BANGS — Following two consecutive defeats, the Bangs Dragons are looking to establish some positive momentum heading into their bye week, followed by the District 3-3A Division I opener. But standing in the way of that goal is the undefeated Coleman Bluecats, who have won their first three games by an average of 35 points.
Bangs (1-2) ventures to Hufford Field in Coleman (3-0) for the 7:30 p.m. Friday tilt.
The Dragons are coming off back-to-back losses to Llano (41-21) and Goldthwaite (42-36), while the Bluecats have strolled past Jim Ned (42-6), Hawley (50-14) and Early (48-14) — two of which Bangs will face in district competition.
“I was disappointed in the loss of course, but I thought we played well at times,” Bangs head coach Chuck Lipsey said of last week’s encounter with Goldthwaite. “They fought and got after it for four quarters. There were four or five different lead changes throughout the game. Goldthwaite’s a physical football team that gets after it and plays hard and we had some injuries.
“We lost Seth (Ross) in the first quarter and Mason (Reichenau) in the second quarter and that hurt us. Keegan (Hall) tweaked his hamstring in the third quarter, but we still had a chance to win the ball game if we make some plays.”
The status for Ross, the team’s leading rusher, Bangs’ top tackler Reichenau, and the Dragons’ starting quarterback Hall, was uncertain for Friday night.
“I really don’t know, it’s a day by day deal,” Lipsey said. “I can’t say for sure if any of them are going to play, we’ll just have to see how it looks.”
As disconcerting, or perhaps even more so, than the injuries, has been the play of the defense the last two weeks, as Bangs has yielded 83 points in its two home games. For the year, the Dragons are allowing 37 points and 354 yards — 205 rushing and 154 passing — on average.
“If you’re giving up more than 40 points it’s not easily corrected,” Lipsey said. “We’ve got some bright spots on defense but we have some weak links we have to get fixed. We have to get people in the right spots, move some kids around. I hope it gets fixed by Friday night because Coleman has an explosive bunch of kids on that side of the ball. We need drastic improvement Friday night.”
Coleman rolls into Friday’s contest against Bangs averaging 47 points and 489 yards — 362 rushing and 167 passing — per outing. Two weeks ago against Hawley, the Bluecats churned out 629 yards in a 36-point triumph.
Quarterback Cord Norris has completed 27 of 41 passes for 375 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception, while rushing for 87 yards and another score. Jaquan Hemphill is the top ground gainer for the Bluecats with 397 yards and six trips to the end zone.
Leading receivers for Coleman include Royce Harris (6-74, 2 TDs), Kyle Boyet (4-78, 2 TDs) and Mason Burkey (4-51, 2 TDs). Boyet has also contributed 110 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while Matt Anderson has rushed for 84 yards and returned a kick 94 yards for a touchdown last week to spark the Bluecats’ rally from a 14-0 deficit against Early.
“Coleman has good skill kids and they’ve been good since they were in seventh grade,” Lipsey said. “Their offensive line does a good job, but the main thing is their weapons. Hemphill has speed and can score from anywhere, and Norris does a good job running the offense, he’s a good leader. They have a good tight end, the fullback gets after it and the receivers are very good. It will be a good test for us.”
Bangs’ defense has been led by Reichenau (27 tackles), John Paul Salazar (23 tackles), Cameron Castillo (20 tackles), Curtis Patrick (19 tackles), Daniel Hall (17 tackles), Clay Funderburg (16 tackles), Smokey Robinson (15 tackles), Julius McNew (14 tackles), Jake Gravell (12 tackles), Zach Fuqua (12 tackles), Chane Burton (11 tackles), Charlie Bettis (11 tackles), Dalton Johnson (10 tackles) and Trett Mitchell (10 tackles).
Offensively, aside from five turnovers against Llano and an interception returned for a touchdown by Goldthwaite, Lipsey has been pleased with the progression on that side of the ball.
“I feel good offensively for the most part,” Lipsey said. “The five turnovers versus Llano killed us and you’re not going to beat anybody doing that. We only had the one turnover against Goldthwaite but that was a pick six. We’re throwing the ball better, the running game is working well, we just don’t quite have it all together yet. Hopefully we get it going Friday night. We’re close, we’re just not quite where we need to be right now.”
Hall has completed 16 of 50 passes for 356 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions, while rushing for 220 yards and four scores. Ross has rushed for 344 yards and three touchdowns, while Gravell has chipped in 127 yards on the ground and a score. Castillo (4-165, TD), Johnson (4-82, TD) and Robinson (4-37, TD) are the leading receiving threats for the Dragons, who average 36 points and 361 yards — 243 rushing and 118 passing.
The Coleman defense has been just as impressive as the offense, allowing just 11 points and 268 yards — 147 rushing and 121 passing — per game.
“The same skill kids on offense play linebacker and in the secondary for Coleman, so they’re athletic and can make some plays,” Lipsey said. “We need to control the ball, control the line of scrimmage, and mix up the run and the pass. If we can do that, I think we can put some points on the board. At the same time, we have to be able to slow them down.”