No football team has adopted the slogan “next man up” more than the McPherson High Bullpups.
In a year unlike any other, the 2-2 Bullpups have seen their full team that upset Salina South in the season opener slowly decimated by an endless number of injuries.
When MHS travels to El Dorado on Friday for the 7 p.m. AVCTL Division III matchup, it’ll be without several key players who were part of that season-opening victory that so energized Bullpup Nation.
The latest to go down last week was two-way senior standout Spenser Wine, who is scheduled to have shoulder surgery on Friday. His season has ended each of the last two years with the same injury, though Friday’s surgery is on his other shoulder.
“I feel so bad for Spenser,” MHS coach Jace Pavlovich said. “He’s had such a great year and been such a great leader. It’s a big loss to lose a kid like that. He had turned a lot of heads during the summer and during the season to this point.”
The Bullpups also are expected to be without two other vital cogs in their defense for the second week in a row, noseguard Karsten Hardeman (concussion) and linebacker Britton Bate (knee). The news on them, however, is more uplifting as they could be back next week at Winfield, if not then certainly for the district opener in Week 7 when MHS hosts Abilene.
Pavlovich can only shake his head and wonder why the football Gods are frowning on his team as the nice depth it enjoyed at the start of the year has been shredded as a lot of sophomores are now under the microscope.
“Those guys are getting a ton of experience,” said Pavlovich, who has had as many as seven sophomores on the field on the defensive side. “Honestly, they should be playing on Monday nights (in JV games) instead of Fridays. We’ve put them into the fire and they’ve done a great job, no doubt about it.”
Ready or not, the Bullpups will still field a starting 22 on Friday as they’ll go up against an El Dorado team that is 1-3, the only win coming against Rose Hill. The Wildcats were a 14-7 winner against the Rockets, the same team MHS defeated 33-14 last week.
El Dorado is coming off a 26-16 loss to Winfield. Wildcat coach Jason Nichols was quoted in The Butler County Times as saying, “This loss is really bothering me, we gave this one away.”
The Wildcats have an outstanding quarterback in Cade Morrow and a versatile player in Kody Melugin. Morrow has caught the attention of Pavlovich as he can get the ball down the field with some zip.
“They are a young team offensively with a lot of talent,” Pavlovich said. “Morrow is a fantastic quarterback, but unfortunately he’s been throwing off his back foot all year. If he gets some time to throw, he’s got some pretty good receivers he can get the ball to. He puts it up for grabs a lot because of the pass protection breaking down.”
Melugin, who had a good game against the Bullpups last year, scored last week on a 50-yard run as he has big-play capability.
The Wildcats certainly had to see an eyeful on film of the MHS defense, which if you take out two plays last week gave up minus-4 yards. For the game, MHS permitted just 117 yards on 43 plays, as the defensive front of Kaleb Jost, Luke Stucky and Wyatt Seidl set up camp in the Rose Hill backfield.
Pavlovich was thrilled by his team’s defense, but cautions that El Dorado is a screen team and figures to use the short passes to try and nullify the MHS pass rush. With Wine out, however, the MHS secondary will be on the green side as the corners will be sophomores Drew Labertew and Tyson Stites, while junior Jack Reifschneider joins senior Casey Cheek to round out the unit.
Pavlovich hopes the MHS offense can continue to click the way it did in the second half last week. Noah Jirgens put up 98 yards on 26 carries to just miss a fourth straight 100-yard game, but the revelation was sophomore Austen Hunt carrying 21 times for 77 yards, including 17 times for 80 yards in the second half, along with two scores. With Wine out, Jeff Reed steps in permanently as a receiver and he had a TD catch taken away last week due to penalty.