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Multiple loss teams could play major factor in playoffs

Tyler Green has had a big year for Mill Valley. Photo: Hayden Resch, Mill Valley News
By: Conor Nicholl for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen
Nov 7, 2019

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Conor Nicholl and Chet Kuplen look at class by class of teams with multiple losses that could play a factor in the playoffs and why they could be contenders.

Mill Valley leads group in 5A and maybe in Kansas. We've seen two EKL teams with four losses win state titles in both 2016 and 2017. 

Mill Valley carries 17 seniors on its 2019 roster, half its total from a 7-4 record last year. The Jaguars had to replace quarterback Jordan Preston, 85 percent of its receptions and 47 percent of rushing yards.

As well, the Jaguars’ first month of Eastern Kansas League action featured Blue Valley West, St. James Academy, Bishop Miege and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Blue Valley West was much improved behind running back Riley Cummings, while SJA, Miege and Aquinas all beat Mill Valley in ’18.

Additionally, Aquinas and Miege are defending state champions and have remained No. 1 in Classes 5A and 4A all year, respectively. Mill Valley opened with a 28-21 loss to BVW, and then won 27-7 versus St. James.

“They were learning under fire, so that was a big part of the beginning of our season, but again, it’s no excuse whatsoever,” 10th-year coach Joel Applebee said. “The teams we’ve faced are very, very good teams. They’ve got great coaches. Week in and week out, it’s one heck of a challenge in our league.”

Mill Valley earned acclaim in its 42-35 loss to Miege and 28-21 defeat to Aquinas. MV trailed Miege 35-10 before 25 unanswered points. The Stags won on a kickoff return in the final minute.

Aquinas led 21-7 before MV came back to tie at 21. The Saints have now captured 20 straight games, and the Mill Valley win is tied for the closest margin of victory in the win streak.

The fortitude is one of many areas that Applebee has been pleased for a program that has since reeled off five straight wins. Notably, MV won at Blue Valley, 24-20, in Week 7. The Jaguars scored 24 straight points for the victory.

“A real mental toughness to this group that I have love, and I really think that the adversity that we’ve face early in the season is really going to help us going forward,” Applebee said.

Mill Valley was ranked fourth in 5A in the preseason poll but dropped out of the rankings. Now, the 6-3 Jaguars stand fourth in 5A entering the Round of 16 matchups this weekend. MV rolled over Topeka West, 52-0, at home in Week 9.

For the fourth straight year, Mill Valley enters the Round of 16 with at least three losses. In ’15, Mill Valley went 12-1 and won the Class 5A state title. The Jaguars repeated in ’16 with a 9-4 mark. In ’17, the Jaguars finished 7-5 and lost to Aquinas in the sub-state title game. Last year, Mill Valley fell in the quarterfinals to Aquinas.

This year, Mill Valley again leads a group of teams that has taken multiple losses – yet could make a deeper run into November. Applebee complimented his entire program for the season, including his assistant coaches, defense, kicker, veteran offensive line and several new starters, including junior quarterback Cooper Marsh.

“One thing about these kids is that they really understand that any adversity that they face, they just need to stay calm and really stay true to their technique and stay true to what we teach them as far as their job, and the scheme that we are running,” Applebee said. “So that’s really the focus they have is no matter what the score is, no matter what the situation is, they really want to stay true to their techniques and stay true to the scheme that we are playing. That’s what I have seen the most out of them. They have done a really good job.”

Veteran defensive coordinator Drew Hudgins has led a unit that improved from 31 points allowed in ’17 to 19.6 last year to 16.2 this season. MV ranks eighth in 5A in fewest points permitted, though stand much higher when strength of schedule is factored. The Eastern Kansas League went 8-1 in Week 9 contests with an average of 45-14.

“The attention to detail that he has is second to none, and really ultimately that’s why our kids are prepared the way they are,” Applebee said. “He leaves no stone unturned.”

