Mill Valley tops Northwest at State for second straight year

Published: Nov. 29, 2020 at 11:53 AM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - After COVID-19 nearly ended the Grizzlies season before it even started, Northwest completed its third straight undefeated run to the 5A title game, but the Grizzlies fell just short of bringing home the program’s first championship in a 49-35 loss to Mill Valley.

It was the second straight year the Jaguars (9-2) topped Northwest (10-1) in the championship.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world, we’ve gone through so much adversity and we were all so confident coming into this game,” said Northwest senior Zac Daher, an Army commit. “It’s not what we wanted to see but you have to be optimistic.”

After a slow offensive start for both teams, Northwest fell behind 14-0 late in the first quarter. Mill Valley quarterback Cooper Marsh connected with Ty Reishus for a 91-yard touchdown backed up on third-and-22 on the Jaguars own 9-yard line to give Mill Valley a 7-0 lead.

Then, on the ensuing possession for Northwest, the offense botched a pitch and gave Mill Valley back the ball. The Jaguars took advantage of the short field, with Marsh trotting in the end zone, his first of three rushing touchdowns on the day, to extend the Jaguars lead.

“Mill Valley is a really good team and at the end of the day it was the mistakes that got us,” said Daher.

A pair of L.J. Phillips touchdowns, who rushed for 68 yards, would help erase those early mistakes as the Grizzlies trailed 21-14 at the half.

It took Northwest just 31 seconds to tie the game at the start of the third quarter, as quarterback Geremiah Moore connected with Kaleb Coleman for a 76-yard touchdown.

Mill Valley jumped out to another 14 point lead, but a 1-yard Julius Bolden touchdown to cap off the Grizzlies scoring drive would make it a one possession game with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter.

With less than nine minutes to play, Northwest senior Zaire Adkins intercepted a Marsh pass for the Grizzlies first turnover of the game. Moore produced an incredible 25-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-8 to tie the game at 35 all with 8:21 remaining in the fourth quarter. Moore threw for 197 yards and rushed for 109 yards.

“That’s why we call him slash, he’s electric. We felt like we would be able to exploit some things with him at quarterback,” said Northwest head coach Steve Martin. “He made some really big throws, too.”

But the Grizzlies defense couldn’t contain Marsh, and on the Jaguar’s ensuing drive, the senior quarterback connected with Jacob Hartman on a 40-yard pass. Four plays later, Marsh scored the go-ahead touchdown to give Mill Valley a 42-35 lead. Marsh finished with 255 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, and 134 rushing yards.

“He’s a dual threat, he’s been here before and he’s done this before. When bad things happened, he didn’t get rattled,” said Martin.

Ultimately, mistakes would cost the Grizzlies its first ever state title, and on the ensuing Northwest drive with a shot at tying the game, a bad snap on fourth-and-1 on Northwest’s own 29-yard line resulted in a turnover on downs.

“We made major mistakes in the snapping game that were crucial at crucial times in a game and you can’t do that against a championship program,” said Martin. '

The Jaguars took advantage of the short field, and Marsh connected with Quenten Wittenauer to add on one final score and secure Mill Valley’s fourth title in the last six years.

“We are going to come back and learn from this and get back here. Every year we find things to attack and now we have to attack somewhere in our schedule a way to not let these mistakes come out in big games,” said Martin. “. You don’t have to look for them when you’re playing the schedule we do, so you’ve got to be able to tweak it somehow.”

Prior to Saturday, the Grizzlies had outscored its opponents 558-77 on the season.

“We’re going to win one of these, we’re going to get right back here. That’s what we do. Three years ago when we lost, someone told us we wouldn’t be back here and we’ve been back here three straight years,” said Martin. “We have to figure out how to win the last one.”

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