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Move the Chains: Chris Duderstadt 1/2Photo Credit: Chris Duderstadt

It seems like it was about a month ago that I was writing a preseason column and a week ago that I was writing a Kansas playoffs preview column, but if there’s one thing that’s consistent about every football season, it’s that it flies by. Maybe part of that is because I felt like I was covering a down-to-the-wire game every week. I covered Basehor-Linwood’s nail-biting 47-42 win over Tonganoxie in Week 1, Manhattan’s 21-20 double-overtime win over Gardner-Edgerton in the 6A state title game and many other close contests in between.

A decent number of my playoff predictions were correct, but some of them were also way off. However, just like March Madness, the upsets can make the Kansas football playoffs that much more fun. Let’s look at how Bishop Miege and Mill Valley battled their way through the brackets to win state titles and of my other postseason takeaways.

Mill Valley and Miege were certainly among the favorites in 5A and 4A, respectively, to win it all. The Jaguars won their fourth straight state crown and their sixth 5A championship in eight years. I only covered one Mill Valley game this year and it happened to be the Jaguars’ lone loss. If it weren’t for two Olathe North pick sixes midway through the fourth quarter, the Jaguars could have had an undefeated season.

Nevertheless, it was another extremely impressive season for Joel Applebee’s squad. I’ve seen some great Mill Valley defenses over the year, but this very well could have been defensive coordinator Drew Hudgins’ best unit yet. The Jaguars only allowed 14 points throughout the 5A playoffs—all of them coming in the state title game against Maize, who was led by Kansas State quarterback commit Avery Johnson. Mill Valley claimed four of the 11 defensive spots on the Kansas Football Coaches Association 5A all-state team (linebacker Broc Worcester and defensive backs Holden Zigmant, Dylan Massey and Baruch Hasabu). Applebee was also named the KFBCA 5A Coach of the Year.

With having watched a few Mill Valley practices in years past from my days with The Shawnee Dispatch, the attention to detail that the players and coaches should always stood out. That’s why it didn’t surprise me when a player like Davion Harris went from having three catches and one touchdown all season to having three touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing) in the state title game. He was evidently ready to come up big on the biggest stage at a moment’s notice.

While Mill Valley arguably had the best defense in the state, you would be hard pressed to find a better offense Miege’s. In the first of the three games that I saw the Stags this year, Frank Fontana Award winner Mac Armstrong completed 25 of 29 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-14 win over St. James, which had won back-to-back 4A titles. Otis Taylor Award winner Isaiah Coppage caught 10 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown and Teryn Jackson hauled in eight balls for 96 yards and two scores. The receiving corps of Coppage, Jackson, Tommy Wright, and tight ends Daegan Jensen and Hollis Moeller was the best I saw all season.

The Stags did get off to a sluggish start in the second game that I saw them play, which was a 28-21 loss to Blue Valley Northwest. Miege fell in a 21-0 halftime hole, but still came back to tie it in the fourth. Grant Stubblefield corralled a 9-yard touchdown catch from Connor White with 29 seconds left to lift the Huskies over the Stags in Week 8.

With the dominance that Miege and St. James have had in 4A and fellow private school St. Thomas Aquinas dropping down a classification, a lot of people assumed that the three Eastern Kansas League schools would make it to the 4A Sectionals. However, I knew Miege wouldn’t have it easy when I saw they could run into Eudora in the regional round. That’s exactly what happened, and the Cardinals nearly crashed the Stags’ quest for a state crown.

The wet, cold and blustery conditions made it tough for the Stags to get much going in the passing game, but the backfield duo of David Garcia (24 carries for 176 yards and a touchdown) and Deandre Beasley (17 carries for 121 yards and two touchdowns) powered Miege to a 33-26 victory. The Stags went in to upend Wamego, 35-14, in the 4A state title game to win their first state championship since winning six straight from 2014-2019.

As I mentioned earlier, the Kansas City area nearly had a state champion in 6A as well. Gardner-Edgerton was just a two-point conversion away from its first state title. Still, the Trailblazers had quite the turnaround season, going from 4-6 in 2021 to 9-4 in 2022. And they weren’t alone in making their deepest run in the 6A playoffs in school history. Olathe Northwest reached the 6A semifinals for the first time in school history before falling to Gardner-Edgerton. And Olathe West advanced to the 6A Sectionals for the first time in school history before falling to Olathe Northwest.

The unpredictably of 6A made it a lot of fun to follow all season long. Gardner-Edgerton, Olathe Northwest and Olathe West (and Olathe South) are all on an upward trajectory and Olathe North and the Blue Valley schools always seem to be among the cream of the crop year in and year out.

It was another fun-filled year of covering games on the Kansas side in 2022. I’m already looking forward to what Year 5 with PrepsKC will have to offer next fall.