WICHITA FALLS — Making their first postseason appearance since 2014, the Bangs Dragons ran into a team that reached the Class 3A Division II state championship game a year ago, and could be well on its way to returning to Arlington again in December.
The Dragons' season reached its conclusion in the 3A Division II Region I bi-district round of the playoffs, as the No. 2 Canadian Wildcats rolled to a 66-21 victory Thursday night at Memorial Stadium.
Canadian (11-0) is a reigning state finalist and has won at least 10 games in 12 of the last 13 seasons, including back-to-back undefeated state championship campaigns in 2014 and 2015.
“We have to remind ourselves how far we've come,” said Bangs second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield, who took over a program that had won two games in three years and has posted a 9-12 mark in his brief tenure. “We ran into a buzzsaw tonight and it makes you realize even though we've come so far, there's still a lot of work to be done. We made some great memories throughout the year, but tonight just wasn't one of them.”
Bangs (6-5) yielded touchdowns on all eight of Canadian's first-half drives, where the Wildcats' average starting field position was the midfield stripe, en route to a 56-7 halftime discrepancy.
The Wildcats outgained the Dragons 423-62 in total yards during the first half, and 530-212 for the game.
“Tonight we got to see what it's like to face the really big boys,” Maxfield said. “We played some big boys last week (Cisco), but I think the playoff atmosphere put us in a daze and Canadian has been there and done that while we're just now learning what it's about. At least we got a taste of it and hopefully we can build on the positives and take care of the negatives.”
The Wildcats operated at a break-neck pace in the early going, running eight plays and covering 49 yards in just 1:53 to open a 7-0 lead on a 13-yard carry by Hayze Hufstedler, who finished with 110 yards and four touchdowns on the ground while catching three passes for 66.
“We knew they were going to play really fast, but their speed between plays is really hard to simulate,” Maxfield said. “We won the toss and deferred because we knew their offense was very potent but their defense is just as good. We wanted to see if could get them to make a mistake and get a break early, but they just don't do that. They execute, they're disciplined, they've won a lot of games and they're going to win a lot more this year.”
Bangs' first drive advanced to the Canadian 12, thanks in part to a 34-yard halfback pass from Ethan Sanchez to Wesley Mitchell on third-and-1 at the Wildcat 46. The Dragons followed with a sack and two delay of game penalties, then quarterback Brayton Wedeman and was sacked again and fumbled on second-and-31 — the lone turnover of the contest.
Canadian followed up the takeaway with a six-play, 63-yard drive that began with a 44-yard reception by Hufstedler and ended with a 2-yard touchdown carry by Jake Krehbiel with 3:50 left in the opening quarter.
The Dragons tallied just 28 yards the rest of the first half, while the Wildcats tacked on 42 additional points — including a 17-yard touchdown run by Hufstedler with 52 seconds left in the first period that boosted the advantage to 21-0.
In the second quarter, Canadian scored on runs of 50 and 2 yards by Hufstedler, then quarterback Grant McCook connected with Twister Kelton on a pair of touchdown passes covering 31 and 63 yards. McCook finished with 263 yards through the air, completing 12 of 18 attempts.
Trailing 49-0 with 1:48 left in the first half, Bangs finally lit up the scoreboard on a 96-yard return for a touchdown for Guy Powell. T.J. Butler booted the extra point.
Still, Canadian was able to tack on another touchdown with 26 seconds left on a 7-yard run by Krehbiel.
“I knew that their offense would be able to do what they did,” Maxfield said. “But their defense, the way they ran to the ball, even when we tried misdirection they still had guys there. It's like they are playing with 13 or 14 out there and we couldn't account for all of them.”
Trailing 56-7 at intermission and with just 62 yards of total offense, the Dragons marched 67 yards on their first drive of the second half and reached the end zone on an 18-yard scoring toss from Wedeman to Mitchell. Wedeman — who passed for 102 yards and rushed for 42 yards, both team-highs — picked up a dropped snap and reeled off a 39-yard run to move the ball into the red zone.
Canadian scored on its ninth straight drive to start the second half as Edgar Salazar converted a 30-yard field goal to make the score 59-14 at the 6:39 mark of the third.
The Dragons tacked on their final touchdown as Wedeman again found Mitchell — who finished with three receptions for 87 yards — who reached the end zone for the second time on a 35-yard catch and run with 9:02 remaining.
The final points of the game belonged to Canadian on an 81-yard scoring toss from Ethan Jackson to Brice Wilkinson with 7:20 left.
“At halftime we just told them there's nothing to say other than go fight,” Maxfield said. “Canadian got some of their younger kids some playing time and that allowed us to be able to do some things. I'm proud of the way we finished.”
CANADIAN 66, BANGS 21
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bangs 0 7 7 7 - 21
Canadian 21 35 3 7 - 66
C: Hayze Hufstedler 13 run (Edgar Salazar kick), 10:17, 1st
C: Jake Krehbiel 2 run (Salazar kick), 3:50, 1st
C: Hufstedler 17 run (Salazar kick), 0:52, 1st
C: Hufstedler 50 run (Salazar kick), 10:43, 2nd
C: Hufstedler 2 run (Salazar kick), 6:51, 2nd
C: Twister Kelton 31 pass from Grant McCook (Salazar kick), 4:17, 2nd
C: Kelton 63 passing from McCook (Salazar kick), 2:02, 2nd
B: Guy Powell 96 kick return (T.J. Butler kick), 1:48, 2nd
C: Krehbiel 7 run (Salazar kick), 0:26, 2nd
B: Wesley Mitchell 18 pass from Brayton Wedeman (Butler kick), 8:53, 3rd
C: Salazar 30 FG, 6:39, 3rd
B: Mitchell 35 pass from Wedeman (Butler kick), 9:02, 4th
C: Brice Wilkinson 81 pass from Ethan Jackson (Salazar kick), 7:20, 4th
TEAM STATS B C
First Downs 9 18
Total Offense 212 530
Rushing Yards 35-76 25-181
Passing Yards 136 349
C-A-I 10-12-0 14-23-0
Fumbles Lost 1 0
Penalties 3-17 4-30
Punts 6-23.5 0-0
Rushing — B: Brayton Wedeman 12-42, Ethan Sanchez 16-36, Guy Powell 7-(-2). C: Hayze Hufstedler 8-110, Jake Krehbiel 5-26, Grant McCook 2-15, Landon Smith 1-15, Twister Kelton 2-9, Ethan Jackson 4-4, Bill Koetting 3-2.
Passing — B: Wedeman 9-11-0-102, Sanchez 1-1-0-34. C: McCook 12-18-0-263, Jackson 2-5-0-86.
Receiving — B: Guy Powell 4-42, Wesley Mitchell 3-87, Sanchez 2-5, Hayden King 1-2. C: Kelton 5-119, Hufstedler 3-66, Brice Wilkinson 1-81, Landon Saenza 1-34, Angel Garcia 1-21, Everett Hadaway 1-14, Tate Mitchell 1-9, Rafael Avilla 1-5.