Not a run of the Mill victory

By Ryan Wallace PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 4, 2015 - 11:54 PM

Mid-way through the second quarter, a visiting Mill Valley student section began to let the defending 5A runner-ups from St. Thomas Aquinas here it.

“We can’t hear you,” repeated the visiting Jaguars, their chants echoing off a stunned Aquinas press box.

Needless to say, falling 38-20 was not the season opener the Saints had anticipated entering a 2015 campaign filled with such hype.

“They made plays and we didn’t,” second-year Aquinas coach Randy Dreiling said following the loss. “They played harder than we did. They made more plays than we did. They’re a very good football team.”

A precursor to a future EKL rivalry to come beginning next fall, the Jaguars (1-0) utilized an up-tempo offense to fuel themselves to a jubilant first Friday night.

Taking advantage of the preseason’s top team in 5A, Mill Valley senior quarterback Logan Koch wasted no time incorporating his top returning target Christian Jegen. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver utilized speed and crisp routes to slice through the St. Thomas Aquinas secondary early and often, diving into the back of the end zone to score from 29-yards out on the Jaguars opening drive.

“I think once we went out and scored in like five plays, that brought some momentum to our defense,” Jegen said. “After that we were just rolling.”

“We wanted it,” continued the versatile playmaker. “Last year, they came out and beat us but we expected to win that game. This year, everyone was doubting us saying they were too good but we put in a lot of work this offseason and it paid off.”

The game began just the way Dreiling had scripted, with his offense, engineered by senior signal caller Karter Odermannn, marching 80-yards down the field courtesy of a punishing rushing attack spearheaded by running back Jacob Leikam who put the Saints up first 6-0.

However, it was Coach Joel Applebee’s offense that would outshine Dreiling’s patented rushing style on this evening.

“We want to up-tempo things when we need to and then slow things down when we need to,” stated an elated Applebee in the locker room afterwards. “I think that’s always our game plan.”

“Really, up front is where we won,” continued the Kaw Valley head coach. “We tell our guys every single time we play these guys how they’re going to play low and they’re going to play physical. For the last three weeks, that’s what we’ve been preaching and our kids really played it out well tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Again and again, Mill Valley found seems in the Aquinas defense. For as often as Koch was able to find Jegen and the massive Luke Krull (6-foot-7, 210-pounds) through the air, the Jaguars were also able to carve out yards on the ground when route trees failed.

“It was fun to run behind them tonight,” said a smiling Koch, who rushed for two scores and tossed two more through the air. “The way those guys were just mashing up front, there were holes everywhere. Today, they stepped up and it felt good.”

Just before half, the Saints appeared as if they might have found some mojo. With Jegen working the defensive backfield again, Mill Valley found themselves only 16 yards away from another score that would’ve given them at least an eight-point advantage. Instead, a deflected pass by the Aquinas defensive line put the ball safely into the arms of sophomore safety Jared Flood at the one-yard line and the home squad was able to jog to the locker room down just 14-12.

That momentum appeared to carry into the second half as well, with the Saints defense tightening at the goal line on the Jaguars second drive. Though senior defensive end Christian Chalabi was able to plunge through the punishing Mill Valley offensive line and force a fourth down, Koch was once again able to quiet a hungry home crowd.

“Just a gut effort,” gushed Applebee over his senior quarterback’s gutsy dive through two defenders, extending over the pylon to push Mill Valley ahead 21-12 late in the third quarter. “I walked over there and he was throwing up after that play because he was just exhausted. I told him it was just an unbelievable effort because it was a broken play. I wanted him to know that it was about the effort more than the play.”

“We just told Logan to be patient because he’s a guy who wants to make plays,” continued Applebee on arguably the game’s brightest star. “He’s a very special player and he works extremely hard.”

Looking for a spark, Dreiling turned to senior transfer Duron Lowe. With 5:40 left in the third, the senior tailback whipped around the right edge, flashing down the sideline for a critical 15-yard run which brought Saints fans to their feet for the first time all night. This time, it would be the Jaguars defense that would answer though as senior cornerback Chase Midyett made a key deflection on a pass that would’ve gone for a Saints score. That led to a botched pitch to Neal on third and nine, with Mill Valley recovering near midfield.

“Nothing surprised me other than us not making plays when we needed to,” finished a disappointed Dreiling.

Koch would create points off the fumble yet again, scampering free on back-to-back plays, ending with a celebration in the end zone as the scoreboard flipped to 28-12 Mill Valley.

The Jaguars never looked back from there, physically controlling their EKL counterparts and sending a message to the metro and the 5A class with a resounding 38-20 victory.

“We aren’t going to lay down to anybody,” Koch confidently said as teammates poured past him towards the bus. “It felt good to win tonight.”