Shawnee Dispatch

Mill Valley football recognized by Kansas House of Representatives

Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee and eight of his players were recognized for the Jaguars' back-to-back Class 5A state championships on Wednesday at the Kansas State Capitol Building during Wednesday's House of Representatives meeting. Front row (left to right): Junior Brody Flaming, senior Ben Hartman, head coach Joel Applebee and senior Joel Donn. Second row: Seniors DJ Graviette, Jack Bauer, Blaine Boudreaux. Third row: senior Keegan Zars. Enlarge photo

February 9, 2017

— After having several players step up in big moments in nail-biting victories in the 2016 Class 5A semifinals and state championship game, the Mill Valley football team understands how important each and every Jaguar was in clinching their second straight state title.

On Wednesday, Mill Valley football coach Joel Applebee and seven of his players were recognized for the team's efforts in another big venue, as they were honored at the Kansas State Capitol Building at the beginning of a House of Representatives meeting.

"It's a great honor for these kids," Applebee said. "We have some really high-character kids in our program. Just for them to get down here and be honored in front of the house of representatives, it was a great experience."

The Jaguars were invited to Topeka by Shawnee native Shelee Brim, the newly-elected representative for District 39, who launched her career in politics in January after retiring as a teacher in the De Soto school district in May.

"I think it's important to recognize our hometown heroes. Having taught in the district for many years and seeing these — I'll say kids because they're always my kids once they start with me — kids grow up to be young adults and they go on to do good things in the community, whether it be sports or community service or music or whatever, one of my goals as a representative is going to be to recognize them," Brim said. "I have a thing called 'Merit Pages' that I've sent out letters to students who have high GPAs and done different things in college, too. So that's one of my goals is to highlight the positive in our community."

Following the meeting, Brim took Applebee, junior Brody Flaming and seniors Keegan Zars, DJ Graviette, Ben Hartman, Blaine Boudreaux, Joel Donn and Jack Bauer on a tour of the Capitol building. Flaming had never been to the Capitol building, and thoroughly enjoyed his overall experience between the meeting and the tour.

"It means a lot," the Mill Valley quarterback said. "It's cool, it's awesome, but you know it's an experience not a lot of people get to get and it's fun to have."

Flaming will be back to lead the Jaguars' attempt for a three-peat, but for Graviette and the five other Mill Valley seniors, the trip to Topeka served as a nice recognition for what they had accomplished on the gridiron in their high school careers.

"It makes us as players feel confident in what we did, and good about what we've done," Graviette, a Benedictine signee, said.

As a former teacher in the De Soto school district, Brim said that seeing players like Graviette and Zars — a Missouri Western signee — preparing to continue their football careers in college is extremely satisfying.

Brim appreciates the teamwork that the Jaguars have had over their back-to-back state championship seasons, and sees a lot of parallels on the floor of the House.

"One of the things that I keep hearing here at the Capitol is how different it is this year than last year," the former Clear Creek and Prairie View Elementary School teacher said. "They said that people are friendly, they smile, they're working together across the aisle so it doesn't matter if you have a 'D' or an 'R' next to your name. It's just that camaraderie of working as a team to get things done and help Kansas."

While Brim is learning the ropes as a House of Representative member, the Jaguars are gaining more knowledge on and off the field each day, too. Applebee was glad that his players got the chance to have another unique learning experience thanks to Brim.

"It was really cool," Applebee said. "We really appreciate Representative Brim for having us up here. It's just a really cool experience for our kids, and really educational, too, to see what they do on the floor."

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