Braves punch their state playoff ticket with a 35-14 win

either rain nor snow, nor sleet nor hail ... can stop Dakota Kemper.

With the rain falling in buckets and Banks’ football field deteriorating rapidly, head coach Ben Buchanan turned to Kemper in the Braves’ Class 4A state play-in game against Central last Friday, and the senior running back responded in a big way, carrying the ball 40 times for 219 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-14 victory.

“We were a little bit limited because of the condition of the field,” Buchanan said. “It was just one of those nights where you couldn’t really throw the ball well because of the conditions, so we just stuck with our basic jumbo package and handed the ball off to Dakota.”

Kemper did the bulk of the work on Friday night, and every time Central got greedy and crowded the box, Buchanan dialed up a playaction pass over the top of the defense, including three touchdown strikes — spanning 23, 44 and 19 yards — from quarterback Graysen Partain to wideout Zach Olson.

Partain completed 8-of-11 passes for 137 yards, and Olson finished with four catches for 96 yards and the three scores.

Kemper opened the scoring with an eight-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and he added a 35-yard scoring scamper later in the frame.

Partain connected with Olson early in the second quarter for the duo’s first touchdown of the night, and the pair hooked up again before halftime to give the Braves a comfortable 28-0 lead at the break.

“We took care of business early, which was good because of the weather,” Buchanan said.

Friday’s win earned Banks a spot in the 16-team Class 4A state playoff bracket, where the Braves will square off against third-ranked Gladstone.

The Gladiators finished second in the Tri Valley Conference, losing only once all season — a 19-7 setback on Sept. 28 against second-ranked La Salle.Banks also faced La Salle this year, dropping a tough 32-30 decision to the Falcons on Sept. 21.

“They’re a pretty talented team,” Buchanan said of Gladstone. “They run the option, which is difficult to defend when you don’t see it very often. It’s hard to simulate in practice, but I feel like we have a good gameplan. We’ve just got to be disciplined. We’ve got to remember our assignments and make plays.”

The teams will meet at 7 p.m. on Friday at Gladstone High School, with the winner advancing to the state quarterfinals on Nov. 16.

“I think it’s a good matchup,” Buchanan said. “It’s on their home field, but it’s turf, so I think both teams will play fast. In the end, I think it will come down to whichever team plays better defense.”

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