Mill Valley routs Derby 45-14 in clash of state champions

Fueled by an offensive hot start and domination of the line of scrimmage, the team ended Derby’s 26-game winning streak and took down the reigning 6A champions

Ben Wieland, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

After Mill Valley’s state championship victory followed by a tumultuous, uncertain offseason, a disappointing performance against the reigning 6A state champions would’ve been understandable.  

Instead, they dominated Derby — winners of last year’s 6A title by 37 points and owners of a 26-game winning streak — in a 45-14 victory that gave the home team’s fans reason to believe a repeat could be in the cards this season. 

On a night of impressive statistical performances, two senior offensive stars stole the show: quarterback Cooper Marsh and running back Quin Wittenauer. Dual threat Marsh completed 12 of his 15 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown, and ran it 19 times for 104 yards and three scores. 

Wittenauer, filling the shoes of now-graduated star back Tyler Green, was more than up to the task. He rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on his 20 carries. Wittenauer’s seamless transition into his role as lead back didn’t surprise him, though. 

“I put in the work, so this is exactly what I expected,” Wittenauer said. “It’s that simple.”

Ultimately, the team’s offense fired on all cylinders all game long — the offensive line cleared holes for Wittenauer and Marsh to carry the ball, the two made the most of their opportunities, and the team’s wide receivers hauled in numerous timely third down receptions. 

I put in the work, so this is exactly what I expected. It’s that simple.”

— running back Quin Wittenauer

The defense, too, looked prepared and ready to face a potent Derby running game. They held a backfield that scored 63 points in last year’s state championship to just 111 rushing yards on 30 carries. 

The line, anchored by standout senior defensive tackle Ethan Kremer, stuffed the run up the middle; the team’s defensive ends and linebackers also set the edge impressively against Derby’s option game. Linebacker Kolten Jegen also came up with two game-changing, drive-ending stops.

The first came early in the contest: Jegen poked the ball out of Derby quarterback Lem Wash’s hands deep in his own territory, his team recovered the fumble and Marsh punched in a touchdown just four plays later. The second — a fourth-and-two tackle near midfield early in the second half — essentially sealed the game. 

Jegen was pleased with his success, but also credited the team’s work in practice for the defensive performance.

“It felt great. I really took the preparation this week to heart,” Jegen said. “We just got after it. It’s honestly really relieving to see us make the plays in practice, and then go out and do it on Friday night.”

It’s honestly really relieving to see us make the plays in practice, and then go out and do it on Friday night.”

— linebacker Kolten Jegen

From the opening kickoff, the team wasted no time putting that preparation to work and pulling away. 

Mill Valley’s offense came out on fire, scoring touchdowns on five of their first six drives. They leaned heavily on Marsh, who racked up 168 total yards and four total touchdowns in the half. 

The defense came out energized as well: they held Derby to just three first-half first downs,  and didn’t run a play in Mill Valley territory until the final minute of the first half. 

 Derby’s lone score in the half came from running back Dylan Edwards, who hauled in a third-down swing pass and let his 4.38 speed do the rest en route to an 85-yard touchdown.

The Derby defense showed signs of life to start the third quarter, forcing a Marsh fumble on the first Jaguar possession. On the ensuing drive, though, defensive back Blake Martin and Jegen came up with big open-field tackles on third and fourth downs; after the turnover on downs and Wittenauer’s second score of the game, the team took a 42-7 lead and the game was all but decided.

A Chris Tennant 26-yard field goal and Lem Wash touchdown were the only scores  in a fourth quarter featuring a running clock and multiple Mill Valley backups seeing extended playing time. As the clock expired on the team’s 45-14 victory, the team received a standing ovation.

While Derby’s impressive résumé might’ve intimidated some teams as a season opener, Jegen thinks the team actually drew motivation from the reigning 6A champion’s seemingly dominant history.

“At the beginning of the week on Monday, we knew we could come out and win,” Jegen said. “We’re 3-0 against undefeated teams. We don’t back down from anything.”

Wittenauer summed up the team’s attitude more succinctly.

“We came out here expecting to win,” Wittenauer said. “We’re a state championship team, and we played like it.”

The game took place in a stadium at less than one-fourth its usual capacity due to new COVID restrictions for the season. Fans were required to wear masks while walking around, and only families of participants and activity pass raffle winners were admitted to cheer on the home team. 

We came out here expecting to win. We’re a state championship team, and we played like it.

— running back Quin Wittenauer

In an earlier interview with FOX 4, head coach Joel Applebee explained his full support for the newly implemented restrictions. 

“We set some pretty strict protocol for obvious and good reasons,” Applebee said. “We want to make sure everyone stays safe, the players stay safe, and the coaches stay safe.”

The game featured one more interesting wrinkle: Applebee and Derby head coach Brandon Clark are cousins. They attended college and coached together at Derby until Applebee departed for the head coaching job at Mill Valley in 2010. 

While both coaches have built state-championship-winning programs, it’s safe to say Applebee’s team got the best of his cousin’s in this matchup.

The team will continue its season Friday, Sept. 11 with a 7:00 p.m. road game against district rival De Soto.

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