When Mill Valley’s opponents have not played the Jaguars, the teams have scored 26.98 points per contest. The Jaguars’ defense has limited opponents to 10.76 points per game under its season average in non-Mill Valley contests.

Maize South is 9-0 and has allowed just 10.6 points per contest, second-best in 5A. However, the Mavericks’ opponents have scored 20.5 points per game when not playing MS. The difference is 9.94 points per contest.

Notably, Mill Valley has held St. James (23.4 points per game in non-MV contests), Aquinas (49.9), Blue Valley North (22.1) and Pittsburg (24.4) well under their season averages.

“Ultimately I believe our defense is really what’s carried us this year,” Applebee said. “They’ve done just a great job of putting our offense in great field positions, creating the turnovers they have, and coach Hudgins is just one of the best coaches that I have ever been around.”

This week, Mill Valley will play host to Olathe West (6-3). OW, a Class 5A semifinalist in ’18 in its first year as a varsity program, has won six straight after an 0-3 start. Trey Krause has 129 tackles, third-most in Kansas. OW coach T.J. O’Neill was a former Owls’ co-offensive coordinator.

“Our staff, I have got one of the best coaching staffs in the state of Kansas, if not the best, I believe, and we’ve had a lot of turnover,” Applebee said. “We’ve had a lot of coaches leave and become head coaches and deservedly so. In the last three years, we have had a lot of new faces come in, and all of them have just gotten better and better and better.”

Junior Kolten Jegen leads MV with 67 tackles. Junior Ethan Kremer, a defending 220-pound wrestling champion, has a team-high 11.5 tackles for loss. The 5-foot-11, 235-pound Kremer, who has also filled in on the offensive line, has 79 tackles, 22 TFLs and 10 sacks in the last two falls.

Senior Justin Sanders is a three-year starter at defensive tackle, and junior Cole Knappen has played well up front. Applebee said the defensive line is “definitely a big reason” for the success.

“Ethan Kremer, he is right up there with some of the best that I have ever coached on the defensive line, and we have had some good ones come through here,” Applebee said.

The offensive line, led by coaches Kurt Bangle and Terrale Johnson, returns three starters up front. Junior left tackle Sam Hecht (6-foot-3, 240) has anchored. His older brother is Ben Hecht, a former MV standout and North Dakota State commit.

Junior Robbie Dervin (5-11, 260) started a few games last year before shoulder surgery. Senior Mason Scott is a first-year starter at center, and senior Adrien Blazer starts at left guard. Kyle Kelly (6-6, 255) flipped from left to right tackle. He has committed to Arkansas State.

Mill Valley averaged 4.3 and 4.0 yards per carry in the last two years and has upped to 5.8 this season. MV has ran the ball on 68.7 percent of snaps, its most since ’14. The Jaguars have averaged 239 rushing yards a contest.

Senior Tyler Green has 116 carries for 799 yards and eight rushing scores. Marsh is the Jaguars’ third starting quarterback in as many years. He has completed 83 of 167 passes for 1,433 yards with a 19/10 TD/INT ratio.

Junior Chris Tennant has set a goal to kick at the major college level. He is 35 of 35 on extra points, nine of 12 on field goals with a long of 45. He has 30 touchbacks.

“Our offensive line has really improved each week this year, and really that’s really where it starts,” Applebee said. “I wouldn’t say it’s anything schematically. It’s more or less, we really like our offensive line and the way that they are playing. They are playing physical. They are playing fast.

“Ultimately, we’ve always tried to keep this as simple as possible, so those guys can play fast and physical, and they have really, really done a good job this year of understanding the fundamentals of offensive line play, and really they have done a great job of carrying our offense for the most part,” he added.

Key Teams With Multiple Losses

Class 6A 

Blue Valley North, also from the Eastern Kansas League, took at least three regular season losses in the last two years. However, BVN won the 6A state title in ’17 and was runner-up in ’18. This season, the Mustangs are 4-5 and face Gardner-Edgerton this week. Reid Spachman has had a big year defensively near the states leaders in sacks. Andy Sims knows how to win games in November and he has a lot of young talent on this team that has gotten better throughout the season. 

