BANGS — The Bangs Dragons are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, and are looking to establish even more postseason momentum as they visit the District 4-3A Division II champion and seventh-ranked Cisco Loboes in Friday's 7:30 p.m. regular season finale.
Winners of three straight contests, Bangs (6-3, 4-2) looks to derail a Cisco (8-1, 6-0) squad that has reeled off seven consecutive victories since its lone loss to Class 3A Division I No. 1 Wall.
“It seems like we've been on a pretty good roll but you don't really have time to stop and smell the roses right now,” said Bangs second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield. “The kids are enjoying being out and we're still trying to improve on a daily basis, but we just don't have time to stop and pat ourselves on the back right now.”
With a playoff spot already locked up, however, the Dragons are facing much less pressure in Friday's contest than several other teams throughout the state.
“The outcome of this game doesn't change any of the playoff scenarios so there shouldn't be any pressure on anybody,” Maxfield said. “I know our kids will come out and play hard.”
The Dragons are coming off a 62-0 win over San Angelo TLCA — their first shutout of the season as Bangs yielded just 25 yards of total offense the entire game.
“(Defensive coordinator) Coach (Aaron) Keesee was really excited,” Maxfield said. “We played good defense all year but to finally get that goose egg on the board put a little more juice in the win.”
On the offensive end, Bangs racked up 404 yards, including 117 yards through the air — which accounts for 17 percent of the Dragons' passing yards for the entire season.
“(Quarterback) Brayton Wedeman is one of the most improved players on the team,” Maxfield said. “He doesn't have a lot of experience back there, but part of our job is to put him in situations where he can be successful. When we do that he's a good operator. He's gaining more and more confidence, and any type of success he can have throwing the ball helps down the road.”
For the season, the Dragons are generating 36 points and 330 yards — 253 rushing and 77 passing — per outing.
Ethan Sanchez (1,068 yards, 18 TDs), Wedeman (590 yards, 11 TDs), Guy Powell
(423 yards, 2 TDs) and Harley Keely (110 yards, 2 TDs) lead the way on the ground, while Wedeman has connected on 39 of 63 passes for 663 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Receiving threats include Powell (12-170, 3 TDs), Wesley Mitchell (9-148, 3 TDs), Sanchez (5-125), Riley Taylor (4-69), Damien Santillanes (4-22) and Trevor Bowers (2-74, 2 TDs).
Cisco's defense allows 10 points per game with eight takeaways on the season.
“The speed of the game is something you can't simulate, not that Cisco has a lot of sprinters, but it's the way they come off the ball and the way they run to the ball is a lot faster than what we've seen the last couple of weeks,” Maxfield said. “Adjusting to the speed of the game will be a big key for us.”
Defensively, Bangs is giving up 21 points and 265 yards — 161 rushing and 104 passing — per outing. Standouts include Hayden King (61.5 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks), Sanchez (59 tackles, 3 TFL), Powell (50.5 tackles, 3 TFL), Eli Carbajal (47 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT), Santillanes (45 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FR), Taylor (40 tackles, 3 FRs, 1 INT), Mitchell (33.5 tackles, 2 INTs), Trey Ivey (22 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 FR), Bowers (22 tackles), Brandon Robinson
(20 tackles, 1 TFL), Cael John (19.5 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT) and Charlie Smith (18 tackles).
The Cisco offense manufactures 43 points and 335 yards — 227 coming on the ground and 108 through the air — per game.
The rushing attack is spearheaded by Stanley Callahan (725 yards, 11 TDs), quarterback Gibson Hearne (631 yards, 14 TDs), Jerrod Fisher (314 yards, 4 TDs) and Isaac Acosta (269 yards, 3 TDs).
Hearne has also thrown for 923 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception. Primary receiving threats include Dax Brunson (8-126, 3 TDs), Dawson White (6-92), Acosta (5-91) and Callahan (4-113, 2 TDs).
“They don't do anything fancy, they just line up and play great high school football,” Maxfield said. “Last year was my first year to coach against them and you put them on film and it's the same thing year after year for the last 20 years. They just get after it and play hard. They're good high school football players that are well coached. The definition of when you say a program's a machine, that's what they are. Our manhood will be tested so hopefully we can fight, hustle and do all the little things because that's what it takes against them.”
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Bangs is a 34-point underdog.
Next week, the Dragons' bi-district playoff pairing is already set as Bangs will battle District 3-3A Division II champion and second-ranked Canadian (9-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Wichita Falls Memorial Stadium.