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Braves hoping for deep state playoff run

Banks football will be looking to make its seventh straight state playoff appearance


The mark of any good football coach is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

That explains why Banks head coach Ben Buchanan, now in his 16th season, moved away from the power running game he has favored in the past to install a new spread offense for 2013.

“It’s a way of spreading things around and getting more guys’ hands on the ball,” Buchanan said. “It’s fun (for the players) and I think it’s definitely fun for the fans to watch.”

Buchanan’s decision was heavily influenced by the graduation of running back Dakota Kemper, a three-time all-league selection who rushed for 3,600 yards and 51 touchdowns in his career.

“The past few years, we always had Dakota to rely on,” Buchanan said. “As a coach, you adapt to what you’ve got, and we don’t have Dakota anymore. So it seemed like a good time to change things up.”

The Braves may not have Kemper this season, but they have plenty of other offensive weapons, beginning with 6-foot-2, 190-pound dual-threat quarterback Garrett Markham. A senior, Markham is in his first year as a starter, but his skill set reminds Buchanan of one famous former signal caller.

“He’s kind of like Gabe (Linehan). They’re both big, strong guys. He’s a big quarterback, but he runs well and he also throws the ball really well,” Buchanan said. “He’s cherishing this starting position, and he’s got his hand in just about every big play we make.”

Markham will have the benefit of a talented receiving corps, led by senior wideouts Devin King and Andrew Santa Maria, plus slot receivers Joey Bonin and Nolan Hill.

Buchanan started the season with a committee approach at running back, but he announced on Monday that senior Jerod Barger will be the starter moving forward. Fellow seniors Mykah Rosa and Kieran Thomas will continue to see action in the backfield.

Offensively, the biggest question mark for the Braves will be an offensive line that returns just one starter from 2012.

“It’s all predicated on the guys up front,” Buchanan said. “I knew we’d be inexperienced. They’re still making a few mistakes, but they’re a very coachable group and they’re getting better every day.”

The biggest adjustment so far has been the switch to a zone blocking scheme that has accompanied the move to a spread offense.

“It takes time to teach,” Buchanan said. “It’s just a different concept, but they’re getting it.”

On the other side of the ball, longtime assistant James Miller took over defensive coordinator duties, but little has changed schematically.

Senior Hayden Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound nose guard, will anchor the defensive line, while three starters return at linebacker — all-league selections Bonin and Dylan Bigsby, plus Markham.

“They’re a pretty special group,” Buchanan said of his linebackers. “They’re quick and they get after it.”

Hill, another starter from a year ago, will move from cornerback to safety, while Rosa and Santa Maria will also start in the defensive secondary.

“The goal is to get the league title back in our hands and make a deep playoff push,” Buchanan said. “But right now we’re just trying to get better like everybody else.”




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