Blue Valley is 6-3 but let’s remember who they’ve played as well. They also have a win over Missouri state power Rockhurst. Jake Wolff has had a nice year at QB with Dorian Stephens, a KSU commit, at receiver. They also feature Iowa commit Mason Richman. Their losses are to the favorite in 5A, Aquinas, and the favorite in 4A, Miege, along with another contender in 5A, Mill Valley, in the featured story above. BV is very much a contender

The theme here seems to be the EKL and Blue Valley schools and that’s where a third one makes the list in BV West. The Jaguars are one of the most improved teams in Kansas over the last couple of seasons. Their losses are to Blue Valley (10-7), and to state powers Aquinas in 5A and Miege in 4A. Riley Cummings is a breakout player in the backfield as with Greg Riddle at quarterback and David Brown at receiver. Tommy Cook and Ike Summerlin have helped a solid West defense in 2019.

Junction City has a couple of losses this year but the emergence of quarterback Andrew Khoury and receiver Qua'vez Humphries could give them an opportunity to go deep into the playoffs. Their losses are to Emporia by one and to rival Manhattan by three. They are far away from being undefeated, however they aren’t far away from being a three loss team either with their thrilling win over rival and highly regarded Topeka. JC is one of the most improved 6As in Kansas.

Olathe North, SM Northwest and Olathe East all have two losses this year. North has a loss to an out of state opponent in Columbine (CO), who at the time was the #1 team in Class 6A Colorado.

Other 5A

St. James Academy is 5-4 this year and have had to play without Jack Moellers at times. However, they’ve beat one of the top teams in Kansas and one of the best upsets this season as they defeated Bishop Miege back in week four (28-27). Their losses are all close but one. Three of their losses have combined to be just 13 points ( BV West, Aquinas, BV North). This team also played Aquinas within seven in the last meeting in the second week of October. That’s who they get this week, so lets not overlook the Thunder. Cade Lautt, a UNC wrestling commit, has once again been one of the best linebackers in Kansas. Max Kalny has been a force again on the offensive line.

Emporia is much improved this season at 6-3 and has a solid of enough defense to hang around with mostly everyone on the West. They will need that this week as they take on an explosive offense of Maize. Riley Wagner is near the leaders in the state in sacks this season for head coach Corby Milleson. Beau Baumgarner has also been a breakout player for the Spartans. Also, one of their losses came to a team in Colorado and they have a very solid victory over Junction City. They didn’t fair well against solid 6A’s Manhattan and Topeka but they are legit and not to be overlooked. They will be the underdog in this week’s game on paper to many but with a solid defensive effort, expect anything. We really feel like the Centennial League has elevated its play this season with the likes of Hayden, Manhattan, Topeka, Junction City and Emporia having very solid seasons.

Hays is 4-5 this year under Tony Crough but they are coming off a very good upset victory over Eisenhower. Hayden Brown is one of the most versatile offensive players in the state. Dylan Dreiling has also had a big year at QB. Gavin Meyers and Gavin Haselhorst have been all over the place defensively with over 100 tackles a piece. Trey Adams also has five sacks and 72 tackles. This team is very capable of surprising some people and get an unbeaten Maize South team that some people think isn’t as tested as other teams in 5A just yet. Don’t overlook Hays because of five losses they’ve made some improvement.

Great Bend hasn’t had the season they wanted but they’ve shown some signs they can hang around. The bad news is they get the team that shut them out 31-0 in week three this week. However, Great Bend has won three in a row and they’ve played a pretty tested overall schedule. However, in those big tests they’ve came up with some losses. The Panthers have some playmakers in Alex Schremmer and Dalton Miller. Can they hang around this time?

We’ve said this all year on Andover. With a big offensive night they can hang with anyone. The problem is they’ve only had one of those in the win over Salina Central last week. Their defense has been about as good as you can ask for in most of the games this year. They are 3-6 but five of their losses are seven points or less. Three of their losses are four points or less. They’ve been in every ballgame they’ve played this season, it just hasn’t showed that on the scoreboard. They’ll be the major underdog against traditional state power Carroll this week, but you can’t overlook the Trojans.

