BANGS - After opening the past two seasons a combined 1-11, the Bangs Dragons are hoping to welcome new coach Chuck Lipsey with a victory.
Lipsey, who accepted the job in the spring after spending the past five seasons at Whitewright, is looking to guide Bangs back to the postseason for the first time since 2005.
But before the Dragons can focus on the district race, they have a monumental task ahead of them in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. road opener against the Comfort Bobcats.
Comfort is coming off a 7-4 season and has a lengthy string of postseason appearances to its credit. Like Bangs, the Bobcats also are breaking in a new head coach in Keith Muehlstein.
“This will be a good test for us,” Lipsey said. “They’ve had a lot of success and not just the past few years, but for a long time. They have a rich tradition, they play hard and they have playoff experience. My whole deal is I want our guys to get after it for four quarters and have a chance to win the ball game at the end. If we’ve done that, then we’ve played a good ball game.”
Lipsey has been pleased with the Dragons’ progression through the preseason, as both the offense and defense learned new systems. When Bangs has the ball, it will line up in the power spread, while the defense will base out of the 3-4.
“I think we progressed from the first scrimmage through the second, and that’s a good positive,” Lipsey said. “We’re to the point that we’re ready to play, and play for four quarters. That will answer a lot of questions. I think we have the people in the right spots now, we just have to go take care of business on Friday.”
The Bangs offense will be led by quarterbacks Bradley Lee and Tyler Fuqua, who both saw considerable playing time in the Dragons’ two scrimmages. The backfield will be comprised of running backs DeShawn Johnson, Luis Zapata and Corey Sanchez, along with fullbacks Cody Cross and Michael Peters.
“Bradley and Tyler both have done good things in the scrimmages and the running backs have been running well,” Lipsey said. “A lot of that can be attributed to the offensive linemen doing a good job.”
Anchoring the line will be Caleb Stone, Justin Kyle and Chance Furniss.
An area Lipsey would like to see improve is the Dragons’ pass catching. Leading receivers include James Churchill, Grant Lawrence, Marcus Smith, Isaac Brown and Grant Bear.
“One thing I have been disappointed in a little bit early is that we’ve dropped some open balls from the receiver spots, but we’re working on that and have to get better,” Lipsey said. “When the ball’s in our hands, we have to catch it. Those things offensively are going to need to come together, then we need to execute.”
The Bangs offense will have its work cut out against a Comfort defense that will have a significant size advantage.
“When you play somebody like Comfort that’s big up front, and we’re not real big, we have to be quick and explosive and try and get some movement on them,” Lipsey said. “They play good defense and they try and manhandle you up front.”
The Comfort defense is led by linemen Clint Strube and Josh Werner, linebackers Daniel Reichentine and Derrick Wright and defensive back Kahlob Bookout.
Defensively, the Dragons will attempt to stop an offense that’s similar to what Bangs runs.
“They are running a lot of spread offense and they’re trying to throw the ball around and then spread you out and run the ball inside,” Lipsey said. “They have a good quarterback that likes to run the ball, so we have to try and contain him and get the ball out of his hands. The back they give it to is about 6-0, 195 lbs., a good, strong runner, and they’ve got some good possession receivers that can catch.”
Scott Reichter and Will Pace are the top receiving threats, while J. Frank Derby will shoulder the load on the ground. Up front, Chris Boerner will anchor the offensive line.
“Defensively, we’re going to have to be quicker than they are off the ball,” Lipsey said. “Our front three, the nose tackle and defensive ends, have really improved. One thing I was worried about a little was our linebacker situation, but Peters, (Isiah) Hickerson and (Jacob) Hughes have been alternating and really improved and been a bright spot.
“The secondary has to do a better job of open field tackling, but I think we’re going in the right direction with our defense. It’s just a deal where we need to get in a game situation and let them play for four quarters.”
Special teams could be the wild card for both teams, as is often the case in the first game of the season. Special teams plays are not live during most scrimmages.
“It’s going to be important in the first game, especially when you’re in a close game, because some big plays can be made,” Lipsey said. “We’re working on it and taking a lot of pride in it because we know it can help you win a close ball game.”
Though the Dragons will have bigger games in the future, Lipsey admitted snagging a win Friday would get the new era of Bangs football off to the right start.
“Any time you work through the spring and summer and go through two-a-days, the first game is going to be a big building block of what you what to accomplish,” Lipsey said. “It’s going to give you a lot of confidence and get them believing in themselves. I told the kids I want to win the game, but more importantly I want them to play hard for four quarters. If we do, I think we’ll have a chance to win.”