Finishing strong again

Lori Habiger/Center Stage Photography

By Mike Lavieri PrepsKC columnist
Posted: November 2, 2018 - 4:19 PM

Mill Valley’s Ben Handon picked off St. James’ Jack Moellers on back-to-back drives in the third quarter to set up two Tyler Green touchdown runs as the Jaguars downed the Thunder 24-7 - marking the third straight year Mill Valley has ended St. James' season.

Both of Moellers’ passes were a tad overthrown and fell right into the hands of Handon, who returned the first interception to the St. James 31, which Green scored on the very next play. On the second interception, Handon took it to the St. James 20 where Green pounded it in from the 1-“inch” line four plays later.

Mill Valley head coach Joel Applebee thought his team played really well minus an interception Jordan Preston threw in the second quarter. He also gave St. James credit for 12-play, 83 yard drive, which resulted in a 37-yard touchdown pass from Moellers to Michael Tujague. The drive came after Applebee decided to punt it on 4thand 1 from the St. James 48-yard line – a decision he debated on whether to go for it or not.

“I thought, overall, we played really, really well, minus a couple of plays,” Applebee said.

That was indicative on the Jaguars’ final four defensive plays of the night. Instead of letting St. James walk it into the end zone after giving up a 37-yard pass from Moellers to J.J. Tylicki to set up 1stand goal from the one, the Jaguars instead dug their heels in and made four goal-line stops to keep the Thunder out of the end zone.

“We talk to them about how every rep is important,” Applebee said. “Regardless of the score, regardless of the situation, we’re going to compete like crazy. That’s what I told them in the timeout – that’s why we called a timeout. We said, ‘This is a great opportunity to work on our goal-line defense right here and step up and make the play,’ and they did.”

The two teams went into halftime separated by a field goal, which Mill Valley kicker Jack Matchette hit with 1.2 seconds left to go in the half. The Jaguars utilized the “37-second drill” to march down the field to set up the 29-yard attempt for Matchette.

St. James coach Tom Radke said that wasn’t a deflating moment even though he blamed himself for how he managed the clock on his team’s prior possession. In hindsight, he would have run the ball a little more instead of passing it.

“It wasn’t deflating, the guys were ready to go,” Radke said. “We knew whoever scores 24 points is going to win the game. They ended up scoring 24 and winning.”

It wasn’t the end to season Radke would have hoped for, but he has something to be excited for next year. He returns current juniors Moellers, Tujague, Tylicki, Cade Lautt and Max Kalny to name a few.

“We had a lot of juniors who played a lot of football, so we’re looking forward to next year,” Radke said. “We have a lot of good people coming back next year. We couldn’t get the chemistry right (all season) – we could get the chemistry right at the end of the season. It stinks because if we’re on the other side of the bracket, we’re still playing.”

Mill Valley will look to play the other side of the bracket, but before they get there they need to get past St. Thomas Aquinas.

The Jaguars fell to the Saints 24-13 earlier in the year, but Applebee thought his team was right there with them.

“Our kids are really excited,” Applebee said. “It’s going to be a fun week. We also understand Aquinas is going to be ready to go. They are an extremely good team. They are very sound, very physical, very, very good team. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge, but it’s one our kids have been looking forward to.”