It might seem odd that Derby is playing at Mill Valley in Johnson County on Friday night.
Not odd in a football sense — Derby (2-0) is ranked second in Class 6A, while Mill Valley (2-0) is ranked first in 5A. They are ranked second and seventh in the overall rankings.
But odd in how these two teams got together.
Well, it’s all about family.
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Derby coach Brandon Clark is cousins with Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee, a former Derby assistant.
Their connection hasn’t diminished with distance.
Derby and Mill Valley attend Tulsa’s summer football camp and Arkansas’ 7-on-7 tournament. Mill Valley comes down to Derby for the Panthers’ summer 7-on-7 tournament and the Battle of the Big Uglies’ linemen compeition.
Their junior football programs also have a home-and-home scrimmage series.
While Derby dominated in a 35-14 win over Mill Valley in 2014, the Jaguars made a huge splash with arguably the biggest win in this season’s opening week by beating 5A title favorite St. Thomas Aquinas 38-20.
Senior Logan Koch leads Mill Valley in passing (21 of 31 passing for 391 yards) and rushing (34 carries, 230 yards).
“We know they’ve got a couple guys that are super fast, and their size is just unbelievable,” Clark said. “They came down to our Big Uglies competition and pretty much dominated. With their size and strength, we’ll have to match up somehow. They play fast and play really hard.”
Derby’s defensive line and linebackers are going to be tested against the Jaguars’ offensive line.
“We’ll have to get lower than them and play really fast,” Clark said. “We’ll have to be able to adapt to their size up front.”
Derby, led by senior quarterback Brady Rust, has scored 96 points in its two wins. Rust is a dual-threat quarterback, as well, with 301 passing yards and 301 rushing. Kai Lemons has 148 receiving yards, while Garrett Xanders adds 187 rushing.
“They’re a multiple front (defense),” Clark said. “Our offensive line will have to be smart and physical. Brady will have to learn on the fly. We’re trying to put him into every situation we can, but there will be situations he hasn’t been prepared for by us, and he’ll have to adapt.”