New-look Kaw Valley League includes football coaching change at MVHS
The Kaw Valley League will have a new look Aug. 16 when football season begins and the league debuts its eight-team format with the departure of Santa Fe Trail and Perry-Lecompton.
Another new look will be found on the sideline at traditional power Mill Valley where the Jaguars welcome new coach Joel Applebee.
Applebee replaces George Radell who coached the Jaguars for the first 10 years the school was open. He resigned April 9 and remains a teacher at the school.
Applebee went to work putting his stamp on the program this summer. He overhauled the program’s online presence with interactive website mvjaguar.com, placed a major emphasis on offseason conditioning and hired a new coaching staff.
It’s been a busy summer, but Applebee has been excited to lay the foundation for his first football head-coaching position.
“I’ve had nothing but positive things happen so far,” Applebee said of his early days with the Jaguars. “Everybody seems very, very supportive. Every e-mail I’ve gotten has been positive, supportive and wanting to get the program started. Everybody seems to be really excited to build on what’s already been there.
“That’s a big factor to me as well is there’s been a lot established already at Mill Valley. I’m not starting from scratch. Hopefully now we can get in there and do some different things and get to that next level.”
Applebee certainly inherits a program known for success. In Radell’s 10 seasons, the Jaguars had seven winning seasons, won three Kaw Valley League championships and finished second twice, and they also won three district championships. The 2008 squad was the most successful in school history as it went 9-2, won an undefeated KVL championship, won a district title and made an appearance in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
Applebee wants to build on that success by establishing a program that stretches all the way down to the youth level.
“I think it’s very important that you do that, build from the youth up, that you have young kids wanting to learn your terminology and give them an idea of what the expectation is going to be like as they make the transition from middle school to high school,” Applebee said.
He also plans to place a greater emphasis on strength and conditioning, something he will teach at the school.
“A big part of my interview focused on the classroom and what we’ll be doing with the weight room,” he said. “Your entire athletic program at a school starts in the weight room, whether it be football, soccer, girls basketball, volleyball, tennis, any sport that you do. I think a big emphasis in the weight room at Mill Valley will be that we want to make you a better athlete, not just a better football player, basketball player or wrestler, but a better athlete. That, in turn, will make you a better player.”
Applebee’s plans for the football program and the strength and conditioning program come from experience.
Applebee, 34, is a native of Russell. He attended Kansas State University and earned a degree in Business Education in 2000 before collecting a master’s degree in Educational Administration from Fort Hays State in 2006.
Applebee has developed an extensive coaching resume in a short period of time.He served as a defensive coordinator at Junction City High School from 2000-2004 and was the school’s head baseball coach from 2002-2004. From there, he returned to his alma mater, Russell High School, and was the defensive coordinator from 2004-2006.
After that, he moved to Derby High School and again was a defensive coordinator as well as assistant head coach alongside his cousin, Brandon Clark. In addition to his emphasis on linebackers and the defensive line, Applebee also played a major role in the development of the school’s strength and conditioning program.
A Class 6A school, Derby posted an 8-4 record and reached the substate finals for the second straight season last fall.
Applebee said the opportunity to build a program for the long term at MVHS was appealing, and he hopes his program will prepare his players for football and life.
“The biggest thing, and this was a big part of my interview, was not to come in and say ‘we’re going to win championships’ or this and that, not guarantee anything, but tell them we’re going to work our butts off every day at everything we do,” he said. “Whether it’s football, the classroom or being a better person, I want the kids to understand that as we go along in our daily lives, we can always improve on what we’re doing. We’ll carry that over to the football field. We’ll work on the little things, focus on doing the little things right, and we’ll get better with every single rep.”
Strategically, Mill Valley has been a run-heavy team in the past. Applebee would prefer to be more balanced, but he said he would let personnel determine the style of offense the team will emphasize from year to year. The Jaguars will return senior tailback Kyle Brunson in the fall, and he rushed for 1,496 yards on 248 carries last year. Also back will be senior quarterback Macauley Garton who boasts a powerful arm and won the Class 5A state championship in the javelin this spring.
“From spread to power offense, you’ve got to be prepared for all of those,” Applebee said. “We’ll have our base schemes, but I’m a big believer in being (multi-faceted).”