SHAWNEE, Kan. — All it takes is one more win.
Getting a victory seemed like an uphill challenge when the season began at Mill Valley, but the Jaguars (9-3) stayed on task. They simply refused to give up.
This Saturday, Coach Joel Applebee and his Jaguars will face Wichita Northwest (12-0) in the Kansas Class 5A Championship Game at 1 p.m.
Mill Valley has been on an eight-game tear since losing three of their opening four gamed to begin the year. Being less than super never crossed their minds, even when things weren’t perfect.
“We just concentrate on getting better each week and focus on learning each week,” Applebee explained.
In his 10 years as Mill Valley head coach, Applebee has led the school to two Class 5A championships. The Jaguar football program won back-to-back crowns in 2015 and 2016.
In 2019, Applebee believes consecutive losses to Bishop Miege and St. Thomas Aquinas, two schools that also have recent state titles, came at the right time.
“I think it’s just an expectation of what it takes to prepare and to win. Right about that time, they figured out what they need to do. They got completely locked in on that,” Applebee said Friday.
“When we went 1-and-3, we knew that we should have beaten those teams. The fact that it was so close, and the fact that we played such a mental game, that just gave us strength to come down to the end here,” said Tyler Green, Jaguars running back.
The Jaguars’ perseverance paid off.
Even while Mill Valley was losing, they were building a season average of 33 points per game.
Their crowning achievement was last Friday’s upset win on the road, defeating a previously unbeaten team from St Thomas Aquinas, the defending kings of Class 5A. Returning to state is a reward Mill Valley savors.
“Just the atmosphere. It’s going to be crazy. I can’t wait to see how it’s going to go,” said Jack McGuire, Jaguars strong safety. “It’s going to be packed. That’s for sure. I know our fans are going to come out there. I can’t wait to see it again.”
All of KSHSAA’s state championship games will be streamed live online. You can see them via this website.