MERKEL— Following Friday’s 38-22 loss to Merkel, Bangs will need to make up precious ground next Friday against Coleman to stay in the District 4-3A Division II playoff hunt.
The Bangs Dragons (1-6, 1-3) held their own early against the Merkel Badgers (2-5, 2-2), but as the game wore on it became apparent they could not find a remedy for Merkel quarterback Jonah White, who scorched the Dragons for 376 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns.
“We knew [White] was shifty coming into this game, because we watched a lot of film over him,” said Bangs quarterback/cornerback Seth Anderson, who led the Dragons in all offensive categories completing 11 of 19 passes for 107 yards and rushing for 72 yards and three touchdowns. “We knew he was quick and could move and scramble, but we didn’t know he was as powerful as he is. He was hard to bring down. We needed two guys, bare minimum to bring him down.”
The Dragons had plenty of opportunities to keep the game close. They threatened the Badgers early with possessions reaching deep into Merkel territory, but each time fumbles or muffed snaps due to the muddy field conditions halted their drives. While the offense struggled to deal with a soggy field, Bangs’ defense and special teams play kept them in contention with Anderson dropping three first-half punts inside the 10-yard line and an Colton Martin, who had previously seen limited action due to injury, picking up an interception the Dragons could not capitalize on.
“In the first half, we took care of [White] pretty well, but he is a really good athlete,” Martin said. “He can run, he can hit and people like that we need to wrap up on, get him low and get some white shirts on him.”
Forced to punt after multiple Dragons sacked White on a third-and-long, a shanked kick by the Badgers put Bangs on the Merkel 30-yard line. A pair of Ethan Sanchez runs in the final seconds of the first quarter set up Anderson’s 10-yard scamper into the end zone on an option play for his first touchdown to open the second quarter, giving the Dragons their only lead of the game 7-0. Merkel needed two touchdowns to eventually take the lead, coming on a 78-yard run by Clayton Sparks and a 1-yard dive over the pile by White, but botched a pair of 2-point conversions resulted in 12-7 halftime lead for the Badgers. Merkel took a commanding 25-7 lead in the third quarter on a 1-yard touchdown by Jakob Dearing and a 45-yard touchdown by White.
“There is no doubt he is one of the best players in the state of Texas at our level, or at any level for that matter,” Bangs head coach Kyle Maxfield said. “He is a difference maker and I thought our kids really fought hard to keep him contained. He is going to get his and he finally got it there.”
A 54-yard touchdown by Anderson to open the fourth quarter pulled Bangs within 10 points, but White answered Anderson’s touchdown with another score of his own, completing a 24-yard touchdown to power running back Ryan Holloway to run away with the victory 38-22.
“We held our own and our guys fought. That is what we are most proud of,” Maxfield said. “We took some steps forward in a lot of areas tonight. We just have to keep that process going. We have to build on our success tonight. Obviously a loss isn’t a success, but from play to play you can see our kids growing up a little bit. We just have to build on that and cut down on the unforced errors.” `
Next week, the Dragons host Coleman (2-5, 1-3), which fell to Anson by a 42-13 count Friday.