Mill Valley football coach Joel Applebee knows better than to scream into the storm. When his postgame speech was interrupted after a few seconds by the student body ready to celebrate the Jaguars’ 45-28 Class 5A state semifinal victory over St. Thomas Aquinas, Applebee just grinned.
“Go get ’em,” he told his team just moments before he was swallowed by the throng of onrushing students.
Mill Valley, 11-1, got to the first state title game in school history by defeating Aquinas, 9-3, for the second time this season.
After years of playoff disappointments, the Jaguars will finally get the opportunity to play for a state title next week on Pittsburg State’s campus.
“We just believe every week, no matter who we’re playing,” Mill Valley quarterback Logan Koch said. “We played a tough schedule this year, and it showed. Last year was a tough year. It wasn’t what we wanted. We worked hard in the offseason and we came this year to compete every down.”
Mill Valley has weapons galore on offense, and Aquinas had no answer for Koch and senior Christian Jegen.
Koch threw for 302 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He rushed for 56 yards and a score.
Jegen was a dynamo, whether he lined up at running back or receiver. He ran 16 times for 115 yards and a touchdown. He caught a game-high seven passes for 171 yards and two more TDs.
Aquinas kept pulling within 14 points in the second half. Mill Valley kept answering with Jegen, and the Saints simply couldn’t contain him.
The game was sealed with just more than 4 minutes to play with an interception. Not surprisingly, it was Jegen who made the play, outjumping the receiver for the ball in the end zone.
“He’s a hell of a player. Someone needs to offer that kid,” Koch said with a smile.
The experience was all Jegen could’ve hoped for.
“We’re one big family,” Jegen said. “It’s special being out there every day with those boys. It means a lot to everyone. We’ve been playing together since elementary, and there’s no stopping us right now. The last game ever to play on this field … that’s the way to go out, right there.”
Aquinas senior James Cosentino nearly matched Jegen play-for-play. He ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 86 yards and a TD.
Saints quarterback Karter Odermann threw for 261 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
Aquinas played well. But once Mill Valley assumed a two-touchdown lead in the second quarter, it never looked back.
The Jaguars now have a week of practice, preparation and maybe some turkey to look forward to.
“Senior leadership, no doubt, and that experience they have. It’s unbelievable experience they have,” Applebee said when asked what sets this team apart.
There’s one more week more of experience left.