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Braves clinch second place, play-in game versus Seaside

Banks tops Astoria in regular season finale and locks up second

With a Cowapa League football championship off the table, the best Banks could do on a wet and miserable Friday night was beat rival Astoria and clinch second place in the conference.

That’s exactly what the Braves went out and did.

On a malevolent night on the coast, Banks rode a run-heavy offense to a 21-6 victory over the Fishermen that locked up second place in the league and earned the Braves a home game in the play-in round of the Class 4A state playoffs.

“It was kind of a quick game because the conditions were so wet that passing was at a minimum,” Banks head coach Ben Buchanan said. “Overall I thought we played pretty well. The defense was stingy and the offense was solid. We jumped out to an early lead, then we had a couple nice drives in the fourth quarter and the last one clinched it.”

The Braves got a 5-yard touchdown run from Dylan Bigsby and an 11-yard scoring scamper from Holden Partain in the first quarter to seize an early 14-0 lead, but Astoria punched one in just before halftime to trim the deficit to 14-6.

Neither team could gain much traction in a back-and-forth third quarter, but the Braves got some extra breathing room in the fourth when Bigsby capped a long drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge, putting Banks on top 21-6.

Bigsby carried only three times all game, but two of those went for touchdowns. Donny McClean led the ground game with 136 yards on 15 carries, Partain added 50 yards on 12 carries and quarterback Jake Evans ran 10 times for 21 yards. The sophomore also completed 7-of-9 passes for 91 yards.

“We didn’t pass the ball a whole lot, but Jake Evans completed some pretty important balls to keep drives going,” Buchanan said.

The win improved Banks’ record to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in league play, good for second place ahead of Seaside (5-3, 3-2). Because of the OSAA’s convoluted play-in system, the Braves and Seagulls will meet on Friday for a second time this season, this time with a Class 4A state playoff berth on the line. Banks won the teams’ first meeting 35-21 at home on Oct. 9.

“That can happen in the play-in round,” Buchanan said of two league foes squaring off against each other. “I think we know each other pretty well. We know what we need to do to win and so do they. It will come down to whoever makes fewer mistakes.”

After a frustrating start that included low-scoring losses to Philomath and South Umpqua, Banks has gradually improved over the course of the season as the Braves have gone back to a spread offense.

“I think every week we add a little more to it and we run the ball a little better,” Buchanan said. “The guys up front are doing a pretty good job and it’s working for us.

“The defense has been our strength all year, and the offense has been kind of an evolution of what are we, what’s our identity? The spread is what’s worked for us and we’re getting better at it.”

A win on Friday would earn Banks a spot in the 16-team Class 4A playoff bracket, with games beginning on Nov. 7.

“I think we can be a dangerous team, and it’s possible for us to make a run,” Buchanan said. “If we could be a little more explosive offensively it would help. Right now we’re just wearing on teams, but it’s working for us.”

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