BANGS — The Bangs Dragons couldn't have asked for a much better start to the 2019 football season, as the 20-point underdogs went into Early and emerged with a 44-7 triumph over the rival Longhorns.
Coming off their first season-opening victory since 2016 — one of just a pair of wins that season, and two in a three-year stretch — the Dragons are aiming for their first 2-0 start since 2009 as the Class 2A Division I No. 8 Hawley Bearcats come to town for Friday's 7:30 p.m. home opener.
“It's always big to get that first win the first game of the season,” Bangs second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield said in regard to the victory over Early. “I feel like with our situation it was even more important to get off to a good start, gain some confidence and get some guys some experience while at the same time having some success.”
As important as the opening win was, Maxfield said the Dragons have to put it in the past in order to focus on the task at hand.
“We haven't been in this scenario or situation before, but our kids are usually pretty down to earth, but human nature is what it is,” Maxfield said in regard to concerns about lingering effects from the Week 1 victory. “We've had pretty good practices this week though, they got after it pretty good. Our kids know we're pretty honest with them and it's a two-way street. They know what's ahead of us and the challenge at stake this Friday. It's our first home game and that should also help our focus.”
Hawley, meanwhile, opened its season with a resounding 39-0 triumph over Roscoe.
“They're big and physical,” Maxfield said of the Bearcats. “They have some big guys up front and they have a big running back, he's the leader of their team. What makes them go is the guys up front and this is going to be one of the best fronts on offense and defense that we'll see this year. We have our hands full trying to control the line of scrimmage.”
The Dragons imposed their will on both sides of the ball in Week 1, yielding just 131 yards to Early — including 42 on the ground on 27 carries, to go with 89 through the air on 10 of 20 passing.
“I thought we really ran to the ball well, tackled pretty well, and didn't have a whole lot of missed tackles,” Maxfield said. “For the first game we had pretty good stats on our tackles. We gave up the one big play but after that we played really well. Overall, (defensive coordinator) Coach (Aaron) Keesee and the defensive staff were really pleased with how we were able to limit their offense and get some three and outs.”
Eli Carbajal led the defense with 7.5 tackles, including three for loss, while Ethan Sanchez also tallied 7.5 tackles. Riley Taylor chipped in 6.5 tackles, Guy Powell contributed six takedowns and Hayden King finished with five tackles, including one for loss, and one sack.
Offensively, Bangs generated 367 yards — 245 rushing and 122 passing.
“For us to be successful passing the ball, our running game has to be successful as well,” Maxfield said. “If we're relying on just passing the ball to move the chains it's going to be tough for us. That's why we've spent a lot of time on the running game and hopefully we continue to get better at the passing game, too.”
Sanchez rumbled for 142 yards on 24 carries with three trips to the end zone, while quarterback Brayton Wedeman chipped in 74 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Through the air, Wedeman completed 6 of 7 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown while Sanchez added a 29-yard scoring toss on his lone attempt. Leading receivers were Damien Santillanes with two grabs for 18 yards, Sanchez with a 24-yard reception and Wesley Mitchell and Trevor Bowers caught touchdown passes of 30 and 29 yards, respectively.
As for what Maxfield wants to see from the Dragons against Hawley, he said, “Offensively we have to get better. We have to continue take care of the ball and our blocking is going to have to improve against these guys. We have to play with our pads low and use our feet or we're not going to move these guys. They're really well-coached and physical.
“Defensively, Hawley hasn't shown a lot of different looks on offense. They're pretty vanilla, they're just good at what they do. They try and wear you down, so we're going to have to hold our ground and maybe bend a little bit but just not break.”
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Bangs is a 17-point underdog.