Mill Valley and St. James Academy both had momentum at times during their game Friday night at Mill Valley, and the outcome was decided on one play.
With 41 seconds remaining, Mill Valley quarterback Logan Koch flung a pass to the right corner of the end zone.
That’s where receiver Christian Jegen extended his body for a full out dive and caught the 15-yard pass while sliding across the grass.
That touchdown catch gave Jaguars a 17-14 victory and an early advantage in their Kansas 5A district.
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“We run that (play) a lot in 7-on-7 and I made a similar catch down there,” Jegen said. “I just knew I had to get that ball for the win.”
Having a quarterback like Koch and a receiver like Jegen helped the Jaguars through their difficult stretch of games to start the season.
“Those two have been doing it for two years, just like everyone on offense executing when they need to and we did that today,” Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee said.
Though Koch made a crucial throw at the end, his running propelled the Jaguars’ offense.
It started on the first offensive play of the game. Mill Valley, 3-4, showed off its option attack as Koch sprinted down the right sideline for a 67-yard touchdown run.
“I just run the ball until I get tired. There’s nothing really to it,” he said with a laugh. “Keep running till I’m on the ground, that’s about all.”
Koch finished with 21 carries for 169 yards along with that touchdown, but St. James did not go down without a fight tonight though.
The Thunder quickly countered with a balanced attack behind quarterback Trey Keith and the bruising Jake Burgmeier.
They led a 12-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that ended with Zak Hensley’s 1-yard touchdown run that tied the score 7-7.
The Thunder had a few more chances to put some points on the board, but a combination of defensive pressure by the Jaguars and fumbles in the backfield hurt them.
“We had some long drives, but unfortunately we weren’t able to punch in a few times,” St. James coach Tom Radke said.
Mill Valley took advantage of one of its other chances, taking a 10-7 lead on a 26-yard field goal by Andrew Hicks, but after that it was all defense the rest of the half, including two sacks on Keith.
Having a defense like that helped Mill Valley as they progressed the last seven games.
“They’ve really grown as a unit and a group and tonight they played extremely well,” Applebee said.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Thunder, 5-2, came back hard in the fourth.
Following a converted fake punt by Mitchell Zubradt and Jake LeCluyse, Keith hit Hensley on a screen pass and then scampered for a 24-yard touchdown, giving St. James the lkead.
Hensley finished the night with 82 total yards of offense and those two touchdowns.
Despite the Thunder’s effort, they fell one play short of taking an early lead in district play.
“(These) guys are ready to fight again,” Radke said. “It’s a bitter taste in our mouth right now and all the guys are upset. But I told them to keep their heads up.”
For the Jaguars, it’s about moving on to a familiar foe in Bonner Springs, a former Kaw Valley League opponent. They hope to keep reversing the pain of losing those early-season games.
“It wasn’t fun to lose in the beginning, but it sure will be fun to win in the playoffs,” Koch said.