Quarterback Logan Koch’s Mill Valley football pride started building on cold Saturday mornings as he and his teammates tore up peewee football fields.
As they reached high school and the games switched to Friday nights, they reserved Saturdays for team bonding over wings or barbeque and endless hours of college football.
Now, as they prepare for the most important Saturday of their young careers, Koch and his teammates looked back on those early days that got them to the Kansas Class 5A state championship game. Mill Valley will face Bishop Carroll at 1 p.m. at Pittsburg State’s Carnie Smith Stadium in search of the program’s first football championship.
“It’s all paid off, all the Saturdays we had when we were younger playing,” Koch said. “It’s really cool to still be playing with them.”
Never miss a local story.
It did not come easily for the Jaguars though.
This players in the senior class started their careers with an 18-3 record in their first two seasons, but faltered in the third as they prepared to make the jump to the stiff competition of the Eastern Kansas League. The team went 5-6 and lost to Pittsburg in the first round of the playoffs, but it showed potential with an explosive offense led by Koch.
It has all come together in their senior campaign, however, as they prepare for the program’s first state-title game with an 11-1 record. Their lone loss came against Staley.
“They’ve put a lot of effort into the weight room and invested a lot of hard work into this program,” Jaguars coach Joel Applebee said. “They understand that to get something out of their investment, they have to stay focused every week and with this being the biggest week of the year, I don’t see that changing.”
The Jaguars’ final opponent looms large. The Golden Eagles are going for their third state title in four years. They enter with an identical 11-1 record. They lost their season opener to Class 6A quarterfinalist Wichita Northwest and held five of their next 11 opponents to single digits in points with one shutout.
The Jaguars will need another big game from Koch, who has showcased his versatility with 2,292 yards and 31 touchdowns through the air and another 692 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Christian Jegen has been his top target with 1,199 yards and 16 receiving touchdowns. Jegen also has 721 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.
“We’ve thought since freshman year that it was going to be our team that would get us there,” Koch said. “Senior year came along and everything has worked out the way we thought it would.”