BANGS — The Bangs Dragons and Eastland Mavericks are no strangers when it comes to the postseason, as the two squads will tangle in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons at 6 p.m. Monday at Gordon Wood Stadium in Brownwood in the Division I-2A Region I semifinals.
Bangs (9-3) — which is coming off a 27-25 triumph over previously unbeaten Denver City this past Tuesday — defeated Eastland by a 37-30 count in the 2010 campaign, while the Mavericks (12-0) — which have yet to experience a loss this season — ousted the Dragons from the playoffs a season ago, 23-14, in the third round.
The Dragons have reeled off six consecutive victories heading into Monday’s contest, and in most of those Bangs has jumped out to a sizable advantage early. In the two playoff games, the Dragons raced out to a 14-0 lead and held on for the two-point victory against Denver City. In Bangs’ bi-district win over Comanche, the Dragons tallied the first 24 points and chalked up a 31-26 win.
“The bottom line is we want to have one more point at the end of the ball game than the other team,” Lipsey said, “but we know it helps to get off to a good start, but we also have to play for four quarters. Last week we played pretty good for the whole game, even though we made some mistakes on offense and defense every now and then. We made the right plays the majority of the time.”
Eastland and Bangs share three common opponents — Comanche, Clyde and Goldthwaite. Bangs lost to Clyde 61-33 in the season opener, while Eastland chalked up a 25-16 district win. The Mavericks beat Goldthwaite 36-15, while the Dragons earned a 45-27 victory. And in Eastland’s closest call, the Mavericks edged Comanche, 36-34, in overtime, while the Dragons downed the Indians by five in the playoffs.
“Comanche’s a good outfit and had a chance to beat Eastland and Clyde,” Lipsey said. “They were a play or two from winning district. They got after Eastland and made some plays early. It was a knock down, drag out that went into overtime, just a really good football game.”
The Mavericks enter Monday’s game averaging 47 points and 488 yards — 252 rushing and 236 passing — per contest. Eastland is led by quarterback Josh Moylan (173 of 285 for 2,713 yards with 35 touchdowns and five interceptions; 1,361 yards rushing, 21 TDs). Other key contributors include tailback Samuel Joiner (993 yards, 12 TDs rushing; 26-389, 7 TDs receiving) and receivers Matt Majors (32-541, 6 TDs); Mason Thayer (23-399, 6 TDs); J.D. Coffee (21-529, 7 TDs); Zach Carlton (14-187, TD); Caleb Honea (12-121, TD) and Josh Gosnell (10-166).
“They do a lot of things we do with their quarterback in the read offense,” Lipsey said. “We’re going to have to contain Moylan and that’s going to be a challenge. Defensively, we’re going to have to tackle better. I was frustrated last game because we had some plays stopped, we just didn’t get them to the ground. We didn’t tackle well on the perimeter and Moylan and Joiner are both elusive, so we have to make sure we get them wrapped up. At the same time, we can’t get beat over the top with the pass.”
Bangs’ defense enters the contest allowing 26 points and 334 yards — 190 rushing and 144 passing — with 77 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 18 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries. The Dragons are spearheaded by Tanner Shaw (131 tackles, eight for loss), William Roberts (86 tackles, 12 for loss), Jake Gravell (80 tackles, 14 for loss), Jose Vielma (77 tackles), Josh Truelove (76 tackles, nine for loss, seven interceptions), Clay Funderburg (67 tackles, seven for loss) and Mason Reichenau (65 tackles).
On the flip side of the ball, the Dragons are generating 33 points and 398 yards — 214 passing and 184 rushing — led by the play of quarterback J.T. Newton (140 of 258 for 2,140 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions; 806 yards, 15 TDs rushing), who rushed for more than 100 yards and three touchdowns against Denver City.
Other key contributors in the backfield include Seth Ross (802 yards, 3 TDs rushing; 12-152, TD receiving) and Gravell (788 yards, 15 TDs rushing; 18-263, 3 TDs receiving), while leading receivers include Truelove (54-870, 7 TDs), Shaw (20-273, 4 TDs), Keegan Hall (18-397, 3 TDs) and Cameron Castillo (16-195, 2 TDs).
The Eastland defense, meanwhile, is allowing 20 points and 290 yards — 160 rushing and 130 passing — per outing. The Mavericks, however, have given up 64 points in a single game — a 12-point victory over Grandview in Week 2. Since surrendering 34 points to Comanche, however, Eastland has yielded just 22 points over the last three games — including a 40-0 shutout over Littlefield in its most recent outing.
“I told them each week we’re going to have to reduce mistakes because each week the teams will get better,” Lipsey said. “After the win Tuesday I was excited, but still frustrated about some of the mistakes we made. We have to make sure we take care of the football, eliminate mistakes and continue to execute the run and pass with everybody, not just J.T. We’ve got three weapons in the backfield and our receivers do a good job, and we have to get everybody involved.”
The Dragons are still on an odd schedule, with a game this past Tuesday, the Thanksgiving holiday and the upcoming game Monday.
“It’s been fine,” Lipsey said. “We have an opportunity to keep playing, and we had the Thanksgiving holiday which is a time to spend with family. We got the scouting report done before the kids came in Wednesday. Wednesday was like a Monday, Thursday and Friday were like our Tuesday and Wednesday and practice on Saturday was like our walk through on a Thursday. We weren’t so rushed so we were out there a little longer and polished our offense, defense and special teams.”
Monday’s winner will face Wall (13-0), which knocked off Bushland by a 42-14 count Friday. Wall defeated Bangs, 49-13, earlier this season, while the Hawks ended Eastland’s season, 48-24, last year.