Michael Banna took a handoff and rumbled around the left side of the Missoula Big Sky offensive line. He shook an arm tackler here and there before running into a wall of defenders 20 yards down the field.
But wrecking balls have one purpose in this world: To knock down walls.
“Get down and dirty, just truck kids,” Banna said of his running style. “I don’t really like the shifty stuff.”
Banna flattened the Kalispell Flathead defenders like they were a condemned building needing to be wiped off a block on Friday night. Six yards later, Banna finally went down, tripped up by the massacre of bodies left in his wake.
For the 5-foot-11, 245-pound sophomore, such a scene wasn’t in the realm of possibility until a week ago. Cory Diaz, a similar bruiser – although with about 50 pounds less of inertia on his side – started the season as the Eagles’ No. 1 back. He rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown in Big Sky’s second game of the season.
Friday, Diaz missed his second straight game because of a concussion.
Behind him, though, was Luke Entzell. The linebacker and running back didn’t make it through last week’s game against Sentinel in back-up duty. He broke his leg midway through the game – and still played on it for a few downs.
That left Banna and Ryan Glenn to take the reins. Banna carried the ball 15 times last week. Friday he had 30 touches.
“I’m exciting because I’m getting my chance to show my potential, I guess,” Banna said after the eventual 21-14 loss to Flathead this week. “Coach Johnson always says, ‘When opportunities come, you’ve got to be able to take advantage of that.’ And that’s exactly what I did.”
To the tune of 122 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“He did well, stepped in and did a good job,” coach Matt Johnson said. “We definitely miss not having a big speed guy back there, but we do (like his physicality).”
Entzell should miss considerable time but Diaz should return to action soon this season. Until the, Banna is happy carrying the bulk of the load.
And demolishing defenders while he’s at it.