Moments after St. Thomas Aquinas took down Eastern Kansas League rival Mill Valley at the last possible second, Aquinas head coach Randy Dreiling had just one question.
“Who even won that game?” he asked.
Dreiling knew, of course, but it only served to illustrate how wild the finish he had just witnessed in his team’s 40-33 victory was.
Mill Valley got a shot at the end zone with 6 seconds remaining, and – because of an Aquinas penalty – another shot with no time on the clock.
“You could see there was no time on the clock, and you’re scared to death,” Aquinas quarterback Will Swanson said. “You never want to lose a game like that, especially when you’re just watching.”
Mill Valley had just watched Swanson toss a 36-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Clune, breaking a 33-33 tie with 1:26 on the clock.
“He always just finds a way to get it done,” Dreiling said of Swanson.
In a game that was crucial for Kansas Class 5A postseason seeding purposes, neither team wanted to be the one that backed down.
Brody Flaming led his heart-pumping drive down to the 29-yard-line but couldn’t get either of his final passes to connect.
“Man, that was just an unbelievable game,” Mill Valley head coach Joel Applebee said. “We just came up on the wrong end, but that’s the way high school football is supposed to be.”
Mill Valley took its only lead with 4:23 to play in the third quarter, 19-18 after Flaming found Ben Hartman in the end zone from 23 yards out.
But two consecutive turnovers ripped that short-lived lead away. Aquinas scored touchdowns off two straight fumbles from Mill Valley’s Cameron Young, leading to a 33-19 lead with 9:42 remaining in the fourth quarter.
But Young was ready for redemption: He scored touchdowns of 32 and 14 yards to get Mill Valley to within 33-31.
And that’s when things got really weird: Flaming took the initial snap on the two-point conversion attempt, but pitched to Talley, who then threw to his quarterback in the end zone for the tie.
The game’s first half equaled the second in terms of wild scoring.
Mill Valley’s Logan Talley caught a 23-yard pass from Flaming, but only after the ball had been tipped at the goal line. That tied the game at 6-6 with 1:51 remaining in the first quarter
Then Swanson, all 5-foot-10 and 174 pounds of him, turned into a human bowling ball and trucked 54 yards for a touchdown, breaking multiple tackles, on the opening play of the second quarter. Another missed extra point turned into a 12-6 Aquinas lead.
A muffed punt and a Sam Wolff recovery for Aquinas gave the Saints an 18-6 lead.
Mill Valley answered the craziness in the second quarter with a Flaming 70-yard pass to Marlow that Marlow tipped to himself with one hand.