Another ranked team ahead for Bullpups

By Steve Sell
September 10, 2015
Kendall Shaw

OK, Jace Pavlovich, how do you top that?

Pavlovich and his McPherson High football team sent tremors cannonading throughout the state last Friday with a shocking 14-7 upset of then No. 3 (Class 5A) Salina South.

Some called it the biggest upset in Kansas on opening night, with Wichita Northwest’s stunner of defending Class 5A champion Carroll being 1A.

The Bullpups will no longer be a secret when they take to the road for the first time on Friday playing at defending Class 4A Division II state champion Andale.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

You can probably fry an egg on the helmets of the Andale players, who will come out breathing fire after losing 16-0 last week to Buhler, the first time the Crusaders had triumphed in the series in 25 years.

The Bullpups’ reveling in their victory has long passed, according to Pavlovich, as their focus has been on Andale since Saturday.

“This is a very good team again,” said Pavlovich, whose Bullpups may have the toughest two games of any team in the state to open the season. “It’s not like we’re playing somebody that we’re capable of beating if we play poorly. We’ve got to play perfect to win again. We’ve explained the importance to them of going 2-0 rather than 1-1. It sounds a heck of a lot better.”

The Bullpups were one red-zone fumble away from accomplishing about as perfect of a game as could be scripted for opening night. They were solid in all areas and played to their strengths.

Andale certainly has plenty of strengths, even if they were masked in its loss to Buhler.

“It’s not hard to keep these kids focused because they know Andale is a very, very good team,” Pavlovich said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of good luck against Andale the last couple of years. We’ve put a premium on practicing with a purpose, practicing with a chip on their shoulder.”

Andale’s offense could be a ticking timebomb. It managed just 170 yards last week, only 55 through the air. Basically what the Indians will do is line up and try to muscle the Bullpups around, though they no longer have All-World running back Hunter Knoblauch and the speedy Hank Eck. Their leading rusher last week, quarterback Taylor Richter, managed 60 yards, which was about a half’s worth for Knoblauch when he faced the Bullpups.

The Indians’ top player is mammoth tight end-defensive end Jeff Ast, who's 6-5, 267 pounds and a Division I recruit. He was the top pass catcher last week with four grabs.

The Andale defense certainly looked to be in state-championship form last week, holding the explosive Crusaders to just two touchdowns and a field goal. Jace Williams did go for 111 yards for Buhler, but passed for only 92.

“They’re not overly big, not as big as they have been, but they play so incredibly hard,” said Pavlovich, who said it’s important for the Bullpups to match their intensity. “I can’t stress enough how hard they play. They’re a typical Andale team, very blue collar. Defensively, they’re going to blitz like crazy, 90 percent of the time they were bringing somebody out of their 4-3 (alignment). It does cause some confusion, but this offensive line is the smartest offensive line we’ve ever had and they’re physical to boot.”

Pavlovich’s offense basically was ground and pound last week, with Noah Jirgens rumbling for 223 yards on a staggering 38 carries. Pavlovich had hoped to throw more, but the ground game was working so well that he stuck with it. There’s a chance MHS might double the six pass attempts of last week as Pavlovich said there were some routes that were open had first-time starting quarterback Casen Hoover elected to take a chance downfield.

Defensively, Spenser Wine came up with an interception and fumble recovery, while Jack Reifschneider led the team in tackles.

The two key missing players from last week, Ty Goss and Drew Labertew, can best be described as questionable. Goss has had a severe stomach virus and Labertew a sore hip. When they eventually return, that will only help the Bullpups’ depth.

Pavlovich said the plan is much the same as last week — limit mistakes, create turnovers and control the clock. Getting off to another great start is paramount, as few teams feed off their crowd like Andale.