The Braves' two-point conversion attempt fails with less than a minute to play giving the Tigers a one point win

COURTESY PHOTO: STEWART MONROE PHOTOGRAPHY - Banks' Gunnar Partain carries the ball during a game earlier this season.In a season defined by close defeats, Banks' final loss was the closest and maybe the most painful of all for a coach and team that seemed capable of so much more.

"It's tough a couple days after a loss like that," said Banks head coach Cole Linehan. "I'm proud of the team regarding how they handled the year, how they played and how hard they worked. This has been by far the most fun I've had coaching one team."

The Braves lost to Ontario 41-40 Friday night, Nov. 3, failing on a two-point conversion attempt with 52 seconds remaining following a 49-yard touchdown pass from Hayden Vandehey to Blake Markham. Banks tried a run around the right side on the two-point play in an effort to exploit a weakness they'd noticed on film earlier in the week. Unfortunately for the Braves, the play failed and suddenly the season was over.

"We practiced and schemed that play all week," said Linehan. "We saw something we liked on the edges, so we knew if it came down to a two-point play we'd go with that. And we just didn't execute."

Ontario senior running back Ethan Kameshige took it upon himself to make things happen, scoring three second-half touchdowns as the Tigers held on to beat the Braves.

In just his first season as a running back, Kameshige rushed for more than 200 yards against Banks, including 19 carries for 160 yards and three touchdowns in the second half alone.

The Ontario defense picked up the intensity in the second half. After allowing three touchdowns in the first two quarters on three big plays — each 30 yards-plus — the Tigers didn't allow a single Braves first down in the third quarter.

"It's about fundamentals," said Ontario head coach Eric Johnson. "All those big plays came from missed tackles on our part. I'm very proud of the guys. We told them at halftime, 'Find a way to win.' And they did."

Banks drew first blood, scoring on the second play of the game when Gunnar Partain took a handoff 54 yards to the end zone to give the Braves a 7-0 lead.

The Tigers responded on the following drive, with Kameshige scoring on an eight-yard carry. The PAT was blocked as the Tigers cut the Banks lead to 7-6.

To start the second quarter, Banks quarterback Hayden Vandehey took a keeper 33 yards to the end zone to take a 14-6 lead.

Ontario quarterback Mike Mejia was able to close the gap with 3:30 remaining in the half, taking a quarterback keeper for a one-yard score. The failed two-point conversion meant the Braves led 14-12.

Banks widened the lead with 38 seconds left on a 36-yard touchdown pass to Gunnar Partain.

Five minutes into the second half, Mejia closed the gap on an eight-yard touchdown pass to Hawker. A successful two-point conversion cut the Banks lead to 21-20.

Banks went three and out on the following series and were forced to punt. Three plays into the next Ontario drive, Bennett Turner picked off Mejia and took it to the house to give the Braves a 28-20 lead.

The pick-six, Mejia's second interception of the game, likely would've sunk a lesser team, but with 2:46 left in the third quarter, Kameshige took a handoff 48 yards to the end zone. The two-point conversion failed but Ontario cut the lead to 28-26 and again put the onus on Banks to respond.

"We definitely had a hard time stopping the ball up the middle and they pounded it at us," said Linehan. "But our guys didn't quit."

Nor did Ontario.

A minute and a half into the fourth quarter, Kameshige scored on a seven-yard run, and after a successful two-point conversion gave the Tigers a 34-28 lead – their first of the game. But just 20 seconds later, Vandehey found Blake Markham on a 58-yard touchdown pass, and when the PAT was blocked, the game was knotted up at 34-34.

On the following drive, Kameshige scored on a 33-yard run as the Tigers took a 41-34 lead, and ultimately reigned supreme on the failed two-point play to come.

"We knew they'd go for two if they scored," Johnson said. "You get in those track meets and it's about making plays."

Linehan agreed that there was little hesitation when it came to a decision regarding whether to go for two.

"If you're on the road in the playoffs and you're having a hard time stopping them, you've got to go for it," Linehan said. "It just didn't work out."

Despite the loss, Linehan has had a little time to reflect on the season. He's proud of his team and equally excited for next year.

"Knowing this group, and knowing how much this season will drive them, I'm excited for next season," said the coach. "We'll have a bunch of guys coming back, including what I feel is the best quarterback in the 4A. Hayden (Vandehey) was incredible and he's only going to get better."

And how would he put a bow on this year?

"We had three losses by a total of eight points, so there's a lot of what-ifs that go into that," said Linehan. "But I didn't have a guy out there who wouldn't do anything we asked. I wish I could coach them for longer."

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