A win or a loss in this game could decide the 2013 Cowapa League champion
When the Indians take the field on Friday night, they will face an opponent ranked higher, one that averages more points, and gives up less than they do, for the first time this season. Banks (4-0), whose Braves have battled Scappoose (3-1) for the league football title in the last several years, is fresh off a 40-9 thumping of La Salle on the road, and after the Indians' loss at Central, the Braves come into the game ranked eighth – four spots ahead of Scappoose in the Class 4A rankings.
Central's offense looked balanced, but nothing compared to what Banks brings. The Braves get 160 yards passing per game from senior quarterback Garrett Markham, who has thrown eight touchdown passes and no interception in four games. On the ground, Banks is led by the legs of Markham and senior running back Jarod Barger, totaling 163 yards per contest.
While it might be easy to rattle on about Banks' gaudy offensive statistics, the really impressive numbers for the Braves are on defense. Ever since their 31-26 opening win over Cascade, they have slowly tightened things up on the defensive side of the ball. Including a 49-0 victory over Benson Tech, Banks shut out their opponents for seven straight quarters, and have 61 tackles for loss in just the last three games. They have also picked off seven passes so far this season.
Much of the defensive success can be put on the Braves' stellar linebacking corps. Junior inside linebacker Dylan Bigsby and senior Joey Bonin have 54 and 47 tackles respectively, leading a ferocious group that has gotten into the backfield time and time again. Their disruption, especially against La Salle's Alex Sherrill, whom Banks sacked three times, is paramount to what their defense does best – get in behind the offensive line and make life difficult.
For the Indians, that presents an interesting challenge. They have worked all season on two things for senior quarterback Taylor Loss: patience, and getting the ball out quicker. Any time Loss makes a mistake, it is blamed on impatience and making the wrong steps. The solution is always to get the ball out of his hands more quickly, and by design, not desperation. Justice Oman has proven to be a solid go-to receiver both downfield and for the short passes, and if the ball gets into his space, odds are he'll pull it in for a decent gain. The threat from Banks seems similar to the attack that Rainier featured, where they balanced the risk of Loss making a big play with his arm against tackling Loss behind the line of scrimmage. The difference though, is Banks can pull that off.
In addition to the pressure put on the passing game, the fact the linebackers, and particularly the inside linebackers, are so potent means an inside rushing attack might be easily stifled. Perhaps one of the best options is to use what was successful against the Indians in the loss to Central – a pitch to the outside and a dash to the edge. Either way, points won't be easy pickings against the Braves.
What the Indians need to do
Some of Scappoose's biggest concerns have to be on offense. In the game against Central, the Indians went to the passing game right off the bat and it didn't work. The first two series, both three-and-outs, were most than half passing. The first play, a pitch to Carson Davison, ended up pushing the Indians back nine yards, a hole Scappoose couldn't climb out of. It's a risky move, but against Banks it's important to keep the linebackers from rushing the passer right off the bat. If the Braves have to respect the Indians' running game, the risk of attacking Loss goes up.
In the same breath, by establishing a running game and making it a viable threat, Banks will have to defend the run first and foremost, giving Loss time to set up in the pocket and hit receivers downfield. The Indians are 3-0 when Loss has more than 200 yards passing, and Oman is faster than just about everybody he matches up against. Given time, he'll outdistance all but the fastest defensive backs.
The biggest gun Banks brings to the table is their dual-threat quarterback. He doesn't only run off of broken plays, he has plays designed for him. In fact, he has scored almost as many touchdowns on the ground as he has in the air. Much of the reason for that is his considerable size. Markham, at 6 feet, two inches and 195 pounds, isn't exactly a small target to bring down. The best way to lower his effectiveness is to get into the backfield and force him to scramble. If Markham is uncomfortable, he's more likely to make mistakes, which lead to turnovers.
Keys to the Game:
Get to the edges on the run
100 + rushing yards from Carson Davison
200+ passing yards for Taylor Loss
Get the ball in the hands of Justice Oman
Banks Impact Players:
#10 QB Garrett Markham
#33 Joey Bonin