BANGS — Coming off their first 4-3A Division II victory of the season, the Bangs Dragons will attempt to keep the Ballinger Bearcats, district runners-up a year ago, winless against league competition as the two teams square off at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Runnels County.
Bangs (3-2, 1-1) picked up a 46-16 victory at Grape Creek after dropping its league opener to Anson (48-27). Ballinger (3-2, 0-2), meanwhile, has come up short against both Cisco (26-9) and Anson (27-20).
“They're a lot better than their district record,” said Bangs second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield. “Anson jumped on them early but Ballinger shut them down in the second half. Ballinger was probably a little flat coming off the Cisco game, so they're definitely going to be playing their best. We definitely have to match their intensity and turn it up a little more because we're going to their place.
“We know we're going in as underdogs and Ballinger hasn't hit on all cylinders yet. Hopefully we can keep them from doing it a week longer. When they're hitting on all cylinders they're hard to beat, but our guys are playing with confidence. We just want to get better at what we do and hopefully get some breaks and see what happens.”
In last week's win over Grape Creek, the Dragons finished with 410 yards of total offense while giving up just 161 — 83 passing and 78 rushing — and forcing two turnovers, including a 26-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Trevor Lorah.
“We were pretty consistent on offense,” Maxfield said. “We had a couple of drives in the second half that stalled out, but when we got up at halftime we worked on some things we need to work on and that slowed our offense down a little bit, but that's why you work on them. We haven't done some of those things in any previous games so it was nice to work on some stuff. At the same time, we wish we would have executed some of that better in the second half.
“Defensively, we stopped them after that one big pass play early. After that our defense was really solid. The other score we gave up was late in the second half. We got a little lackadaisical but didn't give up any big plays, just 3-4 yards at a time. We tried to get some other guys playing time, which is a really nice thing. Everybody got in the game and that's always good to see.”
The Dragons head into Friday's contest averaging 34 points and 299 yards — 221 rushing and 78 passing — per outing. Ethan Sanchez has rushed for 618 yards and 13 touchdowns, quarterback Brayton Wedeman has added 273 yards and four scores and Guy Powell has chipped in 199 yards and a touchdown. Wedeman has connected on 20 of 34 passes for 363 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions, while primary receiving threats include Sanchez (3-112), Riley Taylor (3-45), Wesley Mitchell (3-43, 2 TDs), Powell (3-26, TD), and Damien Santillanes (3-17).
Defensively, Bangs is yielding 27 points and 299 yards — 174 rushing and 125 passing — per game. Standouts include Hayden King (35 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks), Powell (31.5 tackles), Sanchez (31 tackles), Santillanes (30.5 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FR), Taylor (28 tackles, 2 FRs), Eli Carbajal (28 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack), Mitchell (22.5 tackles, 2 INTs), Trevor Bowers (13.5 tackles) and Trey Ivey (11.5 tackles, 1 TFL).
“Offensively we have to keep getting better at what we're doing and keep taking care of the ball,” Maxfield said. “We've done a good job of taking care of the ball. Ballinger had some good drives against Anson but would turn it over. Hopefully our defense can create some turnovers. If we could find a way to get some points from our defense, that would help tremendously.”
Led by former Bangs head coach Chuck Lipsey, Ballinger heads into Friday's game generating 30 points and 352 yards — 224 rushing and 128 passing — per outing. Quarterback Edgar Nunez has connected on 31 of 68 passes for 437 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions, while rushing for 449 yards and seven scores. Darin Hall (274 yards, 5 TDs), Cooper Bean (240 yards, 2 TDs) and Tyler Vaughn (53 yards, TD) are also threats out of the backfield, while primary receiving targets are Weston Rollwitz (15-245, 3 TDs), Garrett Dixon (8-90), Joe Marcus Guerrero (5-129, TD) and Braden Bowman (5-87).
“Nunez is who makes them go,” Maxfield said. “Tackling the quarterback is No. 1. He's shifty and quick and they do a good job with their schemes they have just getting him out in space. We also can't let any of the receivers get behind us, if they complete balls we want them to be in front of us. We have to cut down on big plays and make them earn what they get.”
The Bearcat defense is surrendering 19 points with 25 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and eight takeaways thus far. Leading the charge on that side of the ball are Bean (51 tackles, 3 TFL), Dixon (37 tackles, 10 TFL, 1 INT), Adam Winn (35 tackles, 4 TFL), Rollwitz (31 tackles) and Bowman (29 tackles, 5 sacks).
“We've been preaching this week about being nastier,” Maxfield said. “We've got great kids and they're a little too nice. We're trying to get them over that hump. We have a few guys but we need a couple more. We need to be coming off the ball faster, lowering our pads, maintaining blocks longer, getting to the next level, just trying to get a little nastier in the trenches. We've really been focusing on that because Ballinger is really good on both sides on the ball up front. It'll be a big challenge for us.”
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Bangs is a 14-point underdog.