Mill Valley prepares to face St. Thomas Aquinas in 5A football playoffs
Trevor Rainbolt has played in some big games throughout his football career at Mill Valley High School.
The senior defensive back helped the Jaguars win a 2008 Kaw Valley League championship, and he also played a key role in their run to an appearance in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
Still, Rainbolt has never been as eager to play as he will be when the Jaguars play host to St. Thomas Aquinas at 7 p.m. Friday in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
“This is probably the most excited I’ll be for a football game in my whole life,” Rainbolt said. “Senior year … I couldn’t ask for anything better (than) a home game against a great team.”
“Great” probably hits the nail on the head.
Aquinas has been flat-out dominant for most of the past decade. The Saints are making their 12th straight playoff appearance. They’ve been to the state semifinals four years in a row and were the state runner-up in 2008.
Under first-year coach Mike Thomas, Aquinas won the East Kansas League championship and built an 8-1 record. The lone loss, two weeks ago in district play, was a 28-26 setback to unbeaten Gardner-Edgerton in a thriller.
Mill Valley enters the game having won six of its last seven contests. The lone setback during that span was a 19-16 loss at playoff-bound Turner (8-1) on Oct. 2.
Aquinas’ greatest strength is its defense. The Saints have held every opponent except Gardner under 20 points this year, and six of them scored 13 or fewer points. That has been important because the Saints’ offense only averages about 23 points per game.
Mill Valley will rely on its hard-nosed rushing attack. The Jaguars feature three running backs that bring different styles to mix up the pace. Dylan Floyd (43 carries, 367 yards) brings speed up the middle. Taylor Brown (61 carries, 435 yards) is utilized primarily on sweep plays and can be lethal when he gets to the outside. Kyle Brunson (218 carries, 1,372 yards) is the staff workhorse. He’s a power back who routinely bulls over tacklers and is hard to bring down.
Brunson is confident entering the showdown with Aquinas, noting that although the Saints have a solid defense, “We’ve got a good offense.”
Mill Valley also has tough defense. Justin Muldoon and Matt Acree lead the team with four sacks apiece.
The winner of Friday’s game advances to the state quarterfinals and will face the winner of Turner and Shawnee Heights (3-6) on Friday, Nov. 13.