Rarely has the Bangs football program endured the struggles it has experienced in 2015, but a trying season can end on a positive note as the Dragons square off against their former head coach in Friday night’s finale at Memorial Stadium.
Chuck Lipsey, who led the Dragons to the playoffs in six of his seven seasons, returns to Bangs (0-9, 0-5) as head coach of the playoff-bound Brady Bulldogs (6-3, 3-2) — who can lock up the third seed from District 3-3A Division I with a win.
“Our kids, by and large regardless of their record, have shown up every week and played their butts off, but there is a little bounce in their step this week with the opportunity to play against Coach Lipsey’s team,” said Bangs first-year head coach Jim Bird, who is still seeking his first victory with the program. “They’ve always done a pretty good job of focusing, but they’re doing an even better job this week. We look for our kids to go out and have a good game. No matter how things go, we feel like they’ll go out and play well.”
Bangs is coming off a weather-shortened 42-0 loss at No. 6 Wall, a game in which the Dragons mustered only 38 yards of total offense in a half of football, while surrendering 387.
“Wall has a really good program,” Bird said. “Their kids do a very good job physically and mentally of winning each individual battle. Our kids, responsibility-wise, were doing their jobs, there were just some times physically that they weren’t able to get the job done. They knew what to do and they were going where they needed to be, but football is a game of battles and you have to win your battle. Wall has some really good kids, a really good coaching staff and a really good scheme. They’re tough and they’ve got plenty of talent all the way up and down the line. They’re incredibly hard to move the ball on and incredibly hard to stop.”
The Dragons enter the season finale having allowed 36 points and 342 yards — 169 rushing and 173 passing — per outing, while producing just 16 points and 226 yards — 146 on the ground and 78 through the air — per game while turning the ball over 25 times.
“We’d like to move the ball, score a bunch of touchdowns and not give up very many,” Bird said of his goals for the team against Brady. “But we have a long way to go with the fundamentals as far as blocking and tackling. At times we do them well and at others we don’t do them so well. We’d like to see them do a good job at point of attack blocking and taking care of the football offensively. On the defensive side, they have to provide the effort that’s needed to get to the football and then finish the tackles.”
Brady comes into the contest averaging 35 points and 360 yards — 278 rushing and 82 passing — per game, while yielding just 18 points on average.
Quarterback Cash Jacoby has thrown for 525 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions, while rushing for 640 yards and six scores. Other top ground gainers include Tim Jones (722 yards, 6 TDs), Keyshawn Eagle (632 yards, 8 TDs) and Aaron Eagle (384 yards, 6 TDs). Leading receivers for Brady are B.J. Hollis (16-369, 7 TDs), Isaac Ortega (8-114) and Derrick McBee (8-103, TD).
Defensive standouts for the Bulldogs include Landon Schwertner (125 tackles, five sacks), Zack Vaughn (103 tackles, nine sacks), Raleigh Kuback (97 tackles) and Weston Bauer (95 tackles, 10 sacks).
“Brady has a lot of speed, they’re very fast,” Bird said. “Defensively, they overcome mistakes at times with their athleticism. Offensively, they’ve got speed so we really have to work hard to not let them get loose, because once they do get loose they have a lot of guys that can go the distance. It’s just about effort defensively, flying to the ball and the effort needed to finish the tackle once you’re there. We can’t allow them to get into space because when they do, they can hurt you.”
Regardless of the outcome, Bangs’ season ends Friday night and Bird reflected briefly on his first year in charge of the Dragons program.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the guys,” Bird said. “It sounds funny saying that when you look back at this point and you haven’t won any games, but they’ve had some opportunities to and they slipped through their fingers. The character they have to show up every week and give their best, all we can ever ask of them is to show up and play hard. With the way the season’s gone, you often see kids waver with their commitment to practice and commitment to the program, especially if they’re older, Our seniors have done a good job hanging in there and going to battle, and the younger kids have followed suit.
“Our goal is to go out and beat Brady and finish the season right. Win, lose or draw this week, we’re still going to be proud of what they’ve done this year. Life’s hard, it’s not always fair and you get defeated in life from time to time. Being able to overcome adversity in life going forward, if nothing else, is what this season is going to teach them.”
According to the Lone Star Football Network website, the Dragons will be attempting to avoid their first winless season since 1971.
Harris Ratings Weekly lists Bangs as a 36-point underdog.