McPherson High’s playing-for-pride football game Friday night at Hays could come down to mind over matter.
For the first time in 10 years, the Bullpups won’t be in the state playoff picture as they lost their first two district games to now 8-0, state-ranked teams Abilene and Buhler. MHS led Abilene 17-7 before the Cowboys came back to win 26-17, then the Bullpups were deadlocked with Buhler midway through the third quarter 16-16 before a tremendous goal-line stand by the Crusaders flipped the momentum and eventually the game, 44-28.
Still, the Bullpups have plenty to play for in the 7 p.m. game, which by the way will be aired only on KBBE’s internet site (Midkansasonline.com) due to the station’s contract with the Kansas City Royals to carry their World Series games.
MHS, 4-4, needs a win to extend the current school record winning streak to 10 years, as the Bullpups turned things around upon Tom Young’s arrival and he had nine straight winning seasons before Jace Pavlovich was elevated from defensive coordinator to head coach.
“It’s hard to get kids motivated (when there’s no playoff berth on the line) and prepared to get a win, but our guys, especially our seniors, want to go out on a winning note," Pavlovich said. "5-4 is a heck of a lot better than 4-5. We’ve got to be one of the best 4-4 teams around. It’s been a good week of practice so far and we’ll be ready. It comes down to who really wants to get a win.”
The teams played a classic last year at McPherson Stadium as MHS backup quarterback Cody Starkel outdueled now-Kansas State quarterback Alex Delton in a wild 42-35 shootout. Starkel, who played defensive end and tight end, was pressed into duty when Kyler Kinnamon was injured at the end of the Buhler game and he responded with a magnificent performance in the playoff-clinching game.
Hays comes in 2-6, a record that flummoxes Pavlovich.
“They play 5As and 6As,” said Pavlovich, pointing out the Indians’ schedule will have prepared them well for this game. “They’re a hard team to figure out. They’ve got a lot of kids who played two years ago as sophomores when Hays was really good, and I think they have about eight kids who played a lot last year when they were 7-2. So they really do have some good players. They have some speed and some size up front. I’m really amazed they’re 2-6 at this point.”
The wins came against 5A Liberal (29-0) and 6A Wichita South (16-0), so at times their defense has excelled. But they have been hammered in their last three games, averaging only 8 points in losses to Dodge City (37-3), Buhler (46-14) and Abilene (38-7).
Pavlovich said since it’s the last game for his seniors, he wants to be them in a position to be successful. He’s hoping Noah Jirgens might be able to finally get a few carries as he’s been idling since Week 5. He did not play in Weeks 6 and 7 and had only one carry last week as his ankle just hasn’t healed properly. Another senior, Klayton Goering, had a really nice game running the ball last week against Buhler with 72 yards.
The MHS passing game also came alive last week with Casen Hoover throwing for all of his 314 yards in the second half. Most of it went to his fellow junior receivers Jeffrey Reed and Jack Reifschneider, both of whom caught more than 100 yards worth of passes.