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Banks football will try to fill holes at quarterback, running back, and on the line left by graduating seniors

FOREST GROVE NEWS-TIMES FILE PHOTO - The Banks Braves football team celebrates following a postseason victory last season. Sometimes you just have to start from scratch.

Well, Banks football isn't really returning to square one, but losing their starting quarterback, entire defensive line, an all-league leader like Trevor Thiessen and arguably the best running back in the 4A classification is a game-changer for most teams and the Braves are no exception.

"We're a whole different team this year," said head coach Cole Linehan. "We've always been a pound it running team with a big [offensive] line, but that's not the case anymore. This year we have some young big guys and some quick, athletic seniors."

Linehan knows a guy like Milo Appleby isn't easily replaced. He also knows it's going to take a group effort to supplant the type of effort he got from guys like Jake Evans and Thiessen, but more so than the individual talent gone by way of graduation, it's the size and experience on both sides of the line that has the coach mixing things up.

"We've always been a big, tough team since I've been here, but we can't just hand it off five straight times anymore," said the second-year coach. "But we're really athletic on the edges. We have speed and some athletes who can catch and run, and a quarterback I'm really happy with."

That quarterback is junior Hayden Vandehey, and those athletes are Gunnar Partain and Blaine Herb. Linehan is excited to watch Vandehey and feels his smarts will allow him to step into the role vacated by Evans.

"Hayden does everything right, on and off the field," said the coach. "I'm looking forward to watching him grow."

Partain was a first-team all-Cowapa League selection on both sides of the ball, while Herb was selected as a first-team linebacker. Linehan is expecting big things from the seniors, but is also hoping for significant contributions from senior Max Merritt, Blake Markham and 6-foot-8 junior receiver Blake Gobel.

"This has been a great year of development for Blake (Gobel)," Linehan said. "He's a great kid and works really hard. He'll help us big time."

The Braves opened their season last week with a non-league game at Gladstone, and prevailed over the Gladiators 28-14. Linehan saw a lot of improvement in the win, and thought his team took some big strides since their jamboree the week before.

"We're trying to figure the best place to put guys now," he said. "At the jamboree I thought we had a lot of holes, but I felt a lot better walking away from Gladstone."

The coach expects Astoria and Scappoose to again be tough, feels Seaside and Tillamook could present challenges and says Valley Catholic will always be a mystery due to their lack of a youth program while always finding competent athletes. Regardless, the goal at Banks is always the same.

"The Cowapa League is tough, but the goal is always to win them all," Linehan said. "These guys are here to win, and they've been working hard."

Banks travels to Stayton this week before returning to host Molalla Sept. 15.

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