Mill Valley thriving with Windmiller at helm

In 2010, the first season of the Joel Applebee Era at Shawnee (KS) Mill Valley, the Jaguars persevered through the usual growing pains to close out the season with a winning record of 6-4. This season, the Jaguars are off to a 5-0 start, the result of familiarity, hard work in the off-season, and the play of junior quarterback Skyler Windmiller.

The 2011 Mill Valley Jaguars are proof of what a difference a year makes.

With Head Coach Joel Applebee and his staff in their first season at the helm in 2010, the team underwent the expected growing pains and still managed a winning record, closing out the year at 6-4.

This year, the Jags are off to a 5-0 start with an offense that is putting up some of the most prolific numbers in the state.

The improvement is due to a number of factors. First and foremost, of course, is continuity. Year Two of a new coaching regime brings with it a full 12 months of understanding between players and coaches - the players better understand what the coaches want, and the coaches better understand the capabilities of their roster.

The off-season played a huge role as well, said junior quarterback Skyler Windmiller.

"The coaches are a huge part of it, because over the summer we do nothing but work, work, work," he explained. "We go to tons of camps as a team, we're working out every day."

Windmiller's own contributions shouldn't be undersold either. Thrust into the starter's role in Week 2 last season, after senior MacAuley Garton went down with an injury, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound gunslinger was forced to learn on the job.

This year, his confidence has skyrocketed, as has his relationship with his receiving corps - and it shows. Through five games, Windmiller has completed 57.5-percent of his passes at the helm of the Jags' high-powered passing attack, throwing for 1,320 yards and 17 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

Last week, in a tight 27-20 victory over Kansas City (KS) Piper, he threw for 301 yards and four touchdowns.

"Now with these guys - after working them - I feel like we have a ton of chemistry," Windmiller said.

His combination of size, arm strength and overall athleticism - in addition to the eye-catching stat line - have made him an early target for college programs looking to get a jump on recruiting for the Class of 2013.

The caliber of interested coaches and teams is, to put it mildly, impressive, with correspondence arriving from the likes of Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and many more.

Last month, Windmiller and his parents made the trip to Lincoln, Neb. for an unofficial visit with the Huskers during their match-up with Fresno State. They then followed that trip up with one to the University of Missouri a week later, as the Tigers took on Western Illinois.

Both visits managed to leave an impression on Windmiller. At Nebraska, they toured the facilities and ate dinner on campus before taking in the game.

"I didn't get the tour on (the Missouri visit)," he said. "But we went and we ate, and then we sat with all the other recruits and stuff. That was a pretty fun experience."

As it's still early in the process, Windmiller is taking a look at all comers - though he did acknowledge Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska were standing out from the pack at the moment. Both of the local programs remain under consideration, as he camped with both Kansas and Kansas State this summer.

"Those went really well," Windmiller said. "I talked to (Kansas offensive coordinator) Coach (Chuck) Long quite a bit at the KU camp. I thought that went really well, so KU is definitely up there, too."

He next takes the field Friday, as the Jags prepare to take on Basehor-Linwood (KS) High - also 5-0 - in a game that will decide the champion of the Kaw Valley League.

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