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Braves reflect on 2013 campaign


Banks cruises to an undefeated regular season but loses in the first round of the state playoffs

by: NEWS-TIMES: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks senior quarterback Garrett Markham throws a pass during a nonleague game against Cascade on Aug. 30.The end of another football season gave longtime Banks head coach Ben Buchanan time to refelct on what the Braves accomplished this season — and also on what they didn’t.

Banks reached the highest of highs during the regular season, going undefeated and storming to a Cowapa League championship. Along the way, the Braves led every minute of every game they played and climbed to No. 1 in the OSAA Class 4A power rankings.

But once the postseason began, Banks reached the lowest of lows, losing to 12th-ranked Henley to mark the program’s third straight first-round playoff exit.

“It was a great season,” Buchanan said. “It just kind of puts a damper on a great year when you lose in the first round and you felt like you could have gone farther. Expectations in the program were high this year, so we feel disappointed.”

While the playoffs roll along without the Braves, this year’s team still left an indelible mark on the program. The undefeated regular season was the first in school history, and it was Banks’ third league title in the last four years. That success helped Banks land a slew of players on the Cowapa League all-star team, which was announced earlier this month.

Quarterback Garrett Markham was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year, linebacker Dylan Bigsby was named Defensive Player of the Year, and Aaron Streblow was the Co-Punter of the Year. Buchanan also shared Coach of the Year honors with Scappoose’s Sean McNabb.

All totalled, Banks had six players selected to the all-league first team, but four of them earned first team honors on both sides of the ball.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever had as many guys go both ways on the all-league team,” Buchanan said.

Markham was a first team selection at quarterback and linebacker, Joey Bonin was honored as a receiver and linebacker, Nolan Hill was tabbed at receiver and safety, and Hayden Johnson played both ways on the offensive and defensive line.

Additionally, Bigsby was a first team pick at linebacker and Mykah Rosa was honored at cornerback.

Offensively, Markham shouldered the load for Banks this year, and he was appropriately honored by the league’s coaches after passing for 1,810 yards, rushing for 767 and accounting for 26 touchdowns.

“He was our go-to guy,” Buchanan said. “He’s a big, strong quarterback, and (in) the offense we were running this year the quarterback is a running back too. He was a guy we could turn to whenever we needed tough yards.”

Defensively, Markham was third on the team with 70 tackles and he also created three turnovers — two fumble recoveries and an interception.

The breakout star on the defensive side of the ball, however, was Bigsby. The junior linebacker led the team with 127 tackles, including 29 for loss, and he also had a team-high 7.0 sacks to go with two forced fumbles and one recovery.

“Defensively I thought we had a great year,” Buchanan said. “Early on, our defense kept us in games until our offense could get clicking, and sometimes that took a while.

“Dylan had a lot to do with that. He really had a tremendous season. We’re excited to get him back next year.”

Over the course of the season, Banks limited opponents to just 11.0 points per game — tops in the state at the Class 4A level — and the Braves recorded a school record four shutouts. That was refelcted with the selections of Johnson, Bonin, Hill and Rosa to the all-league team.

Johnson, a defensive lineman, was second on the team with 19 tackles for loss and he added 4.5 sacks. Bonin finished with 104 total tackles, including 14 for loss, and he also had two interceptions. Hill and Rosa tied for the team lead with nine passes defended.

Back on the offensive side of the ball, Markham drew a great deal of attention from opposing defenses, freeing up his receivers to post big numbers. Both Bonin and Hill were first team all-league selections as slot receivers, and wideout Andrew Santa Maria was an honorable mention pick.

Hill led the team with 534 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 31 catches, while Bonin finished with 36 receptions for 468 yards and a TD. Santa Maria had 24 grabs for 319 yards and one score.

“Andrew Santa Maria and Devin King were our wide receivers and they were very steady for us,” Buchanan said. “A lot of times they benefited from teams double-teaming Joey (Bonin) and Nolan (Hill) in the slots.”

The receiving corps enjoyed increased productivity with Banks’ move from a power running game to a spread offense.

“This year we were very balanced,” Buchanan said. “We just didn’t have to run the ball all the time. We were almost a pass-first team this year with the receivers we had.

“When you go to a spread, it comes down to a counting game. If they have too many guys in the box, then you’re going to throw the ball. If they back off, you’re going to run it. It’s a chess game.”

While the end result wasn’t quite what the Braves were expecting, Buchanan was quick to label the season as a success.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever gone 9-0, and that’s really saying something,” he said. “We won a league title, which is hard to come by, but these guys earned it. They ran the table and beat a very good Scappoose team to do it.

“We told these guys, ‘In the short term it may be painful, but you’ve still got a lot to be proud of. This was an outstanding season.’”

The Braves graduate 20 seniors from this year’s roster, which will make next season a challenge, but the bar will once again be set high in Banks.

“We’ve got a good crew of linebackers and defensive backs that are gone, we’ve got quarterbacks and running backs that are gone. We’ll have a lot of losses, but we have guys who I think are ready to step up,” Buchanan said. “We’re fresh out of the playoffs and I’ve already got next year’s seniors and juniors coming in to borrow footballs so they can go out and throw. It’s very encouraging.”