BUHLER — On a night McPherson High piled up a season-high 416 yards against the No. 2-ranked team in Class 4A Division I, it was the yard it couldn’t pick up that was the turning point in a 44-28 loss to arch-rival Buhler on Friday.
Trailing 23-16 midway through the third quarter, the Bullpups had the ball with a first-and-goal from the Buhler 2 and a tied game appeared imminent. After picking up a yard on first down, three times the Bullpups rammed into the stone-wall Crusader defense and three times they were denied.
Buhler then took the ball 99 yards in 11 plays to score and that essentially was the game, as the Bullpups’ streak of qualifying for the state playoffs ended at nine, though Buhler would probably admit MHS is certainly state-worthy.
“That (not scoring from the 1) hurt, that really did,” said MHS coach Jace Pavlovich, whose team needs to win next week at Hays to complete a 10th straight winning season as it’s now 4-4. “We had a chance to get to the perimeter on them on that fourth down and they made a great play. Their kids play incredibly tough. It would have been nice to get that in. It changes the whole outlook of the game.”
Still, Pavlovich said his team didn’t go down without a fight as the Crusaders weren’t able to steamroll it like they had so many other teams.
“We played to the final whistle,” Pavlovich said. “Again, I can’t say enough how proud I am of them.”
Down only 16-13 at the half, the Bullpups finally caught up at 16-all on a Tyson Stites field goal midway through the third quarter after a long drive ran out of steam. But it took All-State quarterback Jace Williams just one play to put the Crusaders back up 23-16 as he dashed 66 yards without being touched.
Williams’ 10-yard TD pass to Andre Tipton capped the 99-yard drive to make it 30-16, and then the teams swapped touchdowns the rest of the way.
MHS quarterback Casen Hoover had an amazing night as he came of age. After attempting just two passes in the first half with no completions, he scorched a suspect Buhler secondary for 16 of 31 in the second half for 314 yards. He threw touchdown passes of 31 and 52 yards to Jack Reifschneider, who earlier had returned a kickoff 91 yards for the Bullpups’ second touchdown. He had six catches for 118 yards and also made an interception that saved a touchdown.
“Buhler stacks the box, they stack the box on everybody and they have for years,” Pavlovich said. “You have to be able to throw against them and we were able to get that done tonight.”
It was a breakout night for receiver Jeff Reed, who snagged eight passes for 168 yards, one of those going for 71. Klayton Goering, who got the start at running back, pounded out 72 yards on 19 carries and scored the first Bullpup touchdown on an 18-yard run.
For the game, MHS totaled 416 yards.
But Buhler, which will be dangerous in the playoffs because it can simply outscore teams, had some even bigger numbers as it rolled to 434 yards on the ground, 201 by Dillon Engelland and two touchdowns, while Williams had 158 on 13 carries and two more scores. Even Jack Goertzen, who had only four carries, contributed 77 yards. Williams added 103 yards and two scores through the air to give Buhler 537 total.
• STATISTICS •
McPherson Listed First
First Downs — 18, 16. Rushes-Yards — 34-102; 43-434. Passing — 16-33-2-314; 5-9-1-103. Punts-Avg. — 3-28.7; 3-33.3. Fumbles-Lost — 0-0, 1-1. Penalties-Yards — 3-25, 5-49.
• INDIVIDUAL LEADERS •
• Rushing •
MHS — Goering 19-72, Hoover 11-21, Reifschneider 1-5, Hunt 1-4, Jirgens 1-0, Kynaston 1-0.
Buhler — Engelland 25-201, Williams 13-158, Goertzen 4-77.
• Passing •
MHS — Hoover 16-33-2-314.
Buhler — Williams 5-9-1-103.
• Receiving •
MHS — Reed 8-168, Reifschneider 6-119, Stites 1-21, Saverino 1-6.
Buhler — Tipton 2-33, Ridder 2-30, Hawkinson 1-40.