With its two state banners displayed proudly at the entrance of the stadium, Mill Valley wanted to open up on a positive note as it planned to start its run at a three-peat in Kansas 5A football on Friday night.
St. James had other plans.
With physical play up front on both sides of the ball and capitalizing on turnovers, the Thunder had no problems executing its running game en route to a 45-14 upset over the Jaguars.
This comes after two losses to Mill Valley last year and four straight, so for St. James coach Tom Radke and his team to make a statement like this should grab the attention of the Eastern Kansas League.
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“This is a senior-laden team, and they worked their butts off all offseason, and we knew what we had,” Radke said. “You guys (the media) didn’t know what we had, but we knew what we had.”
St. James got some strong runs from Jack Petz, who totaled 126 yards and three touchdowns.
As well as Petz played, he knows more than anything without the burly offensive line in front of him, none of this would have happened for the team.
“Oh jeez I’ve never had a line this big and those guys I owe it all to them,” Petz said. “They’ve been doing work in the offseason, and they just put it into the season.”
Another big factor and struggle for the Jaguars were their five turnovers. Veteran quarterback Brody Flaming threw three interceptions that stopped promising drives and set St. James up in the red zone for a few easy scores.
“To knock off the two-time state champion, you’ve got to make plays like that,” Radke said. “Some of those guys made some big plays, and it was fun.”
Cole Barrett, Stratton Smeltzer, and Max Charlton all pulled down interceptions for St. James.
Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee, who has seen plenty of success the last few years, easily pinpointed the turnovers as the main cause for the loss.
“That’s the first thing I said to them,” he said. “You can’t win doing that. I’ll give credit to St. James they played very well, but like I told the kids that’s on me and I’ll take it all, but I have no doubt these kids will respond.”
After both teams had gathered for a prayer after the game, St. James rushed over to its still full student section decked out in red. They went through the school fight song and jumped for joy to savor this moment for the program.
“It’s kind of surreal I guess,” Petz said of the scene after the game. ”But we knew what he had, and we were excited to go get these guys.”