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Running back Ethan Sanchez powers unbeaten Bangs past Winters

Joey D. Richards
Abilene Reporter-News

WINTERS — Ethan Sanchez can be a workhorse at times for the Bangs Dragons. The senior running back also can be a thoroughbred – running for a TD anytime he touches the ball.

Sanchez ran up and down the field at Blizzard Stadium on Friday, amassing 319 yards and three TDs, including scores of 66 and 77 yards, as the unbeaten Dragons scorched Winters 42-19 in the nondistrict game.

“He’s pretty special, no doubt about it,” Bangs coach Kyle Maxfield said. “He’s been playing on Friday nights for a long time now. He’s just a workhorse on both sides of the ball. We’ve got some others who contributed a lot, but he’s definitely the workhorse.”

Bangs running back Ethan Sanchez (24) looks for running room as Winters' Aidan Leamon (12), Chaney Bahlman (20) give pursuit in the second quarter. Sanchez scored three TDs in the Dragons' 42-19 victory over Winters on Friday at Blizzard Stadium.

Sanchez, who also plays linebacker, isn’t the only weapon the Dragons have, and that can be a painful lesson if teams are keying on him.

Quarterback Ethan Cortez added 51 yards on five carries, including a 34-yard TD run. Santillanes ran for a 12-yard TD on his only carry from scrimmage. Oh, and Santillanes returned the game’s opening kickoff 88 yards for a TD to get the Dragons flying.

The Dragons (3-0) rolled up 392 total yards – all but 13 of that on the ground.

“We got into a ground game,” Maxfield said. “Cortez, our quarterback, has a tremendous arm. As the season progresses, we want to develop a more balanced attack with weapons across the field.”

Jon Kullen Busher threw TD passes of 26 and 47 yards to Aidan Lemon and Esteban Gonzalez, respectively, while Houston Esquivel had a 39-yard TD run for the Blizzards (0-3) and led his team with 109 yards on eight carries.

Winters played catch-up all night, despite matching the Dragons’ first TD with a 39-yard TD run by Esquivel to make it a 7-6 game with 3:05 left in the first quarter. The Blizzards missed the PAT.

The next play from scrimmage, Sanchez ripped off the 66-yard TD run, and the Dragons held on for a 14-6 halftime lead.

Bangs' Damien Santillanes returns the game's opening kickoff for an 88-yard touchdown against Winters. The Dragons won the game 42-19 on Friday at Blizzard Stadium.

Winters coach Matt McCarty said playing from behind makes it tough for his team, which prefers to run the football.

“When we’re behind, it puts us behind the eight ball, and it’s a lot harder for us,” McCarty said. “We spend 85-percent of our week focused on the run game offensively. It just puts us behind. It is what is. We have to go make plays even when we are behind.”

Despite falling behind 21-6 early in the second half, Winters didn’t fold.

The Blizzards answered to stay in the hunt at 21-12, thanks to a 26-yard TD pass from Busher to Leamon on a fourth-down play, and never stopped attacking. They just couldn't stop Bangs.

“They’ve got a lot of fight in them,” Maxfield said of Winters. “Coach McCarty and Winters, they’ve got a lot of tradition over here. They’re not going to lay down.”

Winters fumbled the ball away twice – one of which Bangs cashed into for a TD. The Blizzards also turned the ball over downs at the Bangs’ 26-, 14- and 27-yard lines.

“Some big plays (by Bangs) here and there, and us fumbling the ball, that’s just part of the game we didn’t do very well” McCarty said.

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Game summary

Trailing 14-6 at halftime, Winters fumbled the ball away at its own 46-yard line on the opening possession of the second half. Sanchez then ripped off runs of 36 and 10 yards – the last for a TD to make it a 21-6 ballgame. Winters answered with a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Busher capped it with his first TD pass of the night, a 26-yarder to Leamon. Bangs, however, scored on its next two possessions to break open the game.

Ethan Sanchez, running back, Bangs – the senior ran for 319 yard and three TDs on 20 carries. He had scores of 66, 10 and 77 yards. He finished with two more rushing yards than the entire Winters team; Jon Kullen Busher, quarterback, Winters – the junior completed 5 of 14 passes for 126 yards and two TDs, while running for 93 yards on 13 carries.

Bangs finished with 392 total yards and 13 first downs, after managing just 144 yards and four first downs in the first half. The Dragons scored on every possession in the second other than its fifth and last, after Winters turned the ball over on downs with four seconds left in the game.

Coach McCarty said: “It comes down to blocking and tackling and holding onto to the football. We didn’t so some of those things like we should have tonight. That’s on us coaches to get them prepared for that. We’re just not there yet.”

Coach Maxfield said: “We’re happy to have the win. We’ve got to keep getting better. We’ve got a lot of room for improvement.”

Bangs is 3-0 for the first time in a long time. Winters drops to 0-3.

Winters plays Hawley at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Blizzard Stadium. Hawley beat Merkel 35-21 on Friday. Bangs plays Hamilton at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bangs, before a showdown with Hawley the following week at home. Hamilton beat Hico 66-0 on Friday.

NONDISTRICT

Bangs 42, Winters 19

Bangs    14    0    7    21 — 42

Winters    6    0    6    7 — 19

FIRST QUARTER 

BAN — Damien Santillanes 88 kickoff return (Braxton Melling kick), 11:37

WIN — Houston Esquivel 39 run (kick failed), 3:05

BAN — Ethan Sanchez 66 run (Melling kick), 2:46

THIRD QUARTER

BAN — Sanchez 10 run (Melling kick), 8:17

WIN — Aidan Leamon 26 pass from Jon Kullen Busher (run failed), 2:48

FOURTH QUARTER

BAN — Santillanes 12 run (Melling kick), 9:24

BAN — Sanchez 77 run (Melling kick), 2:59

WIN — Esteban Gonzalez 47 pass from Busher (Rider Duggan kick), 2:21

BAN — Ethan Cortez 34 run (Melling kick), 1:33

                        BAN ... WIN

First Downs ... 13 ... 17

Rushes-Yards ... 27-379 ... 42-317

Passes ... 13 ... 126

Att-Com-Int ... 2-6-0 ... 5-14-0

Punts ... 1-23 ... 1-30

Fumbles-Lost ... 0-0 ... 3-2

Penalties-Yards ... 6-45 ... 5-45

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Bangs, Ethan Sanchez 20-319, Ethan Cortez 5-51, Damien Santillanes 1-12, Team 1-(minus 3). Winters, Houston Esquivel 8-109, Jon Kullen Busher 13-93, Aidan Leamon 10-78, Matt Jacob 8-33, Malakye Kelly 2-3, Cannon Collins 1-1, Team 1-(minus 1).

PASSING: Bangs, Cortez 2-5-0—13, Sanchez 0-1-0. Winters, Busher 5-14-0—126.

RECEIVING: Bangs, Brayton Wedeman 1-9, Santillanes 1-4. Winters, Leamon 2-30, Esteban Gonzalez 1-47, Chaney Bahlman 1-36, Esquivel 1-13. 

RECORDS: Bangs 3-0; Winters 0-3.

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