BANGS — The Bangs Dragons head into Friday’s 7:30 p.m. District 6-2A opener against the No. 5 Coleman Bluecats at Hufford Field much the same way they entered the latter part of 2006.

Last year, Bangs started with several tough losses, but closed strong as the season culminated with an upset victory over co-district champion Wall. As district play commences this week, Bangs finds itself reeling from a 32-0 loss to Class 3A Clyde, and the Dragons are again the underdog in a key district contest.

But Bangs head coach Eddie Pettit stated his team’s focus is not on what they accomplished in the past, but what the future holds.

“I don’t know if this group of kids is even thinking about that,” said Pettit in regards to last year’s district finish. “It’s a new group and they know the challenge in front of them. They want to be a part of the group that gets us back in the playoffs. That’s what we’re trying to do.

“The kids are anxious to get out there. We’ve had a pretty good week of practice so far. They understand it’s a new season and it’s a season that counts toward the playoffs. We’re refocused and hopefully we’ll be ready to play Friday night.”

The Dragons (1-2) will have their hands full against a Coleman (3-0) squad that has defeated its first three opponents by an average score of 51-11. The Bluecats got off to a similar fast start last year, however, and labored in a 9-3 win over the Dragons.

“Coleman’s ranked pretty high in the state and deservedly so,” Pettit said. “They’re very physical and quick up front. It should be a very physical contest and hopefully we’re right in the middle of it.”

Despite a two-game losing streak, Pettit feels the Dragons have made strides during pre-district action.

“The kids have played hard and had some adversity to overcome from time to time,” Pettit said. “Overall I think they’ve handled themselves pretty well.”

Bangs is, however, coming off its poorest offensive showing after averaging 28.5 points per game in its first two contests. But the Dragons played a Clyde team that is allowing just 9 points per game.

The Dragons were limited to only 126 yards of total offense — including 91 yards rushing on 37 carries — and turned the ball over twice last week. On the ground, Jeremiah Johnson rushed for 40 yards, Joey Lewis added 33 yards and Michael Peters ran for 22 yards. Through the air, Justin Greenhaw completed just 4-of-14 passes, all to Adrian Brown, for 35 yards.

“We’ve gone back to work and the kids have responded well to the challenge we’ve put before them,” Pettit said. “They understand that Coleman is going to be a great defensive team just like Clyde was. Hopefully we’ll come off the ball a little better, execute a little better and get things moving in the right direction.”

The Dragons were short-handed last week as a pair of offensive linemen missed the game due to injury, while another was banged up during the game, but made a second-half comeback. Bangs is expected to be healthier than at any other point this season when it takes the field Friday.

“We’re probably as healthy as we’ve been all year,” Pettit said. “We didn’t have any new injuries coming out of last week’s game, but we had several going in. We’re still trying to get those kids healed.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Dragons gave up more than 30 points for the second week in a row, but Pettit did see a better effort out of the unit. Clyde finished with 269 yards rushing and 353 yards of total offense, and Coleman will run a similar scheme to what the Dragons saw in their homecoming loss.

“I don’t know if you can shut Coleman down, but we’re going to try and slow them down,” Pettit said. “They’re very talented offensively and Colton Buzzard at quarterback really makes things go. They also have some talented running backs, a good receiver in the (Dalton) De Leon kid and up front they come off the ball real well. There’s not one person or one thing you can try and focus on and try and stop. They’re well-balanced and we have to be prepared every snap.”

The Bluecats, who had a bye last week, defeated Rotan in their homecoming game, 59-14, in their last outing. Coleman scored 52 first-half points, including 31 in the first period.

Buzzard ran for 137 yards and threw for 55 yards to lead the Coleman onslaught.

If the Dragons are to upset the Bluecats and open 6-2A action with a victory, Bangs will have to master the art of keep-away, according to Pettit.

“We have to control the clock, control the ball and take care of it. We can’t have any turnovers,” Pettit said. “Defensively, we’re going to have to gang tackle.”

DISTRICT 6-2A FOOTBALL, Bangs (1-2) at No. 5 Coleman (3-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday — Hufford Field, 2006 Result: Coleman 9, Bangs 3