Jaguars clinch KVL crown with 56-18 victory against Piper
Mill Valley running back Kendall Short sauntered out of the locker room, shorts and no shirt. As a group of girls huddled themselves in a blanket, steam was rising from his bare shoulders.
It was 40 degrees and he didn’t have so much as a goose bump.
“I’m warm, I’m warm,” he said.
There was Short and the rest of his Mill Valley teammates, unfazed by the elements, unfazed by it all. Their opponent Friday night was the closest to an equal they could have at this point in the season. Piper and Mill Valley were both undefeated in Kaw Valley play, and this game brought a lot of media attention and heavy rest-of-the-season implications.
After all the hype, the Jaguars tossed the Pirates aside as if they were nothing, 56-18, and seized the Kaw Valley championship with a 5-1 overall record. The players were excited about the victory, sure, but it all seemed like business as usual. This had all the makings of a so-called statement game, but no. To them, this was just another way to showcase how good their practices have been.
“Winning against league opponents is always important to us,” coach Joel Applebee said. “Ultimately, and the kids truly understand it this year, our goal is to get better every single week. It’s very cliché to say, but man, these kids have really bought into that.”
Applebee has loved the way his team has practiced this year, which is why he can back up the coach-speak. Entering important games, teams are usually amped to play, and the score Friday night does suggest that.
But Applebee and his players claim the gradual process of improving led to the performance this week. Next week, they will try to do better than this, no matter the opponent.
“Every practice, every rep, has to be our best one,” Short said. “We know we can win; we just have to focus.”
The game started out like an instant classic, which shows the resiliency of this Mill Valley team. Quarterback Skyler Windmiller hit L.J. Hatch for a 44-yard touchdown for the first score of the game and Piper returned the kickoff for an 85-yard touchdown, though it missed the extra point. It was a 10-point game at halftime, and despite two missed field goals in the third quarter, the deficit remained the same leading into the fourth.
But the Jaguar defense planted itself firmly into the turf, amassing seven sacks and creating five turnovers. There was no leeway whatsoever in the second half. The offense did what it needed to by turning a majority of its possessions into touchdowns. Windmiller threw four touchdowns, two to Hatch, and one interception. Short ran for a team-high 99 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
To Piper’s credit, it showed plenty of reasons why it was 4-2, but its greatest strength, speed, was used against it. The Jaguars forced the Pirates runners to the outside, and when they were successful, the Pirates couldn’t adjust.
Mill Valley is now moving onto district play this week with Schlagle (4-2) first on the list. Since the week one loss to Manhattan, the Jaguars have been a well-oiled machine and Applebee said next week is going to be even better than this one.
What’s scarier? Knowing the Jaguars have a cyborg-like ability to remain at constant homeostasis or wondering if they have reached their peak yet?
“It’s district time,” Applebee said. “Time to take it to another level.”