Applebee makes quick mark on MVHS football
Football season is still about two months away, but a new era is officially under way at Mill Valley High School.
The USD 232 Board of Education hired Joel Applebee in May to replace George Radell as the MVHS head football coach. Radell resigned April 9 after 10 years at the helm.
In just a few short weeks, Applebee already has put his stamp on the program, from overhauling the program’s online presence with interactive Web site mvjaguar.com, to placing a renewed emphasis on offseason conditioning, to overhauling the coaching staff.
It’s been a busy first month, but Applebee has been excited to lay the foundation for his first football head-coaching position.
“I’ve had nothing but positive things happen so far,” Applebee said of his early days with the Jaguars. “Everybody seems very, very supportive. Every e-mail I’ve gotten has been positive, supportive and wanting to get the program started. Everybody seems to be really excited to build on what’s already been there.
“That’s a big factor to me as well is there’s been a lot established already at Mill Valley. I’m not starting from scratch. Hopefully now we can get in there and do some different things and get to that next level.”
Applebee certainly inherits a program known for success. In Radell’s 10 seasons, the Jaguars had seven winning seasons, won three Kaw Valley League championships and finished second twice, and they also won three district championships. The 2008 squad was the most successful in school history as it went 9-2, won an undefeated KVL championship, won a district title and made an appearance in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
Applebee wants to build on that success by establishing a program that stretches all the way down to the youth level.
“I think it’s very important that you do that, build from the youth up, that you have young kids wanting to learn your terminology and give them an idea of what the expectation is going to be like as they make the transition from middle school to high school,” Applebee said.
He also plans to place a greater emphasis on strength and conditioning, something he will teach at the school.
“A big part of my interview focused on the classroom and what we’ll be doing with the weight room,” he said. “Your entire athletic program at a school starts in the weight room, whether it be football, soccer, girls basketball, volleyball, tennis, any sport that you do. I think a big emphasis in the weight room at Mill Valley will be that we want to make you a better athlete, not just a better football player, basketball player or wrestler, but a better athlete. That, in turn, will make you a better player.”
Applebee’s plans for the football program and the strength and conditioning program come from experience.
Applebee, 34, is a native of Russell. He attended Kansas State University and earned a degree in Business Education in 2000 before collecting a master’s degree in Educational Administration from Fort Hays State in 2006.
Applebee has developed an extensive coaching resume in a short period of time.He served as a defensive coordinator at Junction City High School from 2000-2004 and was the school’s head baseball coach from 2002-2004. From there, he returned to his alma mater, Russell High School, and was the defensive coordinator from 2004-2006.
After that, he moved to Derby High School and again was a defensive coordinator as well as assistant head coach alongside his cousin, Brandon Clark. In addition to his emphasis on linebackers and the defensive line, Applebee also played a major role in the development of the school’s strength and conditioning program.
A Class 6A school, Derby posted an 8-4 record and reached the substate finals for the second straight season last fall.
Part of his decision to target the job opening at Mill Valley was that his wife, Amanda, grew up in the area and was a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas. Having family close by was appealing, as was the fact that he’d heard so much positive feedback about the De Soto School District.
Also appealing to Applebee is the opportunity to build a program for the long term at MVHS that will prepare his players for football and life.
“The biggest thing, and this was a big part of my interview, was not to come in and say ‘we’re going to win championships’ or this and that, not guarantee anything, but tell them we’re going to work our butts off every day at everything we do,” he said. “Whether it’s football, the classroom or being a better person, I want the kids to understand that as we go along in our daily lives we can always improve on what we’re doing. We’ll carry that over to the football field. We’ll work on the little things, focus on doing the little things right, and we’ll get better with every single rep.”
Strategically, Mill Valley has been a run-heavy team in the past. Applebee would prefer to be more balanced, but he said he will let personnel determine the style of offense the team will emphasize from year to year. The Jaguars will return senior tailback Kyle Brunson in the fall, and he rushed for 1,496 yards on 248 carries last year. Also back will be senior quarterback Macauley Garton who boasts a powerful arm and won the Class 5A state championship in the javelin this spring.
“From spread to power offense, you’ve got to be prepared for all of those,” Applebee said. “We’ll have our base schemes, but I’m a big believer in being (multi-faceted).”
Applebee has scheduled a busy summer for the Jaguars as they transition to a new coaching staff and new expectations. They attended a passing and receiving camp in mid-June. Team camp is scheduled for July 7-10 and 12, followed by the Friends University Team Padded Camp July 13-15.
A youth camp, Champ Camp, is slated for July 19-22, and the Junior Football Camp will run July 26-29. The Jaguar Golf Tournament will take place June 30. After that, it will be time for fall practices and Applebee hopes his program will by clicking on all cylinders.
“I’m very excited; my family is very excited,” he said. “This is a great opportunity. I’m a big believer in that I want to help kids become better people, and it’s a great opportunity at Mill Valley. The administration that hired me is unbelievable and seems tremendous to work for. I’m very excited to be here.”