4A

Miege is a given with their two losses to 5A teams (Aquinas, St. James) and they've won the last five titles in the class. There's not much more you need to know because everyone already knows.

Louisburg lost their first two games of the year and everyone jumped off of them. They are now 6-3 on the year and hung around with their rival Paola a couple of weeks ago. They have solid pieces from last years semifinal team and get Chanute this week.

It may be an overall disappointing season for last years 4A runner-up Goddard and some injuries have really hurt this year’s team. Goddard still has some playmakers and have been in some of their five losses this year. They are also coming off back to back victories, something they hadn’t done since week one and two of the season. McPherson was the favorite in this last year and upset by Goddard, can they do it again? It would be a much bigger upset than 2019 but you can never overlook a Goddard team in recent memory. Point is, they may be a little bit better than their 4-5 record shows.

3A

Galena is 6-3 on the season and has gotten better throughout the course of the season. Turnovers cost the Bulldogs big in their three losses. The Bulldogs may have a bright future as one of their best lineman is a 6-foot-5 and 220-pound freshman in Tyler Little. Their quarterback is a sophomore in Brett Sarwinski who has passed for over 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns. These guys have some experience now and get a rematch with rival Frontenac who knocked them off 13 earlier in the season. Logan Henderson, Rico Gordon, Dylan Fields and Nick Sarwinski have both had very solid senior seasons for the Bulldogs as well. They’ll be the underdog but you cant overlook a Beau Sarwinski team in November. Frontenac (9-0), led by a very solid senior class including Jake Beckmann, Ryan Raio, Drew Bollinger, Cale Bridwell, Kaleb Kroenke, Caleb Hemby and Alex Johnson, also features some very solid sophomores in Division I recruit Landon Dean (6’4” 220 DE/TE), Cruz Blair (6’1” 215 OL/DL) and Colin McCartney (6’1” 185 DE/TE). All three should be up for some serious postseason honors in 2019.

Holton is the most dangerous team in November football because of their patience of offensive play calling in the run game of Kansas coaching star Brooks Barta. It’s nothing fancy but three to four yards a carry have carried this team to a lot of wins over the years in the time of posession battle. Holton has figured it out in their district, which they may have been picked fourth by many, to end up winning the whole thing. Holton is on a three-game winning streak with solid wins over Marysville, Wamego and Santa Fe Trail. They get a rematch with league rival Perry Lecompton at home this week. Should expect a low scoring time of possession type of match up in this one as it was 14-7, Holton, in week two of the season. If you want to know how good Barta has been, look up Holton football prior to his arrival. It’s incredible what Barta has done year over the last 20 or so years.

Cheney is a dangerous 7-2 team. Their losses are in week one to undefeated Garden Plain and two weeks ago to undefeated Andale. Riley Petz has been a swiss army knife of this team this year and is one of the most underrated 3A players. Cheney has an offense that can outscore you and a defense that can limit you. They are very much a factor in these 3A playoffs.

Others to consider? Clearwater (7-2) with Tanner Cash back could be a factor but they have Andale this week who just beat them, so we shall see. 3A District Six also went unbeaten over 3A District 5 last week, so most of these schools Cheney, Clearwater and Collegiate all beat up on each other in the district outside of Andale beating them all. Beloit has had a season of ups and downs but they have enough star power to again hang with an undefeated Colby this week, remember they did beat Scott City earlier this season and lost to Colby by just one. Concordia is 5-4 this season but they’ve won three of their last four, the bad news is they get a team this week that shut them out 31-0 a couple weeks ago. They’ve had a season of ups and downs as well but did beat Beloit a few weeks ago and are coming off a very solid playoff win over Hugoton. 3A District 8 went unbeaten last week so you can pretty much say Scott City, Beloit, Concordia all beat up on eachother, while Colby beat them all.

