BANGS — The Bangs Dragons ride their first win streak since 2014 into Friday’s 7:30 p.m. season finale at Memorial Stadium, where they are looking to close out the 2018 campaign with a stunning upset of the No. 4 Cisco Loboes.
On the heels of a 47-0 thrashing of Coleman, the Dragons (3-6, 3-3) rolled past San Angelo TLCA, 52-21, last week to secure back-to-back wins for the first time since Oct. 17 and 24, 2014, when Bangs upended Early (55-21) and Jim Ned (44-33) in succession.
In last week’s win — the first on the road for Bangs since Sept. 9, 2016 at Winters (14-13) — the Dragons generated a season-high 612 yards of total offense, including 451 yards rushing as quarterback Seth Anderson finished with 231 yards and two scores while Ethan Sanchez chipped in 225 yards and three touchdowns.
“The past two weeks, and even the week before at Merkel, our offense started getting in a groove and a rhythm,” said Bangs first-year head coach Kyle Maxfield. “Sanchez is just a sophomore and he didn’t play a lot last year because he had a knee injury early. He’s just now coming into his own. He’s a downhill runner and deceivingly fast, and once he gets his legs churning he’s hard to tackle. With Seth, at any given moment he can take it the distance. He’s just that type of player. Those two guys have gotten more comfortable in the offense, and we’ve gotten better up front to create better lanes.”
Anderson also passed for a season-high 161 yards and two scores, as Justin Wilson finished with a team-best four catches for 102 yards and both touchdowns — including an 86-yard scoring reception at the end of the first half.
“That was the most refreshing part of the game,” Maxfield said of the passing attack. “We started to find our identity when we made the decision to have Seth stay at quarterback because of Justin’s injury, and Justin’s our best receiver. There were 10 or 15 seconds right before half and we had pretty good control, but to me in the first half you can never score enough. Instead of kneeling we took a shot and Seth threw a strike to Justin. We work the passing game 10 to 15 minutes a day in practice, and then we don’t run those plays on Friday night. But we work them every week. When you finally see one work the way it should, it really makes you feel good for the kids.”
Cisco (8-0, 6-0), meanwhile, is coming off a 63-13 blowout of Anson. For the season, the Loboes are outscoring their opponents 51-7 on average, with Cisco giving up just 62 points all year. Offensively, the Lobos produce 314 yards per game, with 356 coming on the ground.
Stanley Callahan leads Cisco with 668 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, while quarterback Cooper Witt has contributed 415 yards and four scores on the ground while passing for 343 yards and six more scores. Stephen Bird’s 13 catches for 184 yards and a touchdown lead all Cisco receivers.
Defensively, the Loboes have created 14 takeaways as Callahan has picked off three passes while Blake Burns and Isaac Acosta have intercepted two each. Jeramy Dodson leads Cisco with a pair of fumble recoveries.
“Anson was able to throw the ball on them but that’s not our bread and butter, but you have to do both to have any success against them,” Maxfield said. “We’re going to have to pick and choose when we take shots because of the pressure they get on the quarterback. Their defensive ends play with reckless abandon. Their defensive tackles are like tree stumps in there and you can’t move them. Their mike linebacker looks about 6-4 on film, not real fast but quick to the ball. There are just not any weaknesses on defense.”
The Dragons enter the season finale averaging 27 points and 301 yards — 214 rushing and 87 passing — per game, with 17 turnovers.
Anderson (911 yards, 15 TDs) and Sanchez (898 yards, 10 TDs) anchor the ground game, while Anderson has completed 33 of 62 passes for 362 yards for two touchdowns and two picks. Top receiving threats are Riley Taylor (11-96), Wesley Mitchell (11-81, TD), Wilson (7-153 yards, 2 TDs), Sanchez (7-69) and Colton Martin (6-63).
Defensively, Bangs surrenders 36 points and 400 yards — 245 on the ground and 155 through the air — with 13 takeaways.
Leading tacklers include Sanchez (80.5 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 FR, 2 sacks), Taylor (63 tackles, 3 TFL), Brandon Robinson (45.5 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 FR), Eli Carbajal (43.5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FR), Mitchell (38.5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FR), Cael John (32 tackles, 2 TFL), Kolt Bradley (31.5 tackles, 2 FR), Hunter Lawrence (29 tackles, 3 sacks), and Martin (25.5 tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 INT).
Though Bangs cannot reach the playoffs regardless of Friday’s outcome, Maxfield is pleased with the strides the Dragons have made during the season.
“It’s the most improvement I’ve seen from a team from start to finish in my 20 years as a head coach and 25 years in coaching,” Maxfield said. “Even though we’re not going to the postseason we feel like we’ve had some wins in a lot of areas.
“The first two games against Early and Hawley, we didn’t even look like a football team to be blunt. I feel like now, we’re understanding the game and the concepts on both sides of the ball, that’s improved tremendously.”
Maxfield stated work on the 2019 campaign will begin as soon as the 2018 regular season concludes, as the Dragons look to end a postseason drought that extends to 2014.
“With not making the playoffs, there’s 20 extra days before Christmas break to get some offseason days in and get stronger and quicker,” Maxfield said. “But the biggest thing for us is to get mentally tougher. I feel like with the kids being a year older, and being in the system for a second season, that’s going to help tremendously next year.”
There is no line in the contest, but according to the Harris Ratings Weekly points scale Bangs is 62 behind Cisco.