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Astoria downs Braves on the road

football -- Banks loses after taking a defensive pummeling
by: Tommy Whitcomb,

ASTORIA - The Banks Braves football program has found itself in an unusual and unwelcome position: 0-7 after losing 49-12 on the road to Astoria last Thursday night.

'We shot ourselves in the football,' said head coach Ben Buchanan of the loss.

The Braves gave up too many big plays in the contest. The yardage differential between the two teams wasn't large, thanks to a 200-yard passing performance by quarterback Gabe Linehan and a fine corps of receivers.

But Banks dug itself too big a hole, with an interception and kickoff return that Astoria turned into touchdowns and a blocked punt. Astoria racked up 35 points in the first half alone.

'They big-played us,' Buchanan said. 'That's been the story of our year. Our kids played hard. They did much better in the second half, but it wasn't enough.'

The main architect of Banks' defeat was quarterback Jordan Poyer. He was effective passing the ball, completing 9 of 15 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. But Poyer was at his best when the Braves chased him out of the pocket and he scrambled for big gains.

He totaled 90 yards on 12 carries and scored touchdowns on runs of 23 and 44 yards.

'That was the guy who hurt us,' Buchanan said.

However, Banks countered with its own fine quarterback in Linehan, who completed 19 of 31 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the Tribe in rushing, with 42 yards on 14 attempts. Alden Bayless led the receivers with four catches for 86 yards.

The Braves, who had only 44 ground yards against Astoria, could use a boost in the rushing department.

'We're hurting at running back,' Buchanan said. 'We're banged up right now. We've been able to run the ball really well in the past. This year has been the opposite. Our passing game is decent, but we can't get anything going on the ground.'

Banks stunned Astoria at the beginning of the contest with a trick play that resulted in a 44-yard completion from Linehan to Alden Bayless. On the next play, Linehan connected with Josh Marsh on a 31-yard touchdown pass.

Astoria, 7-0 and ranked fourth in Class 4A, was undaunted. It proceeded to score five touchdowns in the first half, three of them by versatile Tom Jaworski, who scored on a 15-yard run, a 65-yard interception return and a 76-yard kickoff return.

The Braves stopped reeling when Linehan drilled a five-yard TD pass to Bayless in the second quarter, but Astoria iced the victory with second half touchdowns by Poyer and Nathan Stinnett.

Unaccustomed as they are to losing, the Braves are hoping to build a foundation to return to the form which saw them often make the playoffs and perennially occupy a spot among the state's top 10 teams.

A key to their hopes is Linehan, a 6-2, 180-pound sophomore who has thrown for 1,067 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He also leads the club in rushing.

'He's our leader,' Buchanan said. 'He throws a good football, and he's tough. He plays linebacker on defense and he's our best hitter.'

The Braves are hoping to chalk up their first victory of the season when they host Tillamook on Friday night.