Still the top cat

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By Ryan Wallace PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 23, 2016 - 10:30 PM

Billed as the Sunflower State’s top 6A-area program visiting the top 5A-area program, Blue Valley traveling to Mill Valley lived up to the hype- for a half anyway.

With the Jaguars down only three at the half, having led by 11 at one point, the Tigers flexed their muscle down the stretch to defeat Mill Valley on their home turf 45-28. However, this was hardly a game that allowed Blue Valley to shift into cruise control.

“This was about finishing and we stress a lot to our kids about playing hard,” said Blue Valley head coach Eric Driskell following the victory. “We sell the team on just how hard it is to win a high school football game and focusing more on ourselves than what the other team does. So there was no panic; no panic out of the kids.”

Hardly more than three minutes into the game, Driskell’s squad found itself in unfamiliar territory after the EKL-leading Tigers quickly allowed their counterparts to surge to a 14-3 lead.

When Blue Valley could manage only a field goal on the opening offensive drive, Jaguars junior quarterback Brody Flaming connected repeatedly over the middle on inside, slant routes to senior Ben Hartman and sophomore Logan Talley. Already leading 7-3, Mill Valley then capitalized on the third different phase of action, forcing a kickoff return fumble that would eventually lead to another Fleming to Hartman connection in the end zone.

“It was not so hot,” Blue Valley’s leading linebacker Michael Maffry said afterwards of the early going. “I fumbled away that one on the kickoff and I wasn’t feeling so good, but Harry (Van Dyne) right here picked me up and we just kept on working from that point.”

“My job is just to help the team the best I can and keep everybody up,” the Tigers 6-foot-5, two-way athlete Harrison Van Dyne added, standing at Maffry’s side. “Our motto is ‘Unfinished Business’ and I think we took care of that tonight.”

Though running back Will Evans and the offensive line of the Tigers deserve plenty of praise, in addition to the adjustments made by defensive coordinator Rick McNerlin to correct alignment issues, without the lanky senior wide receiver/cornerback who knows where the Tigers would’ve wound up on this night.

After Blue Valley cut the deficit to four on a 66-yard strike from Matthew Dercher to Cade Green, it was the game MVP Van Dyne who catapulted the more experienced Tigers back in front by jumping another inside route, intercepting Flaming and returning the ball to the Mill Valley 32-yard line. Only a few snaps later, it was Van Dyne again, hauling in a high-arching pass towards the back corner of the end zone to put the visitors in front 17-14.

Though the Jaguars would answer on the very next series, rumbling the ball over the goal line in the grasp of senior Brady Garrison, the momentum swing Blue Valley received from Van Dyne and Evans was too much for the previously unbeaten 5A champions down the stretch.

“They made some really good adjustments to what we were doing in the passing game and we didn’t make the ones we needed to make,” explained Mill Valley head coach Joel Applebee, falling for the first time since 2014 to a Sunflower State school. “I think, also, it’s a bit of an experience thing, but we’re growing from this.”

“I know we’re going to get better from a game like this,” continued Applebee, whose team must bounce back against 3-1 St. Thomas Aquinas next week on the road, a program hungry for revenge after falling to the Jaguars in last season’s state semifinals. “We played very, very well in the first half and still made some silly mistakes. They just caught up to us in the second half.”

With Maffry leading the charge on defense after the break, delivering punishing blows to the Mill Valley offense and picking Flaming off a second time in the fourth quarter, Blue Valley’s oxen of an offensive line dictated what was left of a gassed Jaguar defense on the opposite end. Without emotional senior Blane Boudreaux, forced out of his defensive end spot after suffering an injury midway through the third amidst another long Blue Valley drive, leading tackler Joel Donn was left to clean up mistakes from his safety position.

Add a one-handed Van Dyne touchdown and a one-yard Evans touchdown to the scoreboard though, and there was simply nothing more Donn or his sideline could muster for a comeback, overmatched by a seasoned group of Tigers.

“It’s great for our morale,” Van Dyne exclaimed after the game. “We’ve beaten the 4A number one and now the 5A number one. Coming back from something like that just proves we aren’t going to ever give up.”

“I’d say a nine or nine and a half,” smiled Maffry in conclusion after being asked where the night ranks in regards to its impact on the season ahead. “It was awesome.”