just 202 yards of total offense last week, 117 rushing and 85 passing, after racking up 350 yards in the season opener. But Bangs reduced its number of turnovers from five to two, which aided tremendously.
Also, Llano managed 40 points fewer than Clyde the week before as the Dragons limited the Yellow Jackets to 378 total yards — 331 rushing and 47 passing — after surrendering 496 yards in Week 0.
“Llano had one back that was faster than everyone on the field and in the stands and we knew we couldn’t let him get away from us,” Lipsey said. “He ended up getting two long runs on us where we had him corralled, but he got away and got the two long runs that put them ahead 13-0.
“We came back and scored before the half and made it 13-7, then we played a good third quarter defensively and scored again to make it 14-13 going into the fourth. I was feeling pretty good about our chances, but they had two Hail Mary passes that they under threw and went up and caught and went on to score. We got the ball and went the length of the field, executed well and went for it on fourth and 3 from the 16 and missed an open receiver. Overall the effort was good and we had an opportunity to win that game Friday night, which is a good thing.”
In Goldthwaite’s loss to Mason, the Eagles were held off the scoreboard until two seconds remained. Quarterback T.R. Jones scored on a 1-yard run as the Eagles were limited to 188 yards of total offense and committed three turnovers.
Dakota Perry, Eric Chavez and Joseph Paddock rushed for 37, 35 and 33 yards, respectively. Jones passed for 74 yards and Ryan Wright caught a team-high three balls for 28 yards for the Eagles.
Goldthwaite did hold Mason to 222 total yards of total offense, still the Punchers raced out to a 19-0 halftime lead.
For the season, Goldthwaite is generating 15.5 points and 211.5 yards — 174 rushing and 37.5 passing — per contest.
Jones has completed 7 of 22 passes for 74 yards with three interceptions, and all his completions came against Mason. Paddock has rushed for a touchdown and a team-high 145 yards, trailed by Chavez with 89 yards and Perry with 63 yards and three touchdowns. Chavez and Paddock have also chipped in two receptions each for 25 and 21 yards, respectively.
“It’s the same ol’ Goldthwaite,” Lipsey said. “They might be 0-2, but they got beat by a real good McGregor team and Mason is one of the top teams in the state in 1A. They’re big up front, they like to run and keep the ball away from you. We need to slow them down and get ahead of them point wise and make them do stuff they don’t do very well, which is come from behind.
“We’re going to have to match their aggressiveness up front and be able to get off blocks. Their three running backs are not speed burners, but they’re quick, run hard and try and get every inch they can when they run. We have to get bodies on them and get them wrapped up and on the ground. Then our secondary can’t fall asleep and let them get behind them on play action because they’ll try and lull you in with the running game.”
The Bangs defense thus far has surrendered 41 points and 436 yards per game on average — 249 rushing and 188 passing. Those numbers are a vast improvement following the season opener.
Tanner Shaw’s 30 tackles are a team-high for the Dragons trailed by Jake Gravell with 21, Jose Vielma with 20, Clay Funderburg with 16, Mason Reichenau with 15, Daniel Hall with 14, Baylen Horton with 12, Josh Truelove with 11 and Keegan Hall with 10.
On the flip side of the ball, the Dragons are producing 23.5 points and 276 yards — 171 passing and 105 rushing — per game.
J.T. Newton has completed 29 of 62 passes for 342 yards with three touchdowns while rushing for a team-high 133 yards and two more scores. Seth Ross has chipped in 44 yards on the ground and Gravell has rushed for 32 yards and reached the end zone once. Leading receivers for the Dragons include Truelove (9-120, 2 TDs), Cameron Castillo (6-81), Gravell (5-20, TD), Hall (3-74), Kyle Locke (2-17) and Shaw (2-11).
The Goldthwaite defense comes into the game yielding 35.5 points and 338 yards — 183 passing and 155 rushing — per outing.
“Defensively, Goldthwaite has some tough, hard-nosed kids and they do a lot of stunting and try and put pressure on you,” Lipsey said. “Their style of football hasn’t changed. They’re going to be aggressive and we have to match that. If we can do that, take care of the football and keep getting first downs and putting the ball in the end zone, we’ll have a chance.”
Playing their first game on field turf, as well as their first game at home, Lipsey anticipates an extra hop in the step of the Dragons Friday night.
“The kids are excited about the first game at home on turf, and I want to see us play a good game for four quarters and get a win,” Lipsey said. “The turf’s nice and both teams are trying to get their first win, and we’re going to have to play real well against Goldthwaite to do that. We just need to go out and put four quarters together on our new field in front of everybody and get our first win.”