McPherson High ran out of bodies and ran out of time.
The Bullpups’ injury-decimated defense did its best to fend off vastly improved Augusta late in Friday’s evenly matched game, but Zach Barclay’s 9-yard TD run with 61 seconds remaining broke a 13-all tie and gave the Orioles the 19-13 triumph to keep their magical season going.
Augusta, which had won six games in five years before breaking through last season with a 5-5 record, is now 3-0 on the season and the way it played against the Bullpups, only Buhler stands between it and a perfect regular season as its schedule consists mostly of teams with losing records after next week’s game with the undefeated Crusaders.
The Bullpups had a terrific chance to tie and even win the game in the closing seconds, burrowing from its own 34 to the Augusta 18 in just over 30 seconds, but Casen Hoover was stopped short on a 4th-and-1 and the Orioles had their biggest win in recent memory.
“We need to clean up our mental mistakes,” said MHS coach Jace Pavlovich, whose team’s season-opening victory over state-ranked Salina South now seems like a distant memory. “There’s no question when we put ourselves behind the chains offensively like that, with pre-snap penalties, those things just can not happen to us. We don’t have a big-play threat right now. We’ve got to grind out first downs any way we possibly can. When we get pre-snap penalties like that, it really puts us in a bind.”
The Bullpups, already missing top tacklers Jack Reifschneider and Klayton Goering as they missed the game with injuries, lost their third top tackler in Britton Bate to a knee injury in the first half. By the time the game was at its most tense moments, the Bullpups’ defense resembled the Kiddie Korps.
“It’s not an excuse at all because we’ve got some very good young players, but we’ve got seven sophomores on defense right now and they’re doing a fantastic job,” Pavlovich said. “(The) Kids played pretty hard tonight. Physically this team always plays hard, but we lose mental focus.”
The Bullpups converted a Jayse Alexander fumble recovery into a Taylor Kynaston 1-yard run touchdown in the first quarter, but Augusta retaliated as a Hoover fumble was turned into a Barclay 10-yard TD pass to Luke Dockers in the second quarter, but with a missed PAT, MHS was up 7-6.
Just before the half, the Bullpups steamrolled 82 yards in just seven plays, capped by a Hoover 20-yard TD pass to Spenser Wine, who had four catches on the march. The extra point was missed, but MHS was up 13-6 at the break.
But Barclay was the game’s star performer. He ran 34 yards in the third quarter to tie the game at 13-all and then, of course, directed the game-winning drive that he capped with his second score. MHS was hit with a couple of crucial penalties and Barclay also came up with a fourth-down scramble to keep the drive alive.
The game was just as even statistically. Augusta totaled 309 yards to 297 for the Bullpups, who again relied greatly on Noah Jirgens, who did yeoman work with 145 yards on 33 carries. MHS, though, had only 27 other yards rushing, while Wine had six catches for 60 yards, which was nearly half of the Bullpups’ receiving yardage.
Barclay finished with 89 yards rushing and threw for another 126.
The Bullpups, now 1-2, must try to get healthy as they stay home next Friday to take on Rose Hill, which lost 14-7 Friday to El Dorado.
• STATISTICS •
MHS Listed First
First Downs — 15, 13. Rushes-Yards — 51-172; 42-183. Passing — 12-25-1-125; 7-22-0-126. Penalties-Yards — 7-45; 7-70. Fumbles-Lost 1-1; 3-1. Punts-Avg. — 6-30.3; 7-34.4.
• INDIVIDUAL LEADERS •
MHS — Jirgens 33-145, Hoover 11-15, Kynaston 5-10, Cheek 1-3, Stites 1-(-1).
Augusta — Barclay 15-89, Dockers 5-33, Whitehead 9-26, Hilt 10-14, Bruce 1-11, Jackson 2-10.
MHS — Hoover 12-25-1-125.
Augusta — Barclay 7-22-0-126.
MHS — Wine 6-60, Cheek 4-43, Saverino 1-13, Stucky 1-0.
Augusta — Howerton 3-61, Reynolds 2-14, Weakley 1-41, Dockers 1-10.