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The Braves' goal line stand and late Max Walker interception clinches win over the Eagles 10-7.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks Andrew Brown (58), Logan Kind (18), Daevon Vereen (53) and Jack Lyda (2) meet for the pre-game coin flip prior to their state quarterfinal game against Santiam Christian Friday, Nov. 11, at Hare Field in Hillsboro.Banks bent, but did not break.

Despite being backed-up against their own goal line and nursing a three-point lead in the final minute, the Braves held and ultimately forced a Max Walker interception with 14 seconds to play to defeat No. 5-seeded Santiam Christian in their 3A state quarterfinal 10-7 Friday night, Nov. 11, at Hare Field.

Banks head coach Cole Linehan had nothing but respect and admiration for his team following the win, speaking to the team's resolve on that final possession despite the odds seemingly being stacked against them.

"For us to hold them out at first and goal from the two, just shows what these guys are all about," Linehan said. "For a team who hasn't really been tested all year, to step up and make a play like that in the biggest game they have played in makes for a very proud moment as a coach."

The coach said the defensive stand wasn't about scheme or personnel, but rather heart and teamwork — something the Braves seem to have in spades.

"I just told them it was time for someone to make a play and to try to keep it simple," Linehan said. "Trust in everyone to do their job and we will keep them out. Not to be concerned about what could happen but worry about what they're going to do to make a play."

Banks (11-0) trailed early in the game after Santiam Christian (9-2) took the opening kickoff and capped a more than 70-yard drive with a Jayden Christy 2-yard touchdown run with 5:47 on the first quarter clock.

The Braves tied the game in the third quarter when senior running back Caden Harris scored on a 3-yard run.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks' Max Walker makes a tackle during the Braves' state quarterfinal game against Santiam Christian Friday, Nov. 11, at Hare Field in Hillsboro.
The score stayed 7-7 into the fourth quarter when Banks' Cole Crossen broke the tie with a 35-yard field goal with 3:30 left in regulation. The Eagles however responded, driving to the Banks 2-yard line in the game's final minute, setting up the Braves' heroic stand.

Linehan said his team's defensive performance throughout the game was particularly impressive due to the unit being in somewhat uncharted waters. Banks' defense had only allowed 41 points total prior to the game with Santiam Christian, and their starting defensive unit had proved to be nearly impenetrable over the course of the season.

"Our defense responded well after that opening drive," Linehan said. "That's the first time our starters have been scored on since week-3, so for them to buckle down for the rest of the game and hold them out of the end zone was a game changer for us."

Linehan said the defensive performance was the product of an all-around effort, but that senior linebacker Daevon Vereen and sophomore defensive lineman Luke Bigsby were exceptional all night disrupting the Eagles offense, while senior defensive back Jack Lyda made "huge plays in space." But also noted that offensively, running back Ashton Crossen did a great job running the football and that quarterback Christian Lyda was phenomenal at taking what the defense gave him.

"It's not going to show up on the stat sheet, but he was under pressure all night with guys flying at him," Linehan said. "I loved the way he stayed composed, didn't try to make bad plays any worse, and turned some things into positives when he could.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks' Cesar Dominguez (28) and Max Walker (3) during introductions prior to the Braves' state quarterfinal game against Santiam Christian Friday, Nov. 11, at Hare Field in Hillsboro.
Next, Banks will play Kennedy in a semifinal game scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at Hillsboro Stadium. The trip to the semifinals will be the first for the Braves since moving to the 3A classification this season, but will be the third time the school's been to the state semifinals in the last four full years (excluding the COVID year).

Banks won a state championship in 2018, were the runner-up to La Grande in 2019, and last year lost in the state quarterfinals to eventual runner-up Mazama. In year's past, the Braves have been fueled by what most would consider a high-octane offensive attack. This year however, the team is led by a stout defense that is allowing less than five points per game. That's music to Linehan's ears. Not just because he's a former defensive player himself, but also due to it speaking to the team's willingness to do whatever it takes to win games.

"This is a fun group to coach and they take a lot of pride in the way they play defense, and it shows in how hard they play," Linehan said. "It's been a fun year to see how team-first everyone is.

COURTESY PHOTO: JOHN VOSS - Banks running back Caden Harris celebrates his touchdown with lineman Luke Bigsby during the Braves' state quarterfinal game against Santiam Christian Friday, Nov. 11, at Hare Field in Hillsboro."We have two guys starting on the o-line that were running backs to start the year. Not many people are willing to put their hand in the dirt and move to that position when they are used to carrying the football. Both Daevon (Vereen) and Drew Brown understood we had a need up front and they have stepped up in a big way for us. That's the kind of stuff that pumps me up as a coach, kids willing to do whatever they need to do to help the team."

Kennedy (11-0) earned their way into the semifinals with a 14-12 win over Vale. The Trojans are playing up to the 3A classification this season after losing in last year's 2A state title game, while — like Banks — winning a state title in 2018 and finishing second in 2019.

Linehan said Kennedy is big upfront and use long and athletic receivers to make plays on the outside. He knows that defeating the Trojans will be a challenge, but also knows something else for sure — his team will be up for it.

COURTESY PHOTO: JOHN VOSS - Banks' Max Walker and Logan Kind work to get Santiam Christian's Jayden Christy down during the Braves' state quarterfinal game against Santiam Christian Friday, Nov. 11, at Hare Field in Hillsboro.
"This is the kind of team you expect in a semi-final," the Banks coach said. "I can't wait to see our guys compete."

Christian Lyda finished 14-for-20 for 138 yards.

Ashton Crossen carried eight times for 42 yards, while Harris carried five times for 34 yards, including his touchdown.

Logan Kind caught 10 balls for 108 yards.

Kind led the Braves with 11 tackles, while Vereen and Bigsby combined for seven tackles-for-a-loss.

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