Talking MHS football, Chiefs and Cueto

By Steve Sell
September 14, 2015

Monday’s musings...

• BACK TO REALITY — McPherson High’s football team landed back on earth with a thud on Friday.

The Bullpups, riding an emotional high after Week 1’s stunning 14-7 upset of Salina South, were dominated in about every phase of the game by Andale, resulting in a 29-8 loss.

To be honest, though, if you had told MHS coach Jace Pavlovich before the season that his team would be 1-1 after two weeks, he’d probably said, ‘thank your very much,” and moved on.

I was as surprised by the win over Salina South as I was how the Bullpups were dominated by Andale, which was replacing a monster senior class. After the opening week, I really thought they would go toe-to-toe with the Indians, who have had MHS’ number the last couple of years.

Andale clearly won the battle at the line of scrimmage. The MHS offense is designed more to run the football than pass block and quarterback Casen Hoover very seldom had time to set his feet and throw. It was all rollouts and three-step drops.

Andale zeroed in on MHS running back Noah Jirgens, holding him to 31 first-half yards. But Jirgens kept on pounding and finally some holes opened up, as he piled up 106 second-half yards to finish with 137.

As for the MHS defense, I didn’t feel like it played that poorly and the final numbers — 375 yards — were somewhat skewed. It was victimized by two long runs and a halfback pass for a touchdown, which has been a staple in Gary O’Haire’s playbook. There were many times the MHS defense held Andale to a couple of yards or less and for the most part defended the pass well. In two games, the supposedly inexperienced MHS secondary has given up just 100 total yards.

The defense was hampered by the loss of Jack Reifschneider, who played only the first series before back spasms overtook him. He’s a fearless competitor and has a nose for the ball, leading the team in tackles against Salina South.

A positive, there were instances where the Bullpups had four or five sophomores on the field on defense. That experience can only help down the line.

MHS has no bargain Friday when Augusta comes to town. The Orioles are off to a rollicking 2-0 start and dropped the hammer on El Dorado Sunday. I honestly believe, though, if MHS can handle Augusta, it could set sail on a streak that should have it 5-1 heading into district play.

• GOOD START FOR CHIEFS — I know the NFL season is in its infant stages, but to me had the Kansas City Chiefs lost their opener to Houston on Sunday, I think the playoffs would have been out of the picture.

Kansas City used an overwhelming first half and underwhelming second half to fend off the Houston Texans 27-20, but the score doesn’t reflect the Chiefs’ dominance. They went conservative in the second half in an attempt to massage a 27-9 halftime lead and lost some of their edge.

The Chiefs’ next three games are Thursday at home against Denver (a team they almost never beat), then on the road the following two Sundays at Green Bay (probably a certain loss) and Cincinnati (a great home team, but lousy on the road).

I’m going to hold to the belief that the Chiefs have to be no worse than 2-2 at the quarterpole to make the playoffs. I had Houston making the playoffs in my predictions, but the Texans’ quarterback play appears to be a detriment. Brian Hoyer is not the answer and Ryan Mallett has very little experience. Playing in a weak division will help Houston, but it’s going to have to make a big improvement to approach the 10 wins I thought it would have.

• IT’S PANIC TIME — It’s official. Kansas City Royals fans can now panic about Johnny Cueto.

Sunday made it five straight starts that the opponent has treated Cueto like a pinata. The MO is always the same — he can’t get out of the first inning without a crooked number and his pitches are right down the middle with little movement, which for major league hitters is like putting the ball on a tee.

I championed for the Royals to deal for Cueto and he was a world-beater for them in his first four starts with a 1.80 ERA. “Cuetomanaia” gripped Kauffman Stadium at the outset, but something has gone terribly wrong, as he’s now a dread-locked version of Jeremy Guthrie and Cueto jerseys are probably going to overload eBay if this keeps up.

The Royals have 20 games left, which means at least four starts for Cueto, unless they skip him a start. Kansas City has a 10-game lead, which should be more than plenty to hold off the surging Twins, but manager Ned Yost wants to set his rotation for the playoffs. He was counting on Cueto as his No. 1 guy, but at this point, none of the Royals starters deserve the acclimation. Yordano Ventura has gone 7-1 in his last eight decisions, but he’s not going very deep and his last few starts he’s been giving up a lot of runs after having had a good stretch where he was under 2.00.

Even steady Eddie Volquez hasn’t exactly been electric. You can forget Danny Duffy and his enormous pitch counts, not to mention mentally you never know where he’s at. Kris Medlen is still trying to work his way back to his past form, but I’d probably trust him more at this point than Duffy or even Cueto, especially if it’s more of the same in his final starts.

For a team with the best record in the American League, there sure are a lot of concerns. Hopefully the Royals can go about 13-7 in these final 20 game to establish some momentum heading into the postseason. Nobody knows better than the Royals that you need to be hot heading into the playoffs, as they snuck in as a wild-card last year and then came within one run in Game 7 of the World Series.