It’s now or never for McPherson High’s football team.
If the Bullpups are to extend their state playoff appearance streak to 10, they have to topple the state’s No. 2-ranked team to even have a chance.
MHS travels Friday to Buhler, which probably has been counting the months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds since last season when the Bullpups rode a Herculean effort by Kyler Kinnamon for a shocking 44-42 victory, which helped them win the district title.
Kickoff at Buhler’s renovated stadium is set for 7 p.m. The longtime bermuda grass field has been replaced by shiny, new artificial turf, which makes an already fast 7-0 Crusader team even that much faster.
The Bullpups, 4-3 overall, are behind the 8-ball after watching a 17-7 lead melt into a 26-17 loss to undefeated Abilene in the district opener last week. The likewise undefeated Crusaders had a brief struggle with Hays before decimating the Indians, 46-14.
Hays plays at Abilene in the other district game.
“We’ve put ourselves in this position. We had our chances to win last Friday and just didn’t quite get it done,” MHS coach Jace Pavlovich said. “Abilene is a very good team, no question. But we’d like to have that one back. The last play before the half we missed some tackles (on a 61-yard TD run by Harley Hazlett) and then the backbreaker was the kickoff return for a touchdown (by Trey Bender) to start the second half. Our kids really competed and fought like crazy to the end. The effort was there.”
Buhler is thought by many to be the chief challenger to defending Class 4A Division I champion Miege. The Crusaders dodged a potential hurdle early in the season by blanking defending 4A D-II champion Andale in their opener and have never looked back.
“Anytime you have the best athlete on the field (in Buhler’s case uber-talented quarterback Jace Williams) I feel like you’ve got the best chance to win,” Pavlovich said. “We’ve got to win all three phases and do a very good job on defense by eliminating big plays. They’ve got an incredible big-play threat in Williams and the kid that doesn’t get enough credit is (Dillon) Engellend. He’s a great tailback and they’ve got some very talented receivers. They’ve got a big offensive line. They’re the complete package.”
Pavlovich said he’s not sure who will be ready to play health-wise come Friday. The Bullpups were missing several key players last week, but hope to have some of them back. It probably won’t be until Friday until he knows for sure, but Casey Cheek and Luke Stucky could be back, while Noah Jirgens, who has missed the last two games, is still not 100 percent, though Austen Hunt has done a terrific job in his stead at running back.