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Braves headed to semifinals after gritty win over Mazama

Banks grinds out a 28-21 victory to claim a spot in the 4A state semifinals

HILLSBORO — Make no mistake: the Banks football team is more than just Donny McClean.

With Mazama trying to limit the Braves’ star senior running back, several other playmakers — especially junior Milo Applebee — stepped to the forefront to key Banks to a 28-21 Class 4A quarterfinal victory last Saturday afternoon at Hare Field.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: KENT FRASURE - Banks football players sporting freshly-shaved mohawks celebrate following their 28-21 win over Mazama last Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state playoffs.

Fourth-seeded Banks will play No. 9 Cascade at Hillsboro Stadium this Saturday for a spot in the Class 4A final. That game has been scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

“There’s a lot of teams at home that aren’t playing right now, so it just says a lot about the caliber of kids we have,” Banks head coach Ben Buchanan said of his program’s first state semifinal appearance since 2008.

Against the Vikings, Applebee ran wild for 151 yards and two touchdowns, while Jake Evans threw for one TD and used his legs for the eventual game-winner. With the setback, No. 5 Mazama of Klamath Falls had its eight-game win streak snapped and ended its season at 8-2. Banks improvced to 9-1.

“It feels great ... amazing,” said Evans, who scored from 23 yards out as time expired in the third quarter to put Banks over the top. “You dream of this as a kid and we’re finally here.”NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: KENT FRASURE
 - Banks football coach Ben Buchanan (right) celebrates at the end of the Braves' 28-21 victory against Mazama last Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state playoffs.

This quarterfinal matchup was a battle of run-oriented teams, but it was a big pass play that actually started the scoring — though the Braves had to wait a bit for it. That’s because the contest got off to a rough start for them, as they fumbled the opening kickoff and the Vikings recovered the ball on their own 40-yard line.

Mazama then proceeded to chew up nearly eight minutes of clock, but it didn’t have anything to show for it when the Banks defense stopped Noah McGrew short inside the Braves’ 5-yard line on fourth down.

Going the other way, the Banks offense needed just four plays to strike, with Evans finding Jaron Malcom streaking down the right sideline all alone. The 64-yard touchdown pass staked Banks to a 7-0 advantage with 2 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the period.

The Vikings answered on their next drive, with Tyler McLin cashing in from the 1 just nine seconds into the second quarter for a 7-all ballgame.

Each team was forced to punt on its next possession, and when Banks got the ball back again midway through the stanza, it quickly marched up the field. Applebee capped a six-play drive when he received a good block and cut up the left side for a 41-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead 3:16 before the intermission.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: KENT FRASURE
 - Banks quarterback Jake Evans throws a pass during last Saturday's Class 4A football state playoff game against Mazama at Hare Field.

With Mazama trying to plug up the middle, that play was one of many on which the Braves found success on the flanks.

“They were keying in on Donny up the middle and we could get outside on them pretty good,” said Applebee, who is normally a wide receiver but carried 12 times on Saturday. “They couldn’t stop us on the outside, so we just kept going on the outside and we kept making plays.”

In a busy third quarter, the two sides combined to score 28 points. Mazama, the Skyline Conference champion, needed just three plays from scrimmage in the third to tie up the contest again. Quarterback Curtis Anderson did the honors by busting a 46-yard touchdown run at the 10:38 mark.

But Banks could top that, as Applebee eluded a couple would-be tacklers to take a 64-yard run to the house on the Braves’ first play after getting the ball back. The point-after kick was no good, though, so the hosts held a 20-14 lead with 10:18 left in the quarter.

“You could tell that they did not allow for Jake Evans to run the ball,” Buchanan said of the move to get Applebee wide. “He was running the ball pretty good on them, and then they started tightening up on him, so we started going outside with Milo with Donny leading the way, and we were gashing them big-time on that. That was a big play for us.”

Anderson — who attempted just one pass all game for the Vikings — set up Mazama’s next score with a long run, and Jordan Westlake gave the visitors their first lead when he cut dead-center up the field for a 10-yard TD with 7:45 remaining in the third.

A few minutes later, Banks used a turnover to set up its game-winning drive, as Dylan Shafer recovered an Anderson fumble at the Viking 32. Along the way, McClean converted a crucial fourth down with just inches to spare, and three plays later, Evans danced his way through the Mazama defense for the TD. McClean added the two-point conversion to put Banks up 28-21 with 12 minutes to play.

“They’re a well-coached team, but we just came out and made big plays,” defensive end Twister McComas said. “Dylan Shafer, that fumble recovery really swinged things. But we really figured their offense out.”

It showed again toward the end. Mazama ate up almost two-thirds of the fourth quarter on its next drive, which lasted 15 plays. But again the Vikings emerged empty-handed after Malcom sacked Anderson on a fourth-and-6 from the Banks 23. From there, McClean converted twice on third down and once on fourth to help the Braves run out the clock.

Malcom finished with 64 receiving yards on his one catch. Evans was 4-for-10 passing for 79 yards and a touchdown, and he ran 10 times for 87 yards and a TD. McClean finished with eight carries for 37 yards.

Trevor Thiessen was a nightmare on defense. The junior strong safety finished with nine tackles, five assisted tackles and two sacks. McClean added nine solo tackles and nine assisted tackles from his middle linebacker position.

Banks ran 42 plays on offense compared to Mazama’s 58 and had just 13 first downs to the Vikings’ 26. But the Braves outgained the visitors 339-316, and won the all-important battle on the scoreboard.

This weekend, in Cascade (10-1), Banks faces an opponent with whom it has some recent history. Last year, the Cougars knocked the Braves out of the playoffs in the first round, getting a last-second field goal to win 10-7.

“We know them well,” Evans said. “They’re a scrappy team. They’re very physical. We’re very physical too, so it should be another strength-against-strength type thing. So it should be a great game.”