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Braves' offense sputters in loss

Banks struggles to put points on the board and suffers a 13-7 nonleague loss to South Umpqua

Last Friday, for the second week in a row, the Banks football team’s result was decided in the game’s waning moments.

Unfortunately for the Braves, for the second week in a row, they came up just short.

Hosting South Umpqua in its home opener, Banks almost made a first quarter touchdown run from Donny McClean hold up, as the Braves struggled on offense for the second consecutive week but shut out the Lancers until well into the fourth quarter.

But then they yielded two scores to the visitors inside the final four minutes and fell short in the red zone on a last-gasp drive of their own before losing 13-7.

The loss dropped Banks to 1-2, while South Umpqua improved to 2-1. With the team coming off a 3-0 loss at Philomath the week prior, Friday’s result was undoubtedly a heartbreaker, and it left head coach Ben Buchanan at a bit of a loss.

“It should never get to that point,” Buchanan said about how the game played out. “We are just terribly bad right now on offense. I’m frustrated. I don’t know what our identity is. We can’t just run the ball all the time because teams are packing the box.”

That frustration is certainly understandable. The Braves defense has kept the team in the last two ballgames, allowing just 16 points in that span, but the offense — which picked up only 227 total yards on offense against South Umpqua — has mustered just seven points in two games.Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD
 - Banks wideout Jaron Malcom runs through the South Umpqua defense during last Friday's nonleague game.

Those points came with three seconds remaining in the first quarter last week when McClean rumbled into the right side of the end zone from nine yards out and Nick Eberhardt added the point-after.

But Banks was shut out the rest of the way, including when McClean scored another touchdown midway through the third quarter that was negated by a holding penalty.

That might have iced the game for the Braves. Instead, the Lancers rallied.

They knotted the score at 7-all with 3:43 remaining when quarterback Erik Johnson hooked up with Cameron Everett for a 17-yard touchdown pass.

After Banks’ next drive stalled quickly, the Lancers capped a 60-yard drive with a 33-yard rushing score from Kyler Merritt up the middle to take their first lead with just 1:06 remaining.

“Our line wasn’t blocking. Our receivers, they were running routes, but then they were getting caught up because they would possibly run into each other,” McClean said about his team’s late offensive woes. “And then our running backs, including myself, we would miss blocks as they were blitzing on us. In the end, the whole team almost fell apart in the fourth quarter.”

Despite their troubles, the Braves wound up with a good chance to tie or win the game on their last drive. It was helped along considerably on a third-and-14 near Banks’ own 40, when quarterback Jake Sandhagen chucked the ball downfield and Mitchell Merritt obliged by hauling in the pass at the South Umpqua 21-yard line with 37 seconds to go.

After a pass interference penalty gave Banks the ball at the 11-yard line, the Braves got a short gain from McClean before spiking the ball on second down. Then twice in a row, the Braves opted for Sandhagen to throw.

But twice the pass fell incomplete, giving the ball back to South Umpqua with three seconds remaining and sealing Banks’ second consecutive defeat.

The outcome also gave a clear indication of where the team needs to improve to move forward.

“We made a concerted effort this week and tonight to throw the ball more,” Buchanan said. “There are times we did it all right, times we threw the ball bad, we didn’t catch the ball, we didn’t protect the quarterback. I’m not trying to put the guys down, but we just suck on offense right now.Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD
 - Forest Grove quarterback Taylor Jensen prepares to hand off to running back Marcus Estrada during the Vikings' loss to South Salem last Friday.

“We’ve got to go to work. Defense played great again.”

Returning from an MCL sprain he suffered against Philomath, Sandhagen was 9-of-37 for 105 yards and two interceptions. McClean paced the offense with 18 carries for 93 yards, while Merritt added two receptions for 49 yards.

On defense, Jaron Malcom posted eight solo tackles and an interception, and Trevor Thiessen added two tackles for loss.

So now it’s back to work for the Braves, who host winless Tillamook on Friday night for both teams’ Cowapa League opener and Banks’ homecoming. Kickoff is at 7 o’clock.

“It’s really just the process of who’s going to step up,” McClean said. “We lost like 20 seniors last year. It’s who’s going to step up and who’s going to man up and who’s going to take the hits and who’s going to do what they need to do and do the job correctly.”

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