BANGS — The playoffs begin Friday night for the Bangs Dragons.
After stumbling out of the gate with three consecutive losses to open District 6-2A action, the Dragons have put themselves in a situation where they must win their final four games to have any chance at qualifying for the postseason.
Bangs (1-5, 0-3) welcomes the Jim Ned Indians (5-1, 2-1) to Memorial Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the first round of sudden death.
“We told our kids Saturday morning what stakes are involved now,” said Bangs head coach Eddie Pettit. “Our backs are totally against the wall. There is no margin for error. If we’re going to make a run at the playoffs we have to get on a roll and take care of our business. We don’t need to worry about anyone other than ourselves.”
The Dragons could have snapped their five-game skid last week had it not been for a couple of freak plays in a 16-14 loss to Ballinger.
After giving up the first two touchdowns, the Dragons closed the gap to 14-6 with 52 seconds left in the first half on a Joey Lewis 3-yard touchdown run. The extra point was blocked, however, and Ballinger’s Nathan Kalina returned it for two points, which gave the Bearcats a 16-6 halftime edge.
Bangs cut the deficit to 16-14 in third quarter on a Justin Greenhaw 4-yard touchdown run, followed by a Green to Michael Peters two-point conversion pass, but the Dragons could not make up the two points lost on the blocked kick.
“Last week the team played extremely well, definitely well enough to win, we just didn’t execute down the stretch when we needed to,” Pettit said.
The Dragons outgained Ballinger, 255-226, in total yardage as Bangs amassed 223 yards rushing as a team. Lewis led the way with a season-high 166 yards on 22 carries.
“Our offensive line did a good job coming off the ball and giving the guys lanes to run through,” Pettit said. “The backs hit the holes pretty hard and we were able to have some success for sure.”
Defensively, the Dragons allowed Ballinger to march down the field the first time it touched the ball, but the Bearcats generated very little offense the rest of the night. Ballinger’s second touchdown was another gift from the Dragons.
“We gave up one drive all night long, and that was their opening drive,” Pettit said. “The second drive they had to go three yards after we fumbled. The defense has really stepped up and played extremely well all year. They’ve given us a chance to win some ball games.”
The fumble inside their own 5 was one of three Dragons’ turnovers Friday, a trend that continues to haunt Bangs’ offense. Pettit stated if the Dragons have any hope of winning out, reversing the turnover differential will be the biggest key.
“Taking care of the football is where it needs to start,” Pettit said. “Our biggest problem the last several weeks has been turnovers. We need to eliminate those and create a few more and maybe that will give us a better chance to execute. The kicking game also has to get better. That led to a major turning point in the game last week.”
After suffering a 21-6 loss to Early in the district opener — the Indians’ lone blemish on their record to date — Jim Ned has reeled off back-to-back wins over Ballinger (29-12) and San Saba (20-14).
Like Bangs, the Indians were also outgained by San Saba last week, 258-226, but managed to come away with the win. The difference in the game turned out to be a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown by Joseph Mayfield in the first quarter.
Mayfield added 100 yards rushing and TD runs of 5 and 28 yards, while Hayden Holson chipped in 112 yards. All but 2 of Jim Ned’s total yards came on the ground.
Noticeably absent from the big plays last week was quarterback Jordan Coffman, whose 513 yards rushing this season trails only the 669 of Mayfield.
Bottling up Jim Ned’s rushing attack — along with bringing an end to self-inflicted wounds — are the keys to a Bangs victory Friday night.
“Jim Ned is scary offensively,” Pettit said. “They’ll spread you out and they have a quarterback that’s going to tuck it and run as much as he’s going to throw it, if not more. He’s got some speed and he’s a dangerous weapon for them. Their offensive line is as good as we’ve seen in a while. They do a good job in the scheme Coach (Walter) Hargrove has implemented.”