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Banks roster loaded with new faces

The Braves lost 18 players off last year's team that went unbeaten in league play


Banks football fans may want to keep a roster handy for the first few games of the season, because this year’s team will bear very little resemblance to the 2013 squad that won the program’s third Cowapa League title in the last four years and was ranked No. 1 in the state for most of the season.

The Braves graduated 18 players off last year’s team, so there will be a lot of unfamiliar faces out on the field as Banks prepares for another season in the rough-and-tumble Cowapa. Still, head coach Ben Buchanan isn’t too worried.

“It’s not rebuilding, it’s just reloading,” he said of the philosophy in Banks. “We lost a lot last year. We only have one or two starters returning on defense and I think we have two returning starters on offense.

“There’s not a lot of experience out there, but the kids are stepping up and picking up where we left off last year.”

Any list of Banks’ returning starters must begin with senior linebacker Dylan Bigsby, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound wrecking ball who was named Cowapa League defensive player of the year last season after accumulating 127 tackes, 29 of them for loss, and seven sacks.

“He’s the focal point of our defense,” Buchanan said of Bigsby, who had a team-high 19 tackles in the Braves’ season-opening 29-13 win over North Marion last Friday. “He’s rock solid. He’s not a real vocal guy, he just leads by example.”

Elsewhere, senior Jake Sandhagen has a few starts under his belt in the defensive secondary, and 6-2, 215-pound junior Twister McComas was a starter on both the offensive and defensive lines last year.

Buchanan has the benefit of some bulk up front, where the offensive line will feature McComas, Skylor Africa-Barnes (6-0, 255), Mitchell Wright (6-1, 235) and hulking left tackle Hunter Copley (6-4, 295).

“We haven’t had a lot of that in years past,” Buchanan said of the Braves’ size on the line.

Banks will augment its power running game by moving Bigsby from right guard to fullback, and 5-11, 205-pound battering ram Donny McLean will get most of the work at tailback.

“He’s kind of my bruiser,” Buchanan said of McLean, who rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown against North Marion and also returned an interception 35 yards for a score.

“We’ll put (McLean) and Bigsby back there in the I formation and just pound it at you. We’ve got pretty decent size up front, so we’re not going to be as much of a passing team as we were last year.”

Quarterbacking duties will go to Sandhagen, who has played the position at the freshman and JV levels, and speedy senior Holden Partain will also get some work out of the backfield.

“So far, so good,” Buchanan said of his squad. “Right now we just need to get experience.”

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