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Braves pound Astoria to lock up league title

Banks dominates rival Astoria 56-13 to clinch its second consecutive league championship
by: Chase Allgood Banks running back Dakota Kemper (5) runs through the tackle of Astoria’s Tony Rudolfi during Friday’s Cowapa League football game.

Astoria came into Friday's Cowapa League showdown against Banks with the better overall record and the better state ranking, but it was Banks that proved it was the far superior team with a surprisingly lopsided victory.

Banks routed Astoria 56-13 on Friday night to lock up the Braves' second consecutive regular-season league championship, dominating nearly every facet of the game against the rival Fishermen.

When it was all over, Banks head coach Ben Buchanan called it one of his team's most impressive performances of the season.

'These guys continue to surprise me,' he said. 'They play really well as a team. They know what their identity is and they're not making a lot of mistakes right now.'

In a battle of contrasting styles - Astoria's wide-open spread option offense versus Banks' run-heavy attack - it was the Braves' punishing ground game that won out, producing 340 rushing yards and helping Banks to a significant advantage in time of possession.

Junior running back Dakota Kemper continued his outstanding season, gouging the Astoria defense for 151 yards and two touchdowns, but it was the play of senior quarterback Shea Rue that opened things up for the Braves. Rue completed 3 of 4 pass attempts for 80 yards and a touchdown, and he also rushed 11 times for 160 yards and three scores, including touchdown runs of 60 and 7 yards early in the third quarter that stretched Banks' lead to 42-6 and essentially put the game to bed.

'Winning a league championship for these seniors, I'm not sure if they expected it, but they worked hard for it and they deserve it,' Buchanan said. 'That's something you won't ever be able to take away from them.'

For Astoria, there was bad news that extended beyond the loss. Senior quarterback Conor Harber left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury, and his status is uncertain for the state playoffs.

Friday's win earned Banks (7-1, 5-0) a home game against Madras (4-4, 2-3) in the play-in round of the Class 4A state playoffs this Friday. The game will kick off at 7 p.m.