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The Braves' undefeated season ends as starting quarterback Christian Lyda goes down with a first-half wrist injury.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks' Andrew Brown takes Kennedy's Javier Rodriguez to the ground during the Braves' state semifinal game with the Trojans Saturday, Nov. 19. at Hillsboro Stadium.The Banks football team lost a tough one Saturday afternoon, but the way this year's team played—it couldn't have happened any other way.

Despite losing starting quarterback Christian Lyda to a first half wrist injury, Banks fought to the end but ultimately fell to No. 1-seeded Kennedy 15-7 in their 3A state semifinal Saturday afternoon, Nov. 19, at Hillsboro Stadium.

The Trojans broke a 7-7 tie with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Elijah Traeger to Brett Boen on a third-and-12 play with 37 seconds remaining in the third quarter, and from there held what was a compromised Banks offense at bay for the remainder of the game en route to the state final.

Braves coach Cole Linehan said it was a tough way to end an otherwise successful 2022 campaign, but one he enjoyed and appreciated due to the manner by which his team went about their business.

"I've been proud of a lot of groups, but this group has something special because there were so many unknowns coming," Banks head coach Cole Linehan said. "Everybody doubted us. But these kids had an expectation to win and that's what they did all year."

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks running back Ashton Crossen stiff-arms a Kennedy defender during the Braves' state semifinal game against the Trojans Saturday, Nov. 19, at Hillsboro Stadium.And almost did on this day.

Banks took the lead in the first quarter when following a fumble recovery forced and recovered by Daevon Vereen, the Braves capped a three-play, 16-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Lyda to Max Walker to put Banks ahead 7-0.

Kennedy quickly answered however thanks in part to a Braves mistake.

After Banks forced a Trojans turnover-on-downs deep in the Braves territory, Kennedy intercepted a Banks pass at the Braves' 16-yard line and scored a play later when Traeger found Owen Bruner on a 16-yard pass and catch to tie the game 7-7.

Banks drove the field on their next possession using a quarterbacking combination of running back Ashton Crossen and freshman backup Lane Gilbert, but watched their drive stall as the result of a holding penalty inside the 10-yard line and ultimately missed a 25-yard field goal to go to halftime 7-7.

Linehan said they knew they were going to be offensively challenged in the second half as the result of Lyda's injury.

"We said we were going to have to manufacture points, either through special teams or hopefully defense," Linehan said. "But when you practice something all week and you're moving the ball well in that first half, to lose your starter…it's a tough ask."

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks quarterback Christian Lyda rolls from the pocket during the Braves' state semifinal game against Kennedy Saturday, Nov. 19, at Hillsboro Stadium.Banks' defense remained stout however, holding the Kennedy offense down until what amounted to their game-winning drive near the end of the third quarter. That didn't come as a surprise to Linehan who said he always knew his kids would come to play.

"Even though things were stacked against us that's what we said, that we could win it on defense," the Banks coach said. "I can't say enough good things about this defense. At no time this year did we turn on the film and not see great effort. It wasn't in them. They just worked and that's why we believed in them."

Braves lineman Daevon Vereen echoed his coach's sentiment, which is why he too never waivered in his belief they could win regardless of the position they were in offensively.

"I knew we were ready," Vereen said. "Our starters were ready, our backups were ready if we needed them, and we were for sure still confident."

That confidence could only take them so far however, and in fact only got them into Kennedy territory once in the second half when they drove to the Trojans' 20-yard line with 3:25 remaining in the game. But a series of penalties backed the Braves up and when a fourth down pass fell flat with 2:30 remaining, so too did Banks' hopes of a 2022 state title.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks and Kennedy players meet at midfield for the pregame coin flip prior to their state semifinal game Saturday, Nov. 19, at Hillsboro Stadium.Linehan knew it, and it hurt. But it didn't change how he felt about the work this year's Braves put into every practice, play and game.

"These kids worked, and they never entered a game they didn't think they could win," Linehan said. "It's been fun to see the growth. Only one team gets to go home happy every year and unfortunately this year, that won't be us. But still very proud."

And Vereen? He and his teammates were obviously disappointed and there were a lot of tears, but also a lot of pride—and that's something the senior was adamant about.

"We have high pride in our team and everything we do we put our heart into," Vereen said. "That's what makes this rough. We put so much work in and ended early, but that doesn't mean were not champions."

Crossen led the Braves with 50 yards rushing, while throwing for 48 yards.

Logan Kind caught seven balls for 48 yards, while Walker caught two passes for 29 yards and Banks' lone touchdown.

Kind also led the Braves with 12 tackles.

Traeger completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 131 yards and two touchdowns for Kennedy, while Boen and Bruner combined to catch nine passes for 103 yards and two scores.


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