St. Thomas Aquinas ended each of the last two seasons watching EKL-rival Mill Valley celebrate a victory and a trip to the Kansas Class 5A state title football game.
The two-time defending 5A state champion in Mill Valley stood in Aquinas’ way again on Friday. This time, the Saints did the celebrating.
Aquinas started the first half fast and finished it faster en route to a dominating 55-21 home victory. The Saints (11-1) will play Wichita Bishop Carroll on Nov. 25 at Pittsburg State. Aquinas is on a quest for its first state title in football in school history.
Senior quarterback Will Swanson rumbled 42 yards for a touchdown on Aquinas’ first play from scrimmage.
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“It definitely felt good,” Swanson said. “It helped with momentum, too. We scored on the next three drives, I think. We practiced that play all week, and it ended up working out for us.”
It was a harbinger of things to come. The Saints tacked on two more touchdowns in the final 1:20 of the first half, and took a 35-7 lead into halftime.
The Aquinas offense rolled up 345 yards by the half. Cameron Jackson ran for 119 yards and three first-half touchdowns, setting the school single-season rushing record.
The defense stymied Mill Valley (7-5), for most of the game, picking off three passes and returning one for a touchdown.
“First off, Aquinas is an unbelievable team, but we just did not capitalize on drives offensively,” Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee said. “They’re a very good team, but I’m very proud of the seniors, what they’ve done for this program and the legacy they’ve left. It’s unbelievable.”
Senior quarterback Brody Flaming threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in his final high school game for Mill Valley. Flaming walked off to a standing ovation from both sides of the field in the game’s final minute.
Applebee shared a hug with his quarterback as their remarkable three-year run came to an end.
“He’s an unbelievable player,” Applebee said. “That’s all I can say.”
The next step for Aquinas is the biggest, and one the Saints have yet to make.
“We’re ready. Our team is as ready as they’ve ever been since I’ve been here,” Aquinas coach Randy Dreiling said. “We have all the respect in the world for Carroll. They’ve been there a bunch of times.”
Swanson finished with 137 rushing yards and a touchdown, and threw for another score. He was all smiles on Friday night, but Aquinas still has unfinished business.
“We don’t want to finish here. Losing the last two years, we don’t want to end that way,” Swanson said. “This helps, revenge on Mill Valley. But revenge isn’t fully there until we win that state championship.”