Not this time

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By Kyle Palmer PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 29, 2017 - 11:32 PM

St. Thomas Aquinas coach Randy Dreiling says any win on a Friday night is exciting. His players, though, don’t mind saying this one meant a bit more.

The Saints dispatched Mill Valley 42-21 on the road in Shawnee Friday night, helping dispel somewhat the sting of last year’s nail biting sub-state loss to the Jaguars 14-13. Mill Valley went on to win their second consecutive Kansas Class 5A title.

“This is really great, beating Mill Valley on their own turf. Especially after last year,” said senior running back Tristan Davis. “That [sub-state game] was on our minds all week.”

Senior quarterback Will Swanson agreed.

“You can’t make up for that one last year. But this one definitely helps for our season now,” he said.

Unlike that playoff tilt, Aquinas on Friday jumped out to an early lead and stayed comfortably ahead most of the game, though the Jags had their chances to close the gap, especially in the first half.

The Saints jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, with touchdown runs from Swanson and junior running back Cameron Jackson.

“We established the run like we always do, and working outside, getting the ball outside opened up the play-action pass for us,” Swanson said.

Mill Valley responded with an 84-yard scoring drive. Senior quarterback Brody Flaming connected with wide receiver Logan Talley on throws of 19 and 46 yards before finding him leaping in the back of the end zone for a 14-yard strike that cut the lead in half 14-7.

“I love this team and the kids on it. They work extremely hard for us. We’re not where we want to be, but I see improvement,” Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee said.

A pivotal moment came early in the second, when the Jags had the ball still down just a score. They were held to a three-and-out in their own half of the field. Inexplicably, they snapped the ball on fourth down at their own 35. Flaming tried to leap for a first down to no avail.

The Saints took over and quickly scored five plays later, Swanson’s second touchdown run, to make it 21-7.

“I’ll completely take the blame on that [fourth down]. I’ll take responsibility,” Applebee said, indicating miscommunication may have led to the play.

Another key moment came mid-way through the second quarter with the score still 21-7. Mill Valley stopped Aquinas on third down near midfield. Lined up to punt, the Saints instead ran a fake, snapping directly to tight end Joseph Clune, who rumbled 25 yards for a first down that kept the drive alive.

“You give it to a 270-pound guy, someone has to tackle him. That’s what I was thinking,” Dreiling said, mischievously. “Now, everyone has to think about us faking a punt. It bodes well for down the road.”

The Saints scored four players later on a 9-yard dash by senior Drew Hicks. That made the score 28-7 at halftime, and Aquinas had revenge in their sights. Thought Dreiling downplayed that afterwards.

“It’s been a great rivalry,” Dreiling said. “I’m good friends with [coach] Applebee. It’s great to come out and get a win. I’m not more into this than any other game.”

Swanson finished with over 100 yards passing and rushing combined, with two running scores. He added a looping 38-yard touchdown pass to Hicks on the first drive of the second half that put Aquinas up 35-7.

For Mill Valley, Flaming finished with over 180 yards in the air and the touchdown. Running back Cameron Young rushed for two scores.

The fourth quarter belonged to Aquinas freshman Tyron Young, who followed up last week’s scintillating 181-yard night with 78 more yards and a final Saints touchdown.  

Both teams are at home next week. Mill Valley (2-3) hosts Bishop Miege. St. Thomas Aquinas (4-1) welcomes St. James Academy.