Mill Valley football holds back Lawrence High in showdown between unbeaten teams

·3 min read

The facade of the new press box at Mill Valley bears witness to the success of the Jaguars’ football program in the last six-plus seasons, recognizing state championships in 2015 and 2016, and again in 2019 and 2020. There’s plenty of space for more recognition as well.

Time will tell if the Jaguars will add to that legacy with the first three-peat in school history in a few months. In the meantime, they survived their toughest test in the first four weeks of the season with a 21-14 victory over previously undefeated Lawrence on Friday night.

Mill Valley (4-0) grabbed control of the game on a 77-yard touchdown pass from Hayden Jay to Jared Napoli on the second play of the third quarter that staked the Jaguars to a 21-0 lead.

Lawrence (3-1) clawed its way back into the game with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. The Lions did have a remote chance of pulling even but weren’t able to materialize a 93-yard scoring drive with 53 seconds remaining and no timeouts.

The last 18 months have been as unusual for Mill Valley as they have for other high school football programs across the metro. The Jaguars figured out a way to build their championship legacy despite the circumstances.

“We are a championship team and all, but we try to let that be in the back of our mind, and we use that as momentum,” senior defensive lineman Cody Moore said. “We know we can do it, and from our work is how we get to be a championship team. We have to work to get to where we want to be.”

Moore recorded a sack on the game’s final drive, a play that all but assured the Jaguars the victory.

“Getting toward the end of the game I was getting a little tired, and my legs were cramping. That’s why I came out,” Moore said. “I just had to keep going and push through it, be a land shark and persevere.”

Moore actually picked up another victory on Friday night, being crowned homecoming king at halftime. He jogged into the locker room after the ceremony sporting a large navy blue crown.

“Honestly, people kept saying I was going to win, but I didn’t think I was. I was just happy, celebrating with my team at halftime. It was just fun.”

The defense has powered Mill Valley this season, holding every opponent to two scores or less. The Jaguars stymied Lawrence for three quarters before the Chesty Lions broke through with a pair of touchdown runs from senior Avion Nelson in the fourth quarter.

“They’re doing an outstanding job. They’re just getting better and better and more and more confident every week,” Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee said. “They’re a great offense. They’re good all around. Honestly, it just comes down to the week of preparation and the hours they put in. They understand that.”

Jay finished the game with more than 200 yards passing and that long touchdown pass that ultimately proved to be the winning score. But his best play of the game might have been the coffin-corner punt that buried Lawrence at its own 7-yard line for the final drive of the game.

“That was a huge play, because he hadn’t been kicking it very well,” Applebee said with a laugh.

Next up for Mill Valley is a trip to Lawrence to play Free State. The Jaguars don’t know where the road will end, but they’re confident they’re headed in the right direction.

“They’ve seen examples of success in the past, and they’re drawing from those,” Applebee said. “They’re putting that to use each day.”

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