Football team wins second straight state title in 49-35 shootout over Wichita Northwest

A six-score outing from quarterback Cooper Marsh in his final game helped the team beat Northwest in the championship for the second consecutive season

Ben Wieland, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

Holding his fourth Kansas state title trophy in five years, the ever-stoic Mill Valley head coach Joel Applebee grinned.

“I haven’t said it all year, but now I’ll say it: back to back, baby!”

Thanks to a six-score effort by quarterback Cooper Marsh and timely defensive plays including three forced fumbles and four fourth-down stops, the team took home their second consecutive state championship in a 49-35 rematch with Wichita Northwest. 

Just like last year, when he led the team to a 40-31 win over Northwest in the title game, Marsh racked up gaudy numbers as a dual threat in the backfield. He carried the ball 23 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns, and completed seven of his 16 passes for 255 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. 

Down the stretch, though, it was running back Quin Wittenauer’s turn to play the hero. Despite a slow start and near-fumble in the third quarter, Wittenauer finished with a respectable 70 rushing yards and 22 receiving yards — more importantly, he found paydirt for two second-half scores. 

His second, a 22-yard touchdown reception to put the team up two scores over Northwest with just under three minutes to play, marked a memorable final moment for the senior’s high school career — and a personal milestone for Wittenauer as well.

“For me, it goes all the way back to eighth grade. Against Mill Creek, I dropped that same pass, and we lost the game,” Wittenauer said. “I never forgot that moment, and today I made the biggest play of my life.”

Though the team eventually held on for a 14-point victory, they weren’t able to finish Northwest off until the final seconds — Mill Valley never trailed, but they allowed Northwest to even the score three times before finally pulling away in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. 

“Today I made the biggest play of my life.”

— running back Quin Wittenauer

Both offenses started the game slowly, combining for just one first down on their first four drives. Then, backed up and facing a third-and-22 from his own nine, Marsh found wide receiver Ty Reishus on a post route across the middle of the field. 

Reishus got a step on the defensive back, hauled in the pass, and never looked back en route to a 91-yard receiving score, his first catch in three weeks. Though he hadn’t seen many targets in recent games, Reishus was ready for his chance when his number was called. 

“You just have to wait for the opportunity and take it when it comes,” Reishus said. “I saw my chance, caught it, and just ran.”

Northwest running back Julius Bolden botched the catch on a toss to open the next drive, and Mill Valley defensive lineman Cody Moore scooped up the fumble. Six straight carries later, Marsh finished off the drive and the team took a 14-0 lead. 

The two offenses dueled for the rest of the half — Northwest running back LJ Phillips scored twice, and Marsh rushed for another touchdown after a 46-yard carry. After the Jaguar defense stopped Northwest’s offense in the final seconds, Mill Valley took a 21-14 lead into halftime. 

Northwest tied up the game on a 76-yard touchdown pass just 30 seconds into the second half. On the next drive, Mill Valley caught a break: Wittenauer appeared to fumble the ball to Northwest at midfield, but the officials ruled him down by contact. Marsh found wideout Kendrick Jones for a 50-yard touchdown up the seam on the following play.  

All the work we put in, everything we do in the offseason, this is what it’s all for.

— wide receiver Ty Reishus

Wittenauer scored another touchdown for Mill Valley on the next possession after linebacker Kolten Jegen created a short field with a sack and fumble recovery. Wittenauer juked two Northwest defenders for a 27-yard rushing score, and the team took a 35-21 lead near the end of the third quarter. 

Then Northwest came roaring back. 

Two electrifying runs by quarterback Geremiah Moore bookended an interception by Marsh and shifted the momentum. After the second carry by Moore, a 25-yard touchdown on fourth and eight, Northwest evened the score at 35.

With just eight minutes left to play and Northwest on a 14-0 run, it was do-or-die time for Mill Valley. According to Wittenauer, that’s what the team was prepared for. 

“Everything we’ve been working for all year just started clicking at the right time,” Wittenauer said. “We’re built to face adversity, and we got the job done.” 

On the next drive, Mill Valley fell behind the sticks again — but, on a 40-yard bomb, Marsh finally found his favorite target Jacob Hartman for his first catch of the game. After a 33-yard completion on a wheel route to Jones, Marsh finished with a strong three-yard touchdown run, and the team took a 42-35 lead with five minutes to go. 

Northwest got the ball back with a chance to tie the score for a fourth time, but couldn’t even muster a first down. Mill Valley safety Trey Worcester blew up a fourth-and-1 carry for a six-yard loss, and the offense took over deep in Northwest territory. Wittenauer’s ensuing 22-yard touchdown catch all but sealed the game. 

Jegen’s second strip sack of the day on a delay blitz, scooped up by defensive end Peter Janssen, cut Northwest’s desperation drive short and ended the championship rematch for good. As the offense assumed victory formation, Mill Valley fans chanted “I believe that we will win” and the sideline celebration began.

The victory capped off an 11-2 season for Mill Valley, which featured not just another state championship but also blowout victories over offensive juggernaut St. Thomas Aquinas and 6A state champion Derby. 

Reishus credits one thing above all else for the team’s continued success: hard work.

“All the work we put in, everything we do in the offseason, this is what it’s all for.”

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