Sporting a new-look offense, Banks builds an early lead and hangs on for a 31-26 win over Cascade

Banks showed off its new spread offense and survived a spirited second-half surge from Cascade on Friday night to secure a 31-26 victory in nonleague football action, and avenge a loss to the Cougars in last year’s season opener.

Having lost multi-talented quarterback Graysen Partain and workhorse running back Dakota Kemper to graduation, Banks head coach Ben Buchanan elected to move away from his power running game this season, installing a spread attack that relies more heavily on speed and athleticism than sheer brute force.

Tasked with running that offense is senior Garrett Markham, and he didn’t disappoint in Friday’s opener.The younger brother of past Banks standouts Brad and Brock Markham, Garrett did his family name proud with 306 yards of total offense and four touchdowns — three passing and one rushing.

Aaron Streblow added a 36-yard field goal in the third quarter and the Banks defense snuffed out a pair of two-point conversions in the fourth to hold off a last-gasp comeback attempt from the Cougars.

“We played a pretty good first half considering it was a ‘zero week’ game,” Buchanan said. “We caught them off guard in the first half and then in the second half we kind of ran out of steam.

“It was a learning experience for the guys to play with a lead like that in the second half. Cascade is a good team — they went to the (Class 4A) semifinals last year. They came after us in the second half and luckily we were able to do enough to hold on.”

Banks built a 21-0 halftime lead behind Markham’s three touchdown passes — connections of 23 and 36 yards to senior Nolan Hill in the first quarter, followed by a 27-yard hook-up to senior Devin King in the second.

After Cascade briefly cut the lead to 21-6 in the third quarter, Markham produced one more touchdown, this one a 6-yard run that pushed the Braves’ lead back to four scores.

“I thought Garrett played really well, especially for his first start,” Buchanan said. “He ran the ball well and threw the ball well, and we were efficient enough on offense.”

Markham’s last contribution was leading the Braves on a late third-quarter drive that culminated with Streblow’s 36-yard kick, giving Banks a 31-14 lead going into the fourth.

Cascade made things interesting, in part by converting a staggering 10-of-13 fourth-down opportunities, and the Cougars mounted two scoring drives in the fourth quarter to pull within four points.

But that was as close as Cascade would get, and Banks walked away with an important season-opening victory.

“We didn’t play a perfect game,” Buchanan said. “We didn’t block particularly well, but we were still able to run the ball and Garrett threw the ball pretty well.

“There are still some things we need to clean up, but you always see the most growth between the first game and the second game.”

Markham completed 15-of-23 passes for 235 yards and also ran for 71 yards on 16 carries. Andrew Santa Maria caught five passes for 67 yards, senior Joey Bonin had three catches for 40 yards, and Hill and King had two receptions apiece.

Senior running backs Mykah Rosa and Jerod Barger combined for 50 yards on the ground as Banks continues to work on its blocking schemes in the new spread offense.

“In years past we’ve been a power-type team, running a lot of two tight end sets,” Buchanan said. “This year we’ll be more of a spread team. We’re working on some inside and outside zone stuff and we’re taking our chances down the field with the passing game.

“We’ve run some of it in the past, so it’s not totally new to us, but it will take some time to get everything running smoothly.”

The Braves will hit the road this Friday for a date against Sweet Home (1-0), a 34-24 winner over Redmond last week. Friday’s game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Forest Grove 35, Benson 6

Forest Grove notched a breezy victory in its football opener on Friday, getting two touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Taylor Jensen, plus 130 rushing yards and a score from senior Gio Tayetto in a 35-6 win over Benson.

Jensen hooked up with senior Ethan Thursam for touchdown passes of 6 and 10 yards in the first quarter, and senior Zac Collins ran in a 4-yard score to make it 21-0 at halftime.

Cody Fletcher had a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown and Tayetto added a 1-yard scoring plunge in the third quarter to make it 35-0.

Gaston 20, Toledo 13

Gaston opened its 2013 football season with a win on Saturday, going on the road and beating Toledo, 20-13.

The Greyhounds trailed 7-0 at halftime, but Austin Morey scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in the third quarter and Ian Mann punched into the end zone with about a minute left to lift Gaston to the win.

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