Class 2A

Nemaha Central seems to be one of the most underrated teams in 2A football. They’ve won six in a row on the year under head coach Warren Seitz. They also play in one of the best 3A/2A conferences in the state in the Big 7. Their losses came to Sabetha by seven in week one and Holton by 14 in week three. Neither of those teams are in 2A football. While they may not have a signature big-time victory, we think they are capable of being a team to make some noise. They get another notable two loss team this week in Rossville who lost to Silver Lake by one and Riley County in week four who was last years 2A finalist on the east. Rossville and Coach Hammes know a thing or two about winning games in November. Gavin Duryea has been a breakout player as of recent with 161 yards and two touchdowns last week and is averaging over 100 yards per game over the last three weeks. This should be an exciting one of multiple loss teams squaring off in 2A this week.

Riley County is a very scary two loss team. Last years 2A semifinalist has figured something out in their backfield and that is Deon Barnes. Barnes has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards this season and is averaging close to seven yards per carry with 17 TD. Avery Brokenicky may be the most impressive two-way player so far for the Falcons as he is a lockdown corner defensively and one of the leading recievers in 2A football this fall. Brokenicky will contend for 2A all-state honors at defensive back as he has picked off five passes this season. Garrett Harmison has again had another big year at QB with over 1,100 yards passing as Trey Harmison has 547 of those receiving yards. RC gets a rematch with another multiple loss team in Southeast of Saline this week. SES is also a very capable team and played the Falcons in a nailbiter in district play (33-29) a few weeks back. Jaxson Gebhardt has been a big-time playmaker on both sides for the Trojans. Expect a big one in Riley on Friday.

Norton is a three-loss team on the West this season and many may overlook them because of that. Not so fast, they play in the MCL which has the likes of Smith Center, Plainville and last years 2A champ Phillipsburg, even though they didn’t make playoffs this year. Bottom line, it’s a tough league and Norton isn’t going to see anything in these playoffs they haven’t already seen with MCL losses to Smith Center and Plainville, plus unbeaten and likely one of the favorites Hoisington. Cimarron is a very good 9-0 football team this year but their league probably isn’t the MCL. This should be a very good 2A football game this week. Judson Wiltfong, 6-foot-5 and 225-pounds, is among the leaders in sacks in the state of Kansas. Kade Melvin has had a big year at quarterback and his favorite target has been Jonah Ruder with over 500 yards receiving this year.

Conway Springs has a couple of losses but those are to Cheney and Garden Plain. We expect them to move on in the playoffs this week as they take on Eureka.

1A

Neither Elkhart (7-1) or Inman (5-4) has been ranked in the top-5 this season, but both have capably replaced a standout back. Elkhart graduated two-time first team all-state quarterback Lane Whisennand, and Inman running back Matt Ramey transferred to nearby McPherson. However, Elkhart has rushed for 354 yards a game behind 162 carries for 1,570 yards and 28 scores from Chace O’Hair. He leads with 93 stops. Inman has not reached the quarterfinals in 25 years.

Eight-Man, Division I

Caldwell (6-3) gets a rematch against Medicine Lodge (5-4), who the Bluejays defeated two weeks ago. Caldwell has five quarterfinal trips from ’09-17, while ML has not it past the Round of 16 since ’87.

Eight-Man, Division II

Either Lost Springs-Centre (7-2) or Colony-Crest (6-3) will be in the quarterfinals. Centre last made the quarterfinals in ’10, while Crest’s last trip was ’12. Crest ended an 11-game losing streak in Week 1. Jensen Riffel is one of the more underrated players in 8M-II football for Centre. 

Six-man

Cheylin and Moscow are both undefeated, but Weskan has won two state championships in the last three years, including last season. Moscow beat Weskan, 30-27, in Week 3. Weskan quarterback Jace Mackley is the state’s fourth-leading passer with 1,941 yards for the 6-3 Coyotes. Moscow has relied more on the running game and defense.