BANGS — Coming off their most lopsided victory of the season, the Bangs Dragons are gearing up for what they hope is their first postseason run since 2014. The rival Coleman Bluecats will attempt to derail those plans as they two teams square off in a game that will likely determine District 4-3A Division II's fourth and final playoff seed.
Kickoff between the Dragons (4-3, 2-2) and Bluecats (3-4, 2-2) is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Hufford Field in Coleman.
“It's a big game for our program,” said Bangs second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield, whose team has already surpassed last year's win total. “It hasn't been that long ago that Coleman made a pretty deep run in the playoffs. It's been a little longer for us. But this will be a big challenge going into Coleman. Coach (John) Elder and those guys do a great job.”
Bangs is coming off a 47-6 victory over Merkel in which the Dragons jumped out to a 26-0 halftime lead. The Dragons finished with 442 yards and no turnovers while allowing 217 and forcing three fumbles, despite playing without leading tackler Hayden King, who remains day-to-day with a quad injury.
“It was one of the most complete games we've played all season and this time of the year you want to peaking at the right time,” Maxfield said. “I feel like our guys are starting to do that. We still try and improve every day and we have a long way to go to reach our full potential, but it's going to take an even better effort this week against Coleman.”
After beginning district play with wins over Grape Creek (49-8) and San Angelo TLCA (49-12), Coleman has since fallen to Cisco (47-0) and Anson (40-12).
In last week's loss to Anson, the Bluecats gave up 420 yards of total offense — 226 passing and 194 rushing — while finishing with 230 yards, including 216 on the ground, and three turnovers.
Benny Wright rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown to spark the Coleman offense, while E.J. Reyna chipped in 39 yards and Jalen Holloway rushed for 30. Quarterback Corbin Rosales was 3 of 7 for 14 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while also rushing for 12 yards.
“The best defensive front we've faced in district has been Ballinger and I think Coleman's front is right there with them,” Maxfield said. “It's going to be a challenge for our guys up front, but I feel like our offensive line keeps getting a little bit better.
“Defensively, I think the thing that worries you the most is them keeping the ball from you and sustaining long drives. They're really good at that, that's what their offense is built for. Hopefully we can get some three-and-outs and not let them control the clock the whole game.”
Bangs enters the game averaging 31 points and 303 yards — 221 rushing and 82 passing — per outing.
Quarterback Brayton Wedeman has completed 32 of 52 passes for 544 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions, while rushing for 404 yards and six scores. Ethan Sanchez (878 yards, 15 TDs) anchors the ground game with help from Guy Powell, who is also the leading receiver (242 yards, 2 TDs rushing; 8-129, 2 TDs receiving). Other pass catching threats include Wesley Mitchell (7-93, 2 TDs), Sanchez (5-125), Damien Santillanes (4-22), Riley Taylor (3-45) and Trevor Bowers (2-74, 2 TDs).
“I still would like to be able to throw the ball down field better,” Maxfield said of the offense. “Part of that is my fault because I don't give them opportunities to. We have to be willing to take some shots and when you're running the ball pretty effectively it's hard to make yourself do that. Coleman's probably going to present us with some challenges where we'll have to execute that.”
Defensively, the Dragons allow 24 points and 298 yards — 185 rushing and 113 passing — on average. Standouts include King (45.5 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks), Sanchez (44 tackles, 1 TFL), Eli Carbajal (41 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack), Santillanes (39 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FR), Powell (39 tackles, 1 TFL), Taylor (32 tackles, 3 FRs, 1 INT), Mitchell (29.5 tackles, 2 INTs), Trey Ivey (19.5 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 FR), Brandon Robinson (17 tackles, 1 TFL), Bowers (16.5 tackles), Rylan Cates (14 tackles, 2 TFL), Charle Smith (13 tackles) and Cael John (12.5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack).
As for the keys to a Dragon victory, Maxfield said, “In big games like this, winning the turnover battle and the special teams battle, and I think field position are going to be big. We need to take the performance we had last week and build on that. Keep the momentum going, that's our goal this week.”
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Bangs is an 11-point favorite.