Now they’re for real.
McPherson High’s “second season” begins on Friday when undefeated Abilene invades McPherson Stadium for the opening week of district football play.
Kickoff for Senior Night is 7 p.m.
It’s “CHS Half-Price Night” as everyone who enters the gate pays half-price thanks to the generous sponsor. Also, the first 1,000 fans who enter the stadium receive a free pair of touch screen gloves, courtesy of CHS — which also is picking up the tab for the cost of game officials.
Once again the Cowboys are 6-0 entering the district and basically unchallenged. They have won every game by at least 21 points, though their schedule pales in comparison to the Bullpups' in terms of difficulty.
"Both teams' backs are against the wall and both teams have a lot to prove," said MHS coach Jace Pavlovich, as the consensus is that Buhler is the district team to beat and the second playoff spot could be determined by the outcome of this game, though last year MHS was the No. 4 seed and won the district.
Last year’s game between the teams was a departure from the normally wild-scoring affairs as MHS came away with a 17-6 win. In 2013, the Bullpups outscored the Cowboys on a night the defenses must have been excused, 58-46.
"I don't know what to expect (score-wise), your guess is as good as mine," Pavlovich said. "They are very well coached, especially on defense, and they have good-sized kids in their linebacking corps that can run, though I think their secondary is the key. They have some great athletes back there. They do a lot of things to try and cause confusion. They run nine guys in, so they're fresh. Offensively, they're as dynamic as anyone we've seen."
This Cowboy team may be the most equipped to make a run at a playoff berth since joining MHS' district. It features a star quarterback in Harley Hazlett, who can put a team on his back. Last year the Bullpups held him to 197 yards of total offense, far less than he has averaged this year.
"He's good, he's incredible," Pavlovich said. "I think he's just as athletic as (Buhler's) Jace Williams. He makes a lot of good things happen in their offense."
The Cowboys, though, are more than just Hazlett chucking it and running it. Trey Bender augments the aerial circus with some ground and pound.
"The Bender kid is a phenomenal athlete," Pavlovich said. "When they get him out in space he's very dangerous. We've got to do a really good job on the edges keeping those guys between the tackles."
The Bullpups, who have won three straight to move to 4-2 overall, are coming off their most complete game of the season, a 61-0 demolition of Winfield. MHS scored 20 points in the first 2 1/2 minutes without the offense having stepped foot on the field. Tyson Stites started the game in rousing fashion with a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, then Wyatt Seidl and Britton Bate returned fumbles for touchdowns 30 seconds apart.
The offense then did its part, even without standout running back Noah Jirgens, who was able to rest a sore ankle, while Austen Hunt, Andrew Powell and Klayton Goering filled in admirably. Jirgens is still hobbled and Pavlovich said a couple of more injuries popped up this week, but he wasn't sure about those players' availability and he didn't want to speculate whether or not they'd play.