For three and a half quarters on Friday, the Mill Valley offense was the worst kind of frustrating. The Jaguars were able to hit big plays, and consistently move the ball. But a combination of mistakes and timely defense from St. James Academy kept the Jaguars from putting up numbers where it counted most.
As for that adage about starts and finishes, Mill Valley proved how the adage became a cliché in a come-from-behind 14-13 victory.
The Jaguars (2-0) trailed 13-0 when they got the ball with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Any negative energy went away when Jordan Preston hit Jayce Zukowski for a 41-yard gain down to the St. James 1-yard line.
“We just couldn’t find that groove. We couldn’t find that tempo that we wanted,” Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee said. “But our kids, that’s where I give them credit. They stuck with it mentally, and they knew eventually they could get it done if they just kept sticking to it.”
Tyler Green punched the ball into the end zone on the next play. And just like that, things went from game over to game on.
“That was the game changer. That play, that was the momentum changer,” Preston said while the post-game celebration raged behind him in the Mill Valley locker room. “We were driving them all game, getting into the red zone, and we just didn’t finish. Then in the fourth quarter, coach said something to us and it just clicked.”
After the defense held St. James Academy, Preston and his teammates got the ball back with five minutes left, knowing what had to be done.
“We were confident. The coaches believed in us, and we believed in each other,” Preston said. “Every week we have a new goal. Last week it was unity, and I believe we did that. We had to come together and believe in each other in order to score.”
The drive nearly stalled before it got started, but Preston calmly scrambled for a 14-yard gain on 4th-and-6.
Mill Valley (2-0) covered the final 51 yards on their last two plays. A 39-yard reception by Logan Talley got the Jaguars back into the red zone.
The rally ended where it started, with a scoring pass to Zukowski. He was matched up one-on-one, and Preston gave him a chance to go get the ball and win the game.
“I trust my receivers, I trust my O-line, and right when I saw that corner playing inside, I knew I was going right there,” Preston said.
The Thunder had a chance to answer back, but Mill Valley senior defensive back Nick Davie thwarted the comeback with an interception in the end zone.
One of the newest rivalries in the Eastern Kansas League is becoming one of the best, and it added another thrilling chapter Friday.
“These kind of games are always good, especially for later on in playoff time,” Applebee said. “Right now, we’re thinking about Miege. In our league, you can’t look beyond,” Applebee said.
Preston finished with 303 yards passing. Talley had 10 receptions for 138 yards.
St. James Academy (1-1) got nearly 250 all-purpose yards from senior quarterback Jack Moellers.