BANGS — Homecoming week has arrived in Bangs, where the Dragons look to return to the win column after suffering their first defeat of the season. The undefeated Winters Blizzards stand in the way, with start time slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium.
Bangs (1-1) dropped a 36-9 decision to Class 2A Division I No. 8 Hawley at home last week after kicking off the season with a 44-7 triumph over Early. Winters (2-0) has knocked off Goldthwaite (21-0) and Eldorado (26-20) thus far.
The Dragons were limited to just 136 yards of total offense against Hawley — 104 rushing and 32 passing — with three interceptions.
“We have to improve on what we do and do a better job of maintaining blocks,” Dragons second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield said of the offensive goals for this week. “Our quarterback has to do a better job reading, whether it's in the run game or the pass game. We have as many read plays in our run game as we do in our pass. Ball security and taking care of the ball is important, too. But the biggest thing is negative plays. Even if it's one yard, if it's a positive yard instead of a loss of 8 that really helps because it's hard for us to overcome the negative plays.”
Bangs averages 26.5 points and 251.5 yards — 174.5 rushing and 77 passing — per game on average. Ethan Sanchez has rushed for 249 yards and four touchdowns, quarterback Brayton Wedeman has added 74 yards and a score and Guy Powell has chipped in 27 yards. Wedeman has connected on 9 of 15 passes for 125 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions, while receiving threats include Damien Santillanes (3-17), Wesley Mitchell (2-38, TD), Sanchez (1-24), Trevor Bowers (1-29, TD) and Hayden King (1-25).
Defensively against Hawley, the Dragons yielded 371 yards, with 251 coming on the ground, and also surrendered a touchdown on the game-opening kick return.
“We have to be disciplined and do our job, and not got tricked into doing something else,” Maxfield said in regard to the Dragons' preparing for Winters' ground game. “They're really good at that. Each player has to be focused on what their responsibility is each and every play and not get lulled to sleep, cause that offense can definitely do that to you.
“We lost the special teams battle last week because we didn't cover a kickoff, so we've spent a lot of time on special teams this week in all areas, whether it's fielding punts, hitting the right spot on kickoff returns, or covering better on punts and kickoffs.”
Bangs is giving up 21.5 points and 251 yards — 146.5 rushing and 104.5 passing — on average. Defensive standouts include Eli Carbajal (14.5 tackles, 3 TFL), Powell (14.5 tackles), Sanchez (12 tackles), King (11.5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack), Riley Taylor (11 tackles), Mitchell (11 tackles), and Santillanes (10 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FR).
In Winters' win over Eldorado last week, the Blizzards trailed 14-12 at halftime but scored first the first two touchdowns of the second half to seize control. The Blizzards finished with 296 total yards — 262 rushing and 34 passing — with two turnovers, while allowing 252 yards, including 170 through the air, with three takeaways — two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Winters surrendered touchdowns on a 5-yard run and pass plays of 9 and 90 yards.
Quarterback Alex Salas rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown and completed 2 of 4 passes for 34 yards, both to Chaney Bahlman. Winters' own Ethan Sanchez rushed for a team-best 76 yards while other ground weapons include Matt Jacob (43 yards), Miguel Rodriguez (30 yards), Malakye Kelly (25 yards, TD) and Houston Esquivel (4-yard TD).
“The most impressive thing about Winters is their system, especially on offense,” Maxfield said. “That flexbone is something they run to a tee. It's a very ball control, time of possession oriented offense and they're very efficient. It makes you play disciplined defense. It's something at our level you don't see much anymore. It's a little foreign to us, except for the people who played Winters last year.
“They have decent size and they're sound on defense. They have a couple of players that stand out, big and strong. They haven't given up many big plays, just one pass play against Eldorado. So far they've had a pick six on defense, so their defense has scored some points. They're a bend but not break defense and they try to get their offense more time of possession.”
In regard to the week being Bangs' homecoming celebration, Maxfield and company are embracing the additional festivities and do not feel they will serve as a distraction
“We've talked about it with the team,” Maxfield said. “In my younger days I didn't like to address the elephant in the room, but I figured it's homecoming so let's make the most of it. We're going to have a bigger crowd here, the kids seem to have fun with the activities and our practices have still been focused. We're just going to take it and run with it and use it to our advantage.”
Last season, Winters defeated Bangs, 36-6.
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Bangs is a 4-point underdog.