BANGS - Bradley Lee rolled to his left in the final minute Friday and saw something the Bangs Dragons hadn’t found all evening: the end zone.
Bangs pretty much clinched a playoff berth by rallying to beat the previously undefeated Coleman Bluecats 9-7 in a meeting of football teams with perfect District 8-2A records. Lee, the Dragons quarterback, scored the game-winning touchdown on a 20-yard run with 50 seconds to play.
Lee kept juking and darting toward the sideline, and just as it appeared he might run out of room, he finally spotted a crease in Coleman’s defense. The 160-pound senior darted through the opening and raced to the end zone, finishing a 66-yard, eight-play drive that took only 1:11 even though the Dragons were out of timeouts.
“I could see the end zone when I broke to the outside,” said Lee, who finished with 124 yards rushing on 21 carries. “The cornerback came up and I juked him, then I cut straight up the field. I give it all to my line. I couldn’t have scored without them.”
Bangs (6-2, 4-0 in District 8-2A) appears to have clinched a playoff berth, even though first-year Dragons coach Chuck Lipsey wouldn’t say so. With games against Dublin and Brady and an open date remaining, plus with wins over Early and Coleman, strange things would have to happen to keep the Dragons from their first playoff spot in three years.
“We should be in,” Lipsey said. “We’re probably in, but I’ve got to sit down and figure it out.”
Coleman, denied a 7-0 start that would have matched last year’s, fell to 6-1 and 2-1.
In a game in which neither team scored a touchdown for almost 46 minutes, both teams found the end zone only 1:11 apart during a frantic finish.
Leading 3-0, Bangs appeared on the verge of securing the win with a 12-play, 81-yard drive in the fourth quarter. However, DeShawn Johnson, who led all rushers with 135 yards on 19 carries, fumbled and Dalton DeLeon recovered for Coleman at the Bluecats’ 2-yard line with 6:25 to play.
Coleman’s offense had been limited to 81 total yards at that point and hadn’t gained a first down in the second half. Suddenly, though, the Bluecats came alive, driving 98 yards to take the lead. Colton Buzzard finally found his leading receiver, Dalton DeLeon, and the pair connected on passes of 15 and 38 yards to advance the ball to the Dragons’ 41.
DeLeon drew another 15 yards with a pass interference penalty against Bangs, and fullback Stanley Cole finished the 12-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run that gave Coleman a 7-3 lead with 2:01 to play.
“We finally made a couple of plays to get out of the hole,” Coleman coach Rusty Buzzard said of the 98-yard drive. “That’s the beauty of this game. It’s so unpredictable and so volatile. Anything can happen, and it can happen quickly.”
The Dragons, who had been inside the Bluecats’ 20 five times and managed only a field goal, suddenly found themselves behind and out of timeouts. Even so, all the Dragons’ yardage in their winning drive came on runs by Lee, who ran three times for 50 yards, and Johnson, who carried twice for 26 yards. Bangs also had to overcome a holding penalty — one of 10 for 105 yards against the Dragons.
“That showed the guts of this team to be frustrated like we were all night in not being able to put the game away, and then come back to score at the end to win it,” said Lipsey, whose team has won four straight games. “The drive was a credit to our kids to play four quarters and never give up. We’ve played that way for the last four or five games.
“We tried to go with our two-minute offense, but it wasn’t really working. We decided to run some counters (misdirection) plays with DeShawn and Bradley. I thought if we could ever get Bradley through the middle, he’d score.”
Coleman’s last-ditch drive reached the Bangs 28 after pass interference penalty gave the Bluecats another play despite the clock being expired. However, Buzzard’s 45-yard field goal fell well short and wide left.
“They earned it,” Buzzard said of Bangs. “They made the plays they needed to win the game.”
Bangs led 3-0 at halftime on Grant Bear’s 23-yard field with 9:07 left in the first quarter. It was set up by Isiah Hickerson’s 17-yard fumble return to the Bluecats’ 11.