Mill Valley stood 3-4 after losing four straight games last year and still defended its Class 5A football title.
When the Jaguars started 2-4 this season, no one was ready to count them out.
Now, perhaps Mill Valley (6-4) is primed for another deep postseason run after routing previously unbeaten Schlagle 57-12 on Nov. 3 at Schlagle.
The Jags, who one of nine area teams in the state’s top three classes still in the championship hunt, dominated the Stallions behind junior running back Cameron Young’s 139 yards and four touchdowns, but the road gets tougher against East Kansas League rival St. James Academy.
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The Thunder (8-2), who advanced with a 19-0 victory against Shawnee Heights from Topeka, beat the Jaguars 45-21 during the first week of the season.
KSHSAA STATE SECTIONAL PLAYOFFS
Friday, Nov. 10
All games at 7 p.m.
Blue Valley North (6-4) vs. Shawnee Mission East (9-1)
Location: SM North District Stadium in Overland Park
Mustangs’ playoff path: def. SM North, 49-13; def. Olathe East, 48-30
Lancers’ playoffs path: def. Gardner Edgerton, 42-28; def. Olathe Northwest, 42-17
What to know: SM East, which won the 6A title in 2014, endured a midseason hiccup with a 21-17 loss against Rockhurst. But don’t be fooled by BV North’s middling record. The Mustangs’ four losses — St. Thomas Aquinas, Blue Valley, Bishop Miege and Mill Valley — all came against teams still alive in the state playoffs.
Olathe North (7-3) at Blue Valley (7-3)
Location: Blue Valley High School in Stilwell
Eagles’ playoff path: def. BV West, 14-7; def. Lawrence, 35-14
Tigers’ playoff path: def. SM West, 42-8; def. Olathe South, 38-21
What to know: If styles still makes fights, then air-it-out Blue Valley, which boasts 29 touchdown passes between quarterbacks Luke Bernard and Walker Kinney, against grind-it-out Olathe North, led by junior Daymonn Sanchez (116 carries for 940 yards with 8 TD) and freshman Arland Bruce IV (125 carries for 724 yards with 4 TD), could be a doozy.
Derby (9-1) at Lawrence-Free State (10-0)
Location: Free State High School in Lawrence
Panthers’ playoff path: def. Dodge City, 49-13; def. Manhattan, 21-14
Firebirds’ playoff path: def. Wichita North, 69-6; def. Junction City, 47-14
What to know: Free State ran through the Sunflower League, outscoring its opponents 42-12 on average. The top-ranked Firebirds have never won a state championship and face a tough test against the No. 3 Panthers, who have outscored foes 45-22 on average this season. Derby has won three of the last four 6A title, including two in a row.
St. James Academy (8-2) vs. Mill Valley (6-4)
Location: College Boulevard Activities Center in Olathe
Thunder’s playoff path: def. Lansing, 48-7; def. Shawnee Heights, 19-0
Jaguars’ playoff path: def. Topeka-Seaman, 31-7; def. Schlagle, 57-12
What to know: For the two-time reigning 5A champion Jaguars to march on, it’s imperative that senior QB Brody Flaming (166 of 299 for 2,364 yards with 20 TD, 15 INT) take care of the football and the defense keeps St. James senior workhorse Jack Petz (217 carries for 1,322 yards and 20 TD) in check.
Pittsburg (8-2) at St. Thomas Aquinas (9-1)
Location: St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park
Purple Dragons’ playoff path: def. Washington, 47-8; def. Turner, 61-6
Saints’ playoff path: def. Harmon, 52-0; def. Bonner Springs, 52-13
What to know: One of three playoff matchups pitting SEK Conference teams against Kansas City area squads, including two in Class 4A, the Saints’ only came against undefeated Bishop Miege. Aquinas coach Randy Dreiling knows how to navigate the playoffs.
Class 4A, Div. I
Fort Scott (8-2) at De Soto (9-1)
Location: De Soto High School
Tigers’ playoff path: def. Chanute, 50-14
Wildcats’ playoff path: def. Tonganoxie, 42-7
What to know: Quarterback Bryce Mohl has accounted for nearly 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns for De Soto, whose only loss came against undefeated and three-time reigning state champions Bishop Miege.
Labette County (9-1) at Bishop Miege (10-0)
Location: Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park
Grizzlies’ playoff path: def. Paola, 34-7
Stags’ playoff path: def. Basehor-Linwood, 58-6
What to know: Bishop Miege is the three-time defending state champion and the only 4A, Div. I champ in Kansas history after the split in 2014. Senior Carter Putz (122 of 161 for 2,118 yards with 26 TD, 3 INT) leads an offense that scores more than 48 points per game and juniors Dylan Downing (100 tackles) and Jalen Williams (19 TFLs) lead a defense that allows 9.2 points per game.