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Banks advances to quarterfinals with shutout victory

Braves ride their dominant running game to a rain-soaked 34-0 postseason victory over Baker

It’s hard to see how the Banks football team’s Class 4A state playoff opener could have gone much better.

Perhaps it could have been cleaner? As in, literally cleaner.

The Braves took just fine to wet and extremely muddy conditions at Kelly Field last Saturday, when they used their superior ground game and a solid defensive performance to turn back Baker 34-0 — dirty uniforms and all — in a first round playoff contest.

 - Baker quarterback Brad Zemmer tries to get off a pass against heavy pressure from the Banks defense during Saturday's Class 4A playoff game. The Braves won, 34-0.

“It’s fun. We love playing in the mud. That’s just how we are,” said running back Donny McClean, who scored three touchdowns and rushed for almost 200 yards. “Around this time of the year, if you’re playing here, it’s what you gotta expect.”

Fourth-seeded Banks, which won a state playoff game for the first time since 2010, advanced to a quarterfinal matchup against No. 5 Mazama. That game is scheduled for 3 p.m. this Saturday at Hare Field in Hillsboro. Baker ended the season at 5-5.

“I was pleased with how the boys played,” Banks coach Ben Buchanan said. “We knew the conditions were going to be sloppy, but that was to our advantage, obviously, because of the way we can run the ball and be physical and our size over them.”

The Braves (8-1) scored early and often against the Bulldogs, enjoying a healthy 27-0 advantage at the break. It should come as no surprise to anyone following the team this season that McClean scored the first two touchdowns.

The bruising senior running back’s first score came from 9 yards out a little more than three minutes into the game, and he doubled the lead to 14-0 with a TD from a few yards out with 10:28 remaining in the second quarter.

Quarterback Jake Evans got into the scoring act with two rushing touchdowns of his own in the second quarter. The first went for 15 yards, and the second, from 9 yards out, staked Banks to that 27-0 lead 1:36 before halftime.

Perhaps fittingly, Evans and McClean combined for the final score of the contest, a 37-yard TD strike at the 7:48 mark of the third quarter.

“We did really pretty good, especially with the conditions,” Evans noted. “When it’s muddy, you just gotta run the ball, and when you have Donny as a running back, that’s what we do, is feed him the ball. He has really nice rushes and he scored twice and I think I ran for two and then hit them with a pass, too.

“We just played overall a good game. Line blocked amazing, defense played fantastic, obviously.”

McClean finished with 198 rushing yards on 22 carries, an average of 9 yards per rush. Evans and Milo Applebee were also effective on the ground to contribute toward the Braves’ 365 rushing yards. Applebee ran 10 times for 62 yards, while Evans carried 19 times for 93 yards.

The junior signal caller also went 7-for-13 in the air for 94 yards. Brock Smith had three catches for 42 yards and McClean’s one catch went for that 37-yard score, giving him 235 all-purpose yards on the afternoon.

McClean also put up four solo and six assisted tackles, including three for loss. Trevor Thiessen and Hunter Copley produced two sacks each, while Smith and Hunter Hayes each recorded an interception.

As for this week’s game, Mazama also enters the contest 8-1. The Vikings’ only loss came in their first game of the season, a 35-20 setback to Yreka of California. Mazama rebounded with a 14-6 win over Class 5A three-seed Redmond in Week 2 and won the Skyline Conference.

It could be a matchup of strength against strength. The Vikings run a wing T offense, Buchanan said, and don’t throw the ball a lot.

Said Buchanan: “They gotta come up here, and we’ll have a big crowd.”