Week 5 of the high school football season, which played out last Friday, is what I always refer to as "the fulcrum game."
It’s the game that separates the first half of the schedule from the second half, as it’s on an island all its own.
It’s also the time I like to reflect on what’s transpired and what to look forward to.
Here’s a look at the seven teams we cover:
• McPherson High — The Bullpups’ 3-2 record is exactly what I thought it would be at this point, though the way they arrived at it was rather circuitous.
I had MHS starting 0-2, then winning the next three. But I didn’t have it upsetting Salina South or losing to Augusta.
Injuries have been the tag line of the season, with the most devastating being a season-ending shoulder injury to two-way standout Spenser Wine. MHS lost valuable players Klayton Goering and Jack Reifschneider for two games, but they have since returned, but in the meantime two more key defenders, Britton Bate and Karsten Hardeman, have been down for two games, though they could be back this week, the following week for sure.
It’s clear the Bullpups are no longer the high-wire, point-a-minute thrill act that amazed their fans for years with their ability to wear out the scoreboard. These are the steel-worker, gritty Bullpups, who rely on a time-consuming offense and punishing running game to keep the ball away from opponents, while the defense has been superb, if you throw out the first half against Andale.
Jace Pavlovich has done an excellent job in his first year dealing with all the hurts and readying the next man up. He’s got a very winnable game on Friday against Winfield, but district games against undefeated teams Abilene and Buhler will be major hurdles and the season finale is way out in Hays.
Grade — B+ (would have been A- with a win over Augusta).
In the area:
• Canton-Galva — Dustin Patee's Eagles cobbled together just enough healthy players — 8 — to go up against No. 1-ranked Central Plains last Friday. They are 1-4, but could have won two other games as they probably shouldn’t have lost to Central Christian and Wichita Word of Life. That being said, I find it stunning — given C-G’s proud history — there are so few of numbers, though help is on the way from the middle school ranks in the years to come. Hopefully they’ll have enough healthy bodies to finish out the season because no team wants to forfeit a game. As for the final four weeks, there’s not too many chances for another “W.”
Grade — C (but I love this team’s heart. It’s like playing on the sandlot in that you can’t ever take a play off.)
• Hesston — The Swathers, led by Clint Rider, are just what I thought they would be at 4-1. They lost to Halstead as I figured, but have dominated everyone else on their schedule. Zach Esau is this year’s Grant Raleigh and the defense has been strong. No complaints here.
The final four weeks will be much tougher, as Pratt, Council Grove and Southeast of Saline should all be formidable. Hillsboro will be little more than a walkover.
Grade — A-.
• Inman — Ed Ramsey's Teutons have been the area’s hard-luck team. They are 1-4, but could easily be 3-2. They came up a scintilla short against Hutchinson Trinity and played the first three teams on their schedule to less than 12 points. I was a bit perplexed by their 21-0 loss to Moundridge, not from the standpoint they lost given the enormity of the rivalry, but the score.
The rest of the schedule looks tough, 2-2 might be the best it can do.
Grade — C+.
• Little River — I feel like Little River coach Paul Dold was sandbagging me a little bit at the start of the year, kind of like my golf group that’s always playing the “woe-is-me” game.
The Redskins are 4-1, with four wins after a season-opening loss to Rural Vista. The schedule heats up this week with a home game against Central Plains, but games at Canton-Galva and Ellinwood follow, good chances for wins. The finale is against Solomon, which may be for a state playoff berth. It’s a young team (the starting lineup is practically brand new) and right now Dold is my Area Coach of the Year.
Grade — A-.
• Moundridge — I love the optimism of Moundridge first-year coach Matt Cole, who's never afraid to tell it like it is.
The Wildcats are 1-4, but that one win came against arch-rival Inman this past Friday. If you're a Wildcat coach, the one game they always tell you to win is that one.
Cole is trying to change the culture at Moundridge and certainly pumps his team up every chance he can. It has played four of its first five on the road, but now is home for three of its final four. There’s a better-than-good chance the Wildcats could follow up their 0-4 with a 4-0 heading into Week 9 and a tough matchup with Sedgwick.
Grade — C+
• Smoky Valley — Except for one game, it’s been a blowout or get blown out for the Vikings of first-year coach Tim Lambert as they have started 2-3.
I thought they might be 3-2, but the 6-0 loss to Sterling kept it from being over .500. The losses to Hesston and Halstead (a combined 9-1) were expected, as were wins over Haven and Hillsboro (a combined 1-9, with Haven’s win over Hillsboro).
A very tough road ahead. The Nickerson game in Week 7 used to be a cinch, but former Inman coach Mike Vernon has changed the culture there and the Panthers are playing everybody tough.
Grade — B-.