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Bangs blasts Hawley to continue best start in 15 years

Stephen Garcia
Abilene Reporter-News
Bangs running back Ethan Sanchez flips the ball to an official after scoring a touchdown Friday night.

BANGS — There wasn't much that didn't go Bangs' way Friday night.

The Dragons smothered a usually potent Hawley offense and moved the ball at will in continuing their best start in 15 years.

Bangs blew past the Bearcats 39-15 at Dragon Memorial Stadium to improve to 4-0. It's the most wins without a loss to start a season since a 7-0 streak in 2005.

Ethan Cortez and Ethan Sanchez combined for 254 rushing yards and six touchdowns, part of 313 yards on the ground for Bangs. Cortez also got it done through the air, completing 10 of 14 passes for 256 yards.

The Bearcats, meanwhile, couldn't get on track offensively and turned over the ball four times. Hawley (3-2) played without starting running back Austin Cumpton and lost quarterback Xavier Rodela to injury Friday. Rodey Hooper took over at quarterback in the second half.

Bangs limited run-heavy Hawley (3-2) to 113 rushing yards.

Sanchez, who entered averaging 206.3 rushing yards per game, finished with 100 yards and four TDs on 14 carries. He scored three times in the opening half as the Dragons built a 26-7 lead.

Hawley pulled within 14-7 with 3:54 left in the second quarter before the Dragons pulled away with a pair of quick scores. Bangs had a two-play drive end with a 12-yard Sanchez run, and the Bearcats lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.

The Dragons scored again 46 seconds later on a 23-yard run by Sanchez.

Hawley appeared to cut into the deficit on its next possession, but Rodela lost a fumble at the Bangs' 1-yard line. Hooper played the final two quarters, throwing two interceptions. The sophomore finished 12 of 20 passing for 94 yards and a 22-yard TD throw to Aeneas Segura.

Turning point: Bangs was in control, up 20-7 late in the first half, when Hawley lost a fumble on a kickoff. Five plays later, the Dragons led 26-7 on Sanchez's 23-yard run.

Player of the game: Ethan Cortez, quarterback, Bangs — Cortez had the Dragons offense humming, finishing with 154 rushing yards and 256 passing. The senior had two scoring runs, including a dazzling 61-yard dash in the third quarter in which he broke multiple tackles to bury the Bearcats.

Key stat: Bangs had leaned on Sanchez offensively through three games, but Cortez showed off his passing ability Friday. Cortez completed 10 of 14 attempts for 256 yards, including a pair of big throws to set up the Dragons' first two scores. The senior had passes of 33 and 49 yards on Bangs' first two TD drives.

Impact: Bangs is full of confidence following a perfect run through its nondistrict slate. Hawley still has question marks, as its offense has sputtered in its two losses.

Up next: The next game for each team will mark the start of district play. Hawley opens at Haskell, while Bangs plays at San Angelo Grape Creek, both on Oct. 9. Grape Creek fell to Early 36-0 on Friday, while Haskell had to cancel its game this week after positive COVID-19 tests on the team.