Mill Valley tops St. James in season opener
By Kyle Palmer PrepsKC staff writer
No Christian Jegen and no Logan Koch? No problem, at least for one night.
Defending Kansas 5A state champion Mill Valley unveiled some new talent Friday night, topping mistake-prone St. James Academy 35-13 in a season-opening victory that kept the good times rolling in Shawnee.
“With all the guys we had stepping on to a game field for the first time, I think we played very well. Proud of how we did in week one,” said Jaguars coach Joel Applebee.
Mill Valley returned only five starters from the 2015 squad many considered the best all-around team in Kansas. That group went 12-1 and steamrolled through the playoffs. This version? They’re talented, too.
The standout Friday certainly was junior quarterback Brody Flaming, who stepped into the signal-caller roll vacated by the graduated Koch. All Flaming did in his debut was toss five touchdowns, top 250 yards in the air, and avoid any interceptions.
“Brody did a nice job taking care of the ball, that’s the most important thing,” Applebee said.
Flaming found three different receivers for scores, hooking up with senior Ben Hartman and sophomore Logan Talley twice each. He also connected with junior Evan Rice for a touchdown.
“Helps that I have four guys that I can trust catching the ball every time and scoring the ball,” Flaming said.
Talley, himself, was a revelation. The 5-foot-9’ receiver won’t be mistaken physically for the lanky Jegen, last year’s Kanas Gatorade Player of the Year, who now plays at the University of Northern Iowa. But for this game, Talley served much the same function: a safety valve. He caught nine passes for 121 yards and the two touchdowns. He also had a single carry for 24 yards.
He even unintentionally tipped a pass in the end zone to teammate Ben Hartman for the Jags’ final touchdown.
“Totally on purpose,” Talley laughed.
But seriously, he said he sees room for improvement.
“Our tempo needs to get faster. We need to get in better shape so we’re not tired lining up.”
For St. James, it was a disappointing start to a highly anticipated follow-up campaign to their 9-2 season last year in which the Thunder won the program’s first-ever postseason game.
“We’re going to be a lot better than we showed tonight,” Thunder coach Tom Radke said. “We did everything wrong you could. We had a ton of negative plays. We shot ourselves in the foot, blew coverage, missed tackles. We’ll improve.”
Indeed, the Thunder had some critical mistakes that spoiled some potentially game-changing drives. The most critical of which was an interception in the end zone mid-way through the 2nd quarter with Mill Valley up just 14-7.
Ballyhooed senior quarterback Sammy Wheeler, who’s already committed to Kansas State, finished with 130 yards through the air, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Both picks ricocheted off their intended receivers.
“I’ll tell K-State fans to not freak out over this performance. I thought Sammy played great,” Radke said.
He noted that the Thunder had 10 drops throughout the long night.
The Jaguars led 21-7 at the half. Again, the Thunder were driving into Mill Valley territory just before the break, when a bad snap sailed over Wheeler’s head, scuttling another opportunity to close the gap.
Junior running back Jack Petz finished with more than 130 yards for the Thunder, much of it coming on hard running late in the game. He scampered for a 55-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Both teams are new to the Eastern Kansas League this year and take to the road to play EKL foes next week. Mill Valley is at Blue Valley Northwest. St. James travels to Blue Valley Southwest.
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