Ballinger football grinds down Bangs to clinch share of district title
BALLINGER — Ballinger football coach Chuck Lipsey knew how critical the first possession of the third quarter was to his team.
The Bearcats were tied with Bangs in Friday's heavyweight showdown, and Lipsey liked their odds if the team could score and chip away at the clock.
Everything went according to script.
Garrett Dixon ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns in the second half to help Ballinger grind out a 25-13 win over Bangs at Bearcat Stadium. The result clinched a share of the district title for the Bearcats and marked the Dragons' first loss of the season.
Ballinger can take the District 2-3A Division II championship outright with a win over Sonora next week.
The Bearcats (8-1 overall, 4-0 district) controlled possession to keep the explosive Bangs offense sidelined. Ballinger held the ball for all but 1 minute, 39 seconds of the third quarter. Dixon's 10-yard run on the second play of the fourth quarter created the final margin with 11:27 remaining.
"When we went in at halftime, we knew that's what we were going to do," Lipsey said. "Keep them off the field and go for long drives. Our line did a good job blocking. The backs and quarterbacks ran hard and just kept getting first downs ... I was very proud of the way they executed offensively the second half. And defense played hard."
The senior Dixon finished with 25 carries for 127 yards and two TDs. Ballinger quarterback Carter Arrott ran 13 times for 78 yards as the team totaled 274 yards on the ground.
Bangs (7-1, 3-1) went three-and-out on its first two drives after halftime, including early in the fourth quarter. The Bearcats defense made life tough for the Dragons, who averaged 45.9 points entering the game.
Bangs forced a turnover on downs on the ensuing possession, but Ballinger took 5:52 off the clock and nearly converted a fourth-and-22. Officials initially signaled a completed 23-yard pass to Bangs' 6-yard line but reversed the call after ruling the ball hit the ground.
Bangs took over with 4:15 remaining but turned it over on downs after a dropped pass on fourth-and-25. A Dragons receiver got behind the defense but couldn't secure the ball at the Ballinger 9, which would have netted a first down at worst.
Bangs standout running back Ethan Sanchez finished with 162 rushing yards, most of which came on a 96-yard score in the second quarter. The first play following a punt, Sanchez got the edge and raced to the end zone to tie the game at 7.
The teams traded passing TDs to go into halftime tied 13-all. The second half, however, belonged to Ballinger, which capitalized with a dominant performance on the defensive line.
Sanchez had only 14 rushing yards in the second half, and quarterback Ethan Cortez had to deal with pressure in the passing game. The Bearcats limited Bangs to 43 yards of offense after halftime.
► Turning point: There wasn't a sharp turning point, but the tide certainly shifted in the second half. Ballinger scored to retake the lead and forced a three-and-out on Bangs' first possession of the third quarter. The Bearcats then took more than six minutes off the clock to make it a two-score game.
► Player of the game: Garrett Dixon, running back, Ballinger — Dixon was a workhorse for the Bearcats, especially in the second half. The senior ran for 127 yards and two TDs on 25 carries, with 13 rushes for 81 yards and both scores after halftime.
► Key stat: Bangs had possession for less than five minutes in the second half, amassing 43 yards of offense.
► Coach Lipsey said: "Everybody gets hyped (because) they're picked to win since they were 7-0. They were on the chats and everything. I said, 'Don't worry about that. If we go out and take care of business tonight, prove that we can beat those guys, good things will happen to us.' I think we proved that tonight."
► Bangs coach Kyle Maxfield said: "In the big scheme of things, it doesn't change a whole lot, other than we don't get to take the trophy home with us. I thought our kids fought hard enough to get that done tonight, we just didn't play as clean as we needed to...I think we were a little big-eyed (early). We settled down though and played. I don't think we were nervous, we were just amped up."
► Impact: Ballinger is one win away from its first outright district championship since 2008. The team shared a title with Bangs and Merkel in 2010.
► Up next: Both teams close the district slate before heading to the playoffs. Bangs is host to Brady (4-5, 2-2), which beat Ingram Moore 53-34 on Friday. Ballinger plays at Sonora (4-5, 3-1), a 44-14 winner over San Angelo Grape Creek. Wins by Bangs and Sonora would create a three-way tie for the district title.
DISTRICT 2-3A DIVISION II
Ballinger 25, Bangs 13
Bangs 0 13 0 0—13
Ballinger 7 6 6 6—25
BAL — Tyler Vaughn 13 pass from Carter Arrott (Adam Winn kick), 3:04
BAN — Ethan Sanchez 96 run (Braxton Melling kick), 10:22
BAL — Weston Rollwitz 21 run (kick failed), 2:33
BAN — Guy Powell 6 pass from Ethan Cortez (kick failed), 0:20
BAL — Garrett Dixon 2 run (kick failed), 7:40
BAL — Dixon 10 run (pass failed), 11:27
First downs: (BAN) 13; (BAL) 24
Rushes-Yards: (BAN) 19-187; (BAL) 51-274
Passing: (BAN) 155; (BAL) 97
Comp-Att-Int: (BAN) 15-22-0; (BAL) 7-16-0
Punts: (BAN) 3; (BAL) 2
Fumbles-Lost: (BAN) 2-1; (BAL) 0-0
Penalties-Yards: (BAN) 9-60; (BAL) 7-45
RUSHING: Bangs, Ethan Sanchez 12-162, Ethan Cortez 6-36, Team 1-(-11). Ballinger, Garrett Dixon 25-127, Carter Arrott 13-78, Weston Rollwitz 2-45, Beau Perkins 7-24, Tyler Vaughn 1-8, Team 3-(-8).
PASSING: Bangs, Cortez 15-22-0—155. Ballinger, Arrott 7-15-0—97, Vaughn 0-1-0—0.
RECEIVING: Bangs, Guy Powell 6-43, Brayton Wedeman 3-34, Sanchez 2-19, Damien Santillanes 2-17, Wyatt Lykins 1-29, Trevor Bowers 1-13. Ballinger, Rollwitz 4-56, Vaughn 3-41.
RECORDS: Bangs 7-1, 3-1; Ballinger 8-1, 4-0.