football -- Four interceptions lead to four North Marion touchdowns in a 31-8 non-league setback
Growth often comes in short, painful steps. For Banks' young and inexperienced football team, Friday's 31-8 loss to North Marion was - in some ways - painful, but it also offered glimpses of improvement and growth.
Banks (0-3) turned the ball over five times in the first half and North Marion turned each miscue into points, building a 31-8 halftime lead that would hold up over the second half.
Sophomore quarterback Gabe Linehan, who beat out junior Brad Markham for the starting job prior to Friday's game, was intercepted four times - two of those going back the other way for North Marion touchdowns - and the Braves also fumbled away possession on a muffed punt.
Still, head coach Ben Buchanan said there were signs of growth in the Braves' third straight loss.
'In the second half the kids rallied,' he said. 'The offensive line performed much better, a couple of wide receivers stepped up and I thought we rushed the ball a lot better. We had better offensive productivity, it was just the turnovers that killed us.
'So as much as it may seem like there's no progress, we did some things better. I think we're getting better.'
Linehan was 9-for-19 through the air for 79 yards and he also rushed 11 times for 69 yards. Steven Gould added 50 yards rushing on 10 carries, while wideouts Alden Bayless (five catches for 36 yards) and Thomas Moore (three receptions for 30 yards) also turned in solid performances.
'It was a rough first half,' said Buchanan. 'We had a great week of practice, but we spotted them 17 points. It was just one of those halves where it was like we were cursed and couldn't do anything right.'
The fumbled punt led to a 25-yard field goal by Kyle Zwicker early in the first quarter, and the Huskies (3-0) would push their lead to 10-0 when Chris Bailey picked off a Linehan pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.
A bad snap on a punt attempt gave Banks excellent field position early in the second quarter, but instead of pulling within three points the Braves saw North Marion's lead suddenly jump to 17-0.
Banks took over at the 5-yard line after the turnover on downs, and Linehan rolled out against a blitz and fired a pass that was batted straight up in the air. The ball came right back down into the hands of Bailey, who scooted 90 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
'Right now Gabe's a little rough around the edges,' said Buchanan. 'He's got to make his reads and throw the ball on time. His timing needs to improve, but he'll pick it up quick. He's a smart kid.'
Linehan got the Braves on the board in the second quarter after another bad snap by North Marion on a punt. The Huskies fell on the ball at the 1-yard line, and Linehan punched into the end zone on the next play. On the extra point attempt, kicker David Fishback scooped up an errant snap and tossed the ball to Bayless for a two-point conversion that pulled Banks within nine points at 17-8.
Unfortunately, two more Banks turnovers would lead directly to North Marion touchdowns, and the Huskies' big halftime lead would be more than enough.
Bailey had a career day for North Marion, returning both interceptions for touchdowns and also catching a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kelly Maguire, who went 12-for-22 for 183 yards. Maguire also connected on a 13-yard scoring strike to Mark Gillett in the second quarter.
The Huskies only outgained Banks by 40 yards on the day (243 total yards to 203), but turnovers were the story of the game.
'We really got after them last week and I thought we made a lot of progress,' said Buchanan. 'We'll just have to get after it again this week. There are definitely some things to build on.'
The Braves return to action on Friday with a home game against Rainier, a former Cowapa league member now playing in the 3A Lewis and Clark Conference. Friday's game will kick off at 7 p.m.