football -- Rainier churns out 298 yards on the ground in a 34-20 non-conference victory
Just as Banks finally got its offense to click, the Braves' defense mysteriously vanished in a 34-20 non-conference football loss to Rainier on Friday night.
Banks (0-4) has struggled to run the ball effectively in its first three games this season, but the anemic rushing game gave way to a suddenly potent passing attack on Friday as sophomore quarterback Gabe Linehan exploded onto the scene with 332 yards and three touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Banks' newfound offensive success was mirrored by its unexpected defensive ineptitude. The Braves surrendered 298 yards rushing to Rainier, allowing the Columbians to control the clock and the tempo of the game.
'Typically we're pretty decent against the run, but we had some pretty weak play from a few of our linebackers and defensive backs,' said Banks head coach Ben Buchanan. 'We just didn't step up and tackle well. We let (Rainier) get to the outside and they ripped off some pretty big runs.'
Banks also hampered itself with turnovers in the first quarter, allowing Rainier (3-1) to build a 20-0 lead by the end of the period.
After exchanging punts to start the game, Banks fumbled away possession midway through the first quarter and Rainier immediately capitalized, getting a 20-yard touchdown pass from Bobby Harding to Billy Zimmerman, who finished with three catches for 43 yards. Banks then fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Drew Patterson picked up the ball and scooted 15 yards to give Rainier 12 points in as many seconds.
The Columbians would add a 33-yard scoring strike from Harding to Hazze Walker before the end of the first quarter to make it 20-0.
'It was just bang, bang, bang. We spotted them 20 points in the first quarter and it was like, 'Here we go again,'' said Buchanan, referencing last week's loss at North Marion, where five Banks turnovers led to 31 first-half points for the Huskies.
Banks would get back into contention in the second quarter, riding the right arm of the rapidly improving Linehan. The Braves' sophomore quarterback fired touchdown passes of 27 and 50 yards to teammate Dustin Nordholm, and he had a chance to put Banks ahead just before halftime, but one pass was dropped in the end zone and another was underthrown as the first half expired.
Still, trailing 20-12 at the break and with the offense sparking to life, Buchanan felt he had the Columbians right where he wanted them.
'We scored two times in the second quarter and probably should have scored a third time right before halftime,' he said. 'We didn't punch it in, but I felt like we had the momentum at that point.'
The Braves' momentum quickly evaporated in the third quarter as Rainier scored on its first two possessions to forge a more comfortable 34-12 lead.
Rainier opened the second half with a long touchdown drive, punctuated with a 1-yard plunge by Jesse Renoude to make it 27-12. After Banks was forced to punt, the Columbians marched down the field once again and this time struck paydirt on a 25-yard touchdown run by Austin McGlone, who finished the game with 113 yards rushing on 22 carries.
Banks got a touchdown in the fourth quarter when Linehan hooked up with Alden Bayless from 16 yards out, but it was too little, too late for the Braves.
Linehan completed 24 of 38 pass attempts for 332 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted just once after throwing four picks last week against North Marion.
'Gabe threw the ball well,' said Buchanan. 'He came a long way from his performance the previous week. He still has some things to work on, but he's got good poise and he throws a good ball. I felt like this was his coming-out party.'
Banks rushed the ball just 19 times for 13 yards. Steven Gould, who scored a two-point conversion on Banks' final touchdown, led the way with 17 yards on six carries.
The Braves will continue to hunt for their first win this Friday with a trip to Lincoln City to face Taft (0-3).
'It will be a battle of the winless teams,' said Buchanan. 'Someone will have to come away from there with a win.'