Recruiting local a plus for Bulldogs

By Steve Sell
February 13, 2018

Nobody was a bigger fan of McPherson High’s football playoff run than McPherson College head coach Paul Mierkiewicz. 

I’ll never forget seeing Mierkiewicz’s reaction when the Bullpups pulled off their “Jade” play in overtime to beat Buhler in the first round of the playoffs. You would have thought he called the play—he was that excited for the Bullpups and his good friend, MHS head coach Jace Pavolvich.

Mierkiewicz, who had a highly successful tenure at Hastings College in Nebraska, is about to embark on his fourth season as Mac head coach. While the progress has been somewhat slower than he would like, the team has improved in each season.

He basically started the program from scratch in his first year. He was hired late and most of the team from the year before departed. He couldn't even conduct a spring football game because he didn't have enough players.

With half the starters being freshmen his first year, the Bulldogs understandably were winless. They basically were playing a JV team against other varsity teams. In most games at least 11 freshmen started.

The Bulldogs won one game his second year, but were in every game. This past season, they were 3-7, again losing some close games that cost them a .500 season.

Mierkiewicz's philosophy has been to bring in a lot of freshmen and then sprinkle in junior college players that fit the program. He could have gone the quick-fix route and loaded up with jucos, but it's always been his goal to have 20 seniors or more on Senior Day.

His other philosophy has been to recruit Kansas hard. He has made inroads in the Sunflower State, helped by the fact the junior colleges now have no limit on out-of-state players and those who normally would have gone the JC route are looking more and more at Kansas schools, particularly the KCAC.

Mierkiewicz helped out with the McPherson High program when asked and it's starting to pay dividends with the signings Monday of All-League selections Kollin Goering and Ben Nikkel.

"Coach Mierkiewicz is getting two tremendous players next year," Palvovich said. "We have had a great relationship between our high school program and his college program. I believe that coach Merk is going to get that program at the top of the KCAC. I trust that our guys are going to have a positive experience with college football in his program.  I cannot wait to watch those guys on Saturdays in the future."

Goering and Nikkel are the first two Bullpups to play for Mac since Jaelon Barnes, who started his career at Highland Juco and then transferred to play for the Bulldogs, earning All-KCAC honors his senior year.

"This is the first time in at least five years we've signed guys from here out of high school," Mierkiewicz said. "It's really great. When you have stability, you have the ability to build relationships and when you build relationships you have trust between the community and the coaching staff at the college."

For McPherson College, getting local talent to stay home is an image-maker. And Mierkiewicz was quick to point out he didn't sign Goering and Nikkel just because they're Bullpups, they're players who can help the program in a big way.

"To me if you can't take care of players in your own backyard, it's going to be hard to go get other players," he said. "They (Goering and Nikkel) are very good players and that's a credit to Pav and his coaching staff. They obviously know how to play the game. They're very grounded guys."

Mierkiewicz said he tried to recruit four other Bullpups who have decided to go to a higher level and was impressed with how up front and honest they were about their intentions. "The door is always open," he said if for whatever reason it doesn't work out at those other schools. "They've always got a home here."