COLEMAN — Barring any unexpected results the final two weeks of the season, the Bangs Dragons are on the verge of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
The Dragons collected a 44-21 road victory over the rival Coleman Bluecats Friday night to grab control of the fourth playoff seed in the District 4-3A Division II standings.
“We felt like that win would get us in the final spot in the playoffs, that's what we were playing for,” said Bangs second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield. “From where we started two years ago to now, these kids have really matured and it's credit to them and the staff.”
Bangs (5-3, 3-2) now leads Coleman (3-5, 2-3) by one game for the final playoff spot as the Dragons host San Angelo TLCA (1-7, 1-4) next week and venture to district leader Cisco (7-1, 5-0) in the regular season finale. Coleman, meanwhile, travels to third-place Ballinger (6-2, 3-2) next week and welcomes Merkel (1-7, 1-4) in the finale.
If Bangs and Coleman were to finish in a two-way tie, the Dragons would own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Coleman would need to defeat Ballinger next week to create a potential three-way tie for third place in the final district standings, which would then come down to a points tiebreaker.
The Dragons witnessed a 19-point lead over the Bluecats dwindle to five points, 26-21, with 11:44 remaining in the contest, but Bangs answered with three touchdowns over the final 7:33 to put the game out of reach.
“There were a lot of plays in the game that could have went either way, there were several big plays on both sides of the ball,” Maxfield said. “They closed to 26-21 and our kids responded. They put together a good drive and scored, then we got a turnover and got the ball back and scored again to put it away.”
Bangs finished with 446 yards of total offense, and all but 2 came on the ground. Quarterback Brayton Wedeman rushed for a season-high 186 yards and four touchdowns, Ethan Sanchez contributed 135 yards and scored once and Guy Powell added 123 yards and reached the end zone.
Powell opened the scoring on the first play of the Bangs' second possession, scoring on an 80-yard jaunt. The Dragons boosted the lead to 14-0 before Coleman tallied its first touchdown, then Bangs scored again on a 20-yard run by Wedeman with 10 seconds left in the second quarter to extend the lead to 20-7 at the break.
“That score going into the half was big because it allowed us to keep the momentum and we knew we got the ball coming out,” Maxfield said. “We got the ball with about three minutes left in the half with all our timeouts and just drove the ball down the field.”
Bangs also tallied the first points of the second half to open the largest lead of the game, 26-7, just 1:35 into the third period, and later withstood Coleman's rally.
“We're developing the mindset where when it comes to crunch time you have to up your game, and I think with several people last night it was obvious that's what happened,” Maxfield said. “It came to fruition last night and it was very satisfying to see that for our players and our program in general.”