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The Trojans were resilient on defense, efficient on offense, improve to 12-0 on the season and earn a state title game

PMG PHOTO: RALEIGH EMERSON - Kennedy captains, from left: Luke Beyer, Briggs Snell, Owen Bruner and Matt Hopkins. The Trojans defeated Banks 15-7 in the 3A state semifinals.

The Kennedy Trojans have advanced to the state title game for a second consecutive year, this time at the 3A level. The football team defeated Banks (11-1) by a margin of 15-7 to earn their 12th win of the year.

"Our guys have a lot of confidence, we played against a lot of good football teams," Kennedy head coach Joe Panuke said. "They believe in our scheme every week, they execute and they play hard. They've been here before; these seniors have been on a big stage, these juniors have been on a big stage before."

First half

It was a defensive battle in the first half more than anything. Both teams coughed up two turnovers apiece: Banks with two interceptions, Kennedy with a pick and a fumble. Both Kennedy and Banks struggled to put together momentum on offense, Banks with 109 total yards and Kennedy with 82.

Where both teams were able to find success was through the air. Banks got its first touchdown at the 1:31 mark of the first quarter with quarterback Christian Lyda finding a diving Max Walker in the right-hand corner of the end zone.

Kennedy answered back in the second quarter with a pass from quarterback Elijah Traeger finding Owen Bruner on a fade route in the end zone with 7:42 to go in the first half.

Second half

Kennedy put together a drive late into the third quarter that saw the Trojans capitalize on Banks penalties and a grinding style of attack. The Trojans made the move from their own 27-yard line, finding holes in the Banks defense. A penalty brought Kennedy briefly out of the Banks redzone, but the Trojans would not be deterred.

Traeger found senior Brett Boen between two defenders in the left corner of the endzone for the second touchdown. Boen was shaken up on the play but held onto the ball. Senior Ethan Kleinschmit converted on a two-point conversion to put the Trojans up 15-7 heading into the fourth quarter.

The two teams traded possessions from there on out, both replete with penalties. At the half, there were just two penalties on either side; by the end of the game there were 15 total penalties for 150 yards. According to Panuke, it was a product of the moment.

"You hold, you late hit, you false start, all those things happen, but a big-time moment and kids get nervous," Panuke said. "You make mistakes, that happens, and luckily, we were able to survive those penalties and finish it off the right way, finish it off as a team. Put our defense on the field, seal it at the end, it was perfect."

PMG PHOTO: RALEIGH EMERSON - Kennedy quarterback Elijah Traeger had touchdown passes in the Trojans 15-7 win over Banks on Saturday, Nov. 19.

Moving on

The Trojans, who held on to defeat Banks 15-7, head to their second consecutive state finals appearance and their first competing at 3A. It also marks the fifth time that Kennedy has defeated an unbeaten team this year. From the season opener, Kennedy took the 0s of Stanfield (week one), Siuslaw (week two), Dayton (week four), Santiam Christian (week nine), and now Banks (week 12).

"It's like I told them, the pressure is not on us, we're a 2A school playing for a 3A state title," Panuke said. "We're not even supposed to be here. Just enjoy it; it's already been a special year. Whatever happens, happens. It's already been a special year, one of the best in school history."

Statistics

Kennedy's offense was led by quarterback Elijah Bruner who went 12-of-19 through the air for 131 yards, two touchdowns and just one interception. On the turf, Bruner rushed for eight yards. Boen led the receiving corps with five catches for 55 yards and the touchdown, followed by Bruner with four catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. Luke Beyer and William Schaecher combined for three catches and 28 yards.

Kennedy's rushing attack was led by Schaecher with 20 yards on nine rushes, followed by Javier Rodriguez, Bruner, and Traeger.

On defense, the Trojans were led by Bruner and Griffin Kilbourne with eight tackles apiece, followed by Rodriguez, Boen, and Isaac Berning with six tackles each.

Up next

Kennedy is slated to face the winner of Cascade Christian (11-0) and Dayton (9-2). Joe Panuke weighed in on his prospective opponents.

"(Dayton) is a big physical team, they've got big backs, they run hard, a lot of misdirection and pulling guards," Panuke said. Kennedy defeated Dayton 21-0 in week four. "We competed well against that last time, reading the pulling guards. It sounds like they're getting healthy, everybody's healthy and they're playing really well right now. You've got to respect them and their run game."

"What I've seen on Cascade Christian is they spread it out, they have a lot of speed at running back and receiver, similar to what Banks runs," Panuke continued. "They'll spread you out and run RPOs and try to make you miss in space, spread you out and get guys open. Another talented team."


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