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Tanner Shook throws four touchdown passes, three to Jacob Slifka in quarterfinal win over the Bulldogs.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks quarterback Tanner Shook lets a pass fly during the Braves' state quarterfinal playoff game against Baker Saturday, Nov. 16, at Hare Field in Hillsboro.Top ranked Banks is in the semifinals.

The Braves did what the Braves do in their state quarterfinal game against Baker, dominating the second half and cruising to a 34-14 win Saturday, Nov. 16, at Hare Field in Hillsboro. But while no means surprising to most, don't tell this Banks team — despite being defending state champions — that what they're doing is old hat.

"Nothing is guaranteed in this game and these kids have worked their butts off and they're here because of that," said Banks head coach Cole Linehan. "They could've listened to everybody outside saying that their seniors have graduated and all these people left, but they never did that. They understood that they could be a good football team and what they're capable of, so I'm just proud of these kids."

First-year starting quarterback Tanner Shook agreed with his coach, and cited specifically the work they have and continue to put in as the motivation for what they're trying to accomplish this season, on the heels of what was obviously a historic campaign a year ago.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks' Jacob Slifka fights through a couple Baker tacklers during the Braves' state quarterfinal playoff game against Baker Saturday, Nov. 16, at Hare Field in Hillsboro."I appreciate this a lot because we put so much work in during the offseason that if we didn't get here it would be so upsetting," Shook said. "And we know that it's coming down to the wire, so it's time to really focus."

Banks came out on fire, driving 74 yards in five plays, capped by a 41 yard touchdown pass to Jacob Slifka to go ahead 6-0 following a missed extra point attempt. They made it 9-0 on their second possession thanks to a 33 yard Slifka field goal, then 12-0 when Slifka again connected from 33 yards to open the second quarter.

Sadly for Banks, senior center Andrew Nichols was lost to an apparent leg injury at the tail end of the first quarter, and whether directly or indirectly, the loss seemed to turn the tide in favor of No. 8-ranked Baker.

The Bulldogs put together an impressive 53 yard drive on the subsequent possession, pounding the ball right at the Braves, handing off 11 times on the 12 play drive, the last of which was a 3-yard run by senior Alex Hammans that cut the Banks lead to 12-7 with 5:13 left in the half.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks' Martial Stegemeier carries the ball during the Braves' state quarterfinal playoff game against Baker Saturday, Nov. 16, at Hare Field in Hillsboro.The drive fired-up the Banks coaching staff and earned the young Braves an earful from Linehan.

"We had a good first quarter, but we kind of lost it a bit in the second quarter," Linehan said. "Not sure if that had something to do with Nichols going down, but they played well and we had a couple miscues. We came out with all that intensity to start, and then we just took a step back.

"We love Nichols and it was unfortunate to see him go down because he's a leader on this team, but to let that take the air out of our sails — that's the last thing Nichols would want."

And the coach was right. Shook even said so much after the game.

"That took the wind out of me, I'm not going to lie," said the quarterback. "But Ramsey (Hering) came in and did well, so we'll just hope he (Nichols) is going to be okay."

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks' Jarred Evans dives for a ball during the Braves' state quarterfinal playoff game against Baker Saturday, Nov. 16, at Hare Field in Hillsboro.Coming out of the locker room with just a 12-7 lead, Banks seemed determined to stomp on the pesky Bulldogs and appeared capable by way of their rejuvenated defense. On Baker's first two possessions of the third quarter, the Braves allowed the Bulldogs just three yards. Then, on Banks' second possession of the half, Shook again connected with Slifka, this time from 24 yards out, putting the Braves ahead 18-7 and providing a little bit of cushion to play with going forward. And they took advantage of it, flying around on defense and creating more room for Shook to throw and Slifka to catch, as the duo struck again, this time from 42 yards with 1:58 left in the third quarter, giving Banks a 25-7 lead and essentially icing the game in the process.

The Bulldogs could do little beyond their initial scoring drive, and Linehan attributed much of their defensive success to his defensive backs on the edge.

"We knew they wanted to run the football," the coach said. "They passed a lot against cascade because they could, but they just had a hard time with our taller, more athletic corners.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks' Jacob Slifka goes up to make a catch during the Braves' state quarterfinal playoff game against Baker Saturday, Nov. 16, at Hare Field in Hillsboro.
"Our corners are about as good as it gets on the edge, and I think they found out pretty quick that they couldn't go out there to them, so instead they went to the run."

Which wasn't going to work after digging themselves into a 25-7 hole.

Banks added another score four minutes later when Shook hit Jackson Walker on a 9 yard strike that made it 31-7, then added a third Slifka field goal to make it 34-7 before the Bulldogs got a late score to cap things at 34-14.

Next the top-ranked Braves will face Marist Catholic in the semifinals, a team that Banks defeated twice last season en route to their state title, and once earlier this season, 19-14, in their third game of the season. As a result, the Braves and their coach are pretty familiar with the Spartans, but in turn those same Spartans are familiar with Banks — which should make things interesting.

"They're a good football team and super athletic," Linehan said. "I like the matchup in terms of they have athletes and so do we, and they're a good football team and so are we. That's how it should be in the semifinals."

Slifka finished with six catches for 141 yards and three touchdowns.

Shook completed 16 of his 21 pass attempts for 261 yards and four touchdowns, while Martial Stegemeier carried 20 for 116 yards.

Banks' game with Marist will be at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23, at Hillsboro Stadium.

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