BANGS — The Bangs Dragons didn't receive any favors in making their first postseason appearance since 2014.
A week after playing No. 7 Cisco, the District 4-3A Division II champion, in their regular season finale, the Dragons have drawn the No. 2 Canadian Wildcats, champions of District 3-3A Division II, as their first-round opponent.
The bi-district battle between Bangs (6-4) and Canadian (10-0) is slated for 7 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls.
The Dragons are coming off a 38-20 loss at Cisco where, aside from a 14-0 Lobos scoring edge in the third period, Bangs hung with the district champs most of the night.
“Going to Cisco before this game wasn't the best timing in the world, but I do think it made our kids realize that everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time,” Maxfield said. “We gained some confidence coming out of the Cisco game, but at the same time it's going to be a whole different atmosphere and something new for us Thursday night. Canadian has been there and done that for a long time. Hopefully we get that out of our system early and just play ball and have some positive things go our way early.”
Cisco finished with 437 yards of total offense against Bangs last week, including 405 rushing. Canadian will present the Bangs defense with an entirely different challenge.
“They're on opposite ends of the spectrum,” Maxfield said when comparing the Cisco and Canadian offenses. “Canadian is known for throwing the ball, and they throw a lot of screens and get balls to their playmakers, but I think their strength this year is running the ball. They can take you in any way you can think of, any part of the field they can attack it. They play extremely fast where Cisco huddles most of the game. Tempo is big for Canadian.”
Canadian enters the game averaging 49 points and 441 yards — 251 rushing and 190 passing — per game, and the Wildcats have scored at least 41 points in every game this season.
Quarterback Grant McCook has completed 124 of 183 passes for 1,583 yards with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions, while rushing for 668 yards and 12 scores. Hayze Hufstedler (876 yards, 16 TDs) is the leading rusher while Jake Krehbiel (220 yards, 7 TDs) and Ethan Jackson (190 yards, 4 TDs) have also made contributions on the ground. Primary receiving threats include Twister Kelton (31-358, 3 TDs), Reagan Cochran (21-286, 4 TDs), Tate Mitchell (20-158, TD), Bill Koetting (19-323, 5 TDs) and Angel Garcia (12-138).
Bangs counters with a defense that yields 23 points and 282 yards — 185 rushing and 97 passing — per outing. Standouts include Hayden King (69 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks), Ethan Sanchez (63 tackles, 3 TFL), Guy Powell (54.5 tackles, 3 TFL), Eli Carbajal (47.5 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT), Damien Santillanes (47 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FR), Riley Taylor (45 tackles, 3 FRs, 1 INT), Wesley Mitchell (39.5 tackles, 2 INTs), Trevor Bowers (25 tackles), Trey Ivey (23 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 FR), Brandon Robinson (20.5 tackles, 1 TFL), Cael John (21.5 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT), Rylan Cates (19.5 tackles, 2 TFL), Charlie Smith (18 tackles), Kolt Bradley (13 tackles, 1 sack), Wyatt Lykins (13 tackles, 1 FR), and Trevor Lorah (12.5 tackles, 1 FR).
“We're trying to tweak things a little to get the best matchups we think we can get,” Maxfield said. “We're just trying to get our kids in the best spots possible to have some success and try to avoid as many bad situations as possible, and minimize mismatches.”
Maxfield added that Bangs' best defense would be a ball control offense that keeps the pigskin away from Canadian.
“If there's any way we can move the chains like we did against Cisco, that would be the best defense we could play,” Maxfield said. “The key is actually being able to do it. The plan is try to keep the chains moving and keep their offense off the field as much as possible.”
Canadian is allowing just 12 points per game and did not yield more than 18 points in its any of its five district contests.
Leading tacklers include Jack Koetting (91 tackles), Saul Escamilla (83 tackles), Israel Guerrero (81 tackles), Reagan Cochran (77 tackles), Colton Cooper (77 tackles) and Bill Koetting (72 tackles).
“I watched some film on them from last year, deep in the playoffs, and the way they look now, to me, they're way better on defense,” Maxfield said. “They're so fast to the ball. They're definitely physical, but they're more athletic, that's what jumps out at you. The way they run to the ball, it looks like they're playing with about 15 or 16 on defense instead of 11. It's hard to get the edge on them, the secondary are really aggressive tacklers. So what normally might be a 10 or 15-yard gain, against them it may just be 4 or 5 yards.”
The Bangs offense is generating 34 points and 317 yards — 243 rushing and 74 passing — per game.
The ground game is led by Ethan Sanchez (1,176 yards, 20 TDs), quarterback Brayton Wedeman (612 yards, 11 TDs), Guy Powell (442 yards, 2 TDs) and Harley Keely (110 yards, 2 TDs). Wedeman has connected on 45 of 75 passes for 710 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions, while receiving options include Powell (13-174, 3 TDs), Wesley Mitchell (11-176, 4 TDs), Sanchez (6-150), Riley Taylor (4-69), Damian Santillanes (4-22), and Trevor Bowers (2-74, 2 TDs).
“One thing about both Cisco and Canadian is they're very disciplined, so we'll have to match them in terms of executing and see what happens,” Maxfield said.
Thursday's winner will advance to face either District 2 runner-up Coahoma (8-2) or District 1 third seed Anthony (3-7) in the area round of the playoffs.