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By Paul Valencia | Photos by Leon Neuschwander 

It was a shock to the system for a number of athletes. 

Sure, there was talk. Their coaches and school administrators were ready for the news.

Still, it just seemed bizarre.

Banks High School is leaving the 4A ranks in the OSAA to play in the 3A classification?

“At first it was, ‘Oh wow.’ I wasn’t expecting it at all,” senior three-sport athlete Jackson Lyda said. “I knew our school was getting smaller, but I never actually thought it was going to happen. Didn’t think it was possible, actually.”

After all, Banks made history just a few years ago, dominating the 4A classification by winning state titles in football, boys basketball and baseball in the same academic year (2018-19).

This year’s seniors were in the eighth grade.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘You’re going to destroy at 3A.’ I personally don’t think that’s true,” Lyda said. “There is a ton of talent down there.”

Oh, Banks will have to be a favorite in football. The program has won four league titles in a row in the battle-tested Cowapa.

But nobody from Banks is selling state championship T-shirts just yet.

“If you look past any team, you’re going to get yourself beat,” Banks football coach Cole Linehan said. “You can get humbled really quickly.”

For the football program, the league opponents have changed but not the Banks approach.

“We don’t worry about anything else but ourselves. We take care of our business. We do things we think will make us successful,” Linehan said. “We’re successful because of the work we put in during the offseason. That builds these kids’ confidence. Come fall, they can beat anybody. That shouldn’t change, regardless of who we’re playing.”

With that said, Linehan acknowledged mixed feelings about the transition.

“We were all pretty torn about it,” Linehan said. “We’ve had so much success at 4A. Going down to 3A didn’t sit right originally. But if you look at the numbers … it just made sense. Our enrollment has been dropping pretty drastically over the last couple of years.”

Banks football Cole Linehan Leon Neuschwander

Banks football has had a “play anyone, anywhere” mindset for years, the coach said. But playing schools that are much larger can eventually turn into a hindrance.

According to OSAA numbers, Banks will be seventh in enrollment of the 46 Class 3A teams.

“It’s not like Banks is dropping down,” Linehan said. “Banks is going to its rightful spot.”

Plus, this is more than a football issue. 

Lyda said the move to 3A will help other sports, such as wrestling.

“Numbers games, we just never had that many guys,” Lyda said, noting Banks has been going up against squads with two and three times as many wrestlers.

Back to football, Banks is still Banks, even after losing a ton of talent. Five all-league players from the 2021 season have graduated, including the quarterback as well as the Cowapa offensive and defensive player of the year.

“We’ve lost a lot from last year, but we’ve got some guys who are back who want to win some football games,” Linehan said.

The success of Banks has nothing to do with being in 4A or 3A.

“It’s just about us continuing on what we’ve been doing,” Linehan said. “We’ll try to reload and try to find ways to win. Nothing is free, especially in the game of football. We’re constantly in those guys’ heads: It takes this to do this, to be successful.”

At least in early September, it won’t feel like Banks has gone anywhere. The team will travel to take on Astoria in Week 1, then play host to Tillamook in Week 2.

“We want to take care of business in our old league,” Lyda said of those nonleague contests.

Those teams still feel like rivals.

“Four years in a row, we never lost a game in league,” Lyda said. “That’s the first goal. The other seniors want to take care of business the first two weeks.”

Banks football Jack Lyda Leon Neuschwander

Lyda also has a coach’s mindset when considering those matchups. Of course, he and his teammates believe they can open the season 2-0. But Lyda also knows this is a brand-new team. 

“Those first two weeks are the ones I’m most worried about because we have a pretty young team,” Lyda said. “We only have three guys returning who started on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a lot of guys playing in the first two weeks playing in games they haven’t been in yet.”

Win or lose, Banks will learn a lot in the early going. Banks will move on to Coastal Range League games against Corbett, North Marion, Rainier, Valley Catholic, Warrenton and Yamhill-Carlton. 

New rivalries are sure to be created, but some things never change at Banks.

“Playing through November is the ultimate goal,” Lyda said. “I have faith … that our coaches are going to put the best starting 11 out there to let that happen.”

Lyda, naturally, should be one of those guys. He was first-team all-league as a defensive back last year. He also is a wide receiver.

Expect Daevon Vereen to be among those players, too. Linehan said his team is loaded with a lot of hardworking players, but Vereen is the hardest worker on the squad. He will wreak havoc as a defensive lineman, and he expects to be a beast at running back. Yes, a D-lineman is also a running back.

Banks football Daevon Vereen Leon Neuschwander

Speaking of unusual moves, Logan Kind is moving from being a starter on the offensive line last year to … wide receiver? 

“He has the best hands on the team,” Linehan said.

It turns out, Kind was behind some impressive talent at receiver and the team was in a bind on the line last year.

“He didn’t love the idea. He probably hated the idea. But he’s a team player, and he did it,” Linehan said. “We told him, ‘Wait your time, do this for the team, and when you are a senior, it will be your time.’”

Quarterback is a mystery for Banks. That, too, is unusual. Linehan said it is the first time in years that Banks does not have a clear No. 1 entering the season.

Christian Lyda (Jackson’s cousin), Ashton Crossen and Kade Long are in a quarterback battle. All three will be playing a bunch this season because the two who are not the starting quarterback will be on the field elsewhere, Linehan said.

The coach said the strength of this year’s team will be its defense.

Going into September, there are a lot of unknowns. Big changes have arrived at Banks. The school and football program appreciate the relationship with the Cowapa through the years.

For now, though, it is time to look toward this season — and the future.

Banks, a traditional 4A power, is now a 3A school.