Lee Banks has always been clear about his goal for the season.
"My mind's focused on that state championship," said Banks, Augusta Christian's starting quarterback.
The senior took one step closer toward that goal with a perfect performance in last Friday's 35-6 win over Laurence Manning in the quarterfinal round of the South Carolina Independent Schools Association's AAA State Playoffs.
Banks completed all nine of his passes for 157 yards, including two touchdown throws. He also turned what appeared to be a quarterback sack into a nine-yard touchdown run by outmaneuvering three Laurence Manning defenders to score the game's first touchdown.
"Lee is a winner," Augusta Christian head coach Bruce Lane said. "He's done what we've needed him to do. He just wants to win."
As if a mistake-free performance weren't enough for the senior quarterback, Banks also earned a spot in the Augusta Christian record books.
The Lions' second score of the game, a 16-yard touchdown pass from Banks to Josh Whitaker, gave Banks his 17th touchdown pass of the season. That broke a school record set in 1998.
Banks added to his total with an 18-yard strike to Nolan Belcher less than three minutes later.
As the Lion offense mounted a 21-0 third quarter lead, the Augusta Christian defense responded with an equally impressive performance.
Four different Lions grabbed interceptions in the game, including picks from Taylor Hensley, Will Wright, Dillon Quick and Nolan Belcher. The Lion defense also held Laurence Manning to only 242 yards of total offense.
With a 21-6 lead, Augusta Christian's Brad Meister took over on touchdown runs of 10 yards and 83 yards in the fourth quarter for the 35-6 victory.
"Brad really turned it up for us," Banks said. "He's a great player."
Midway through the third quarter, an integral part of the Lion's running game took a serious blow.
Senior tailback Kyle Meeks, the Lion's second leading rusher, went down with an elbow injury. Lane said the seriousness of the injury was uncertain, but an initial diagnosis put Meeks out for the rest of the season with a dislocated elbow.
"That's rough," sophomore tailback Jay Harmon said. "He was a key part of our offense. He's a playmaker."
The loss puts backup tailbacks Harmon and Brad Meister squarely in the spotlight for Augusta Christian's semi-final round match-up against SCISA Region II winner Wilson Hall.
"It hurts us depth-wise," Lane said. "It's going to be a tailback by committee."
The loss won't fully cripple the Lions' offense. Augusta Christian has 31 touchdowns on the ground this season, but can also get the job done in the air. Banks has thrown for 18 touchdowns and 1,251 yards this year.
"If we were a team who only turned around and handed the ball off all the time we might be in more of a predicament right now," Lane said.
Wilson Hall, a team that has made at least an appearance in the SCISA State Championship game the past three seasons, will play host to Augusta Christian in Sumter, S.C., on Friday in the SCISA State Semi-Finals.
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