HAYS — If you went just by statistics, McPherson High should have steamrolled to an easy victory over Hays in its football season finale Friday night in rainy Hays America.
Instead, it took an Elway-esque drive directed by Casen Hoover to pull out a 31-24 victory in a wildly entertaining game that assured the Bullpups of a 10th straight winning season.
The Bullpups raced 67 yards in just over 2 minutes, capped by a 16-yard Hoover TD pass to big-play Jack Reifschneider to win it. The duo had hooked up for 15 yards on the previous play, after Hoover flipped an 11-yarder to Thomas Diggs and Klayton Goering had blasted up the middle for another 11.
Goering also had converted a 4th-and-1 earlier to keep the drive going.
The Bullpups, in Jace Pavlovich’s first year, finished 5-4 in a game that probably shouldn’t have been as close as it was.
MHS ran off an amazing 81 plays and piled up 404 yards while keeping the ball for nearly 33 minutes, while Hays struggled to 168 yards on 40 plays, just 25 yards rushing on 21 carries as the Bullpup defense stuffed almost every attempt.
The Bullpups jumped out to a 14-0 lead, going 52 yards on 13 plays on their first series, capped by a Taylor Kynaston 1-yard run, then held the ball 17 plays to cover 60 yards with Hoover throwing a 19-yard TD strike to Jeff Reed.
MHS allowed Hays back into it as the Indians scored twice in the second quarter to tie the game at 14-all as the Bullpups’ pass defense had some blown coverages leading to a pair of Hunter Brown TD strikes.
MHS went back ahead 17-14 in the third quarter on a 21-yard Tyson Stites field goal as the Bullpups had possessed the ball for 11 plays and 66 yards.
Hays went up 21-17 before the third quarter was over, but MHS came back to take a 24-21 lead with 5:45 left in the game when Goering sped to a 48-yard TD run. The defense, though, couldn’t protect the lead as a 36-yard Logan Clark field goal that made it by the width of a piece of paper knotted it.
That was the forerunner to MHS’ final drive. When the Bullpups scored and then closed out the game moments later, it was as if they had made the playoffs as a wild celebration ensued.
Goering, who had 37 yards on 11 carries in the first half, rumbled to 152 on 24 carries in the second half as he time and again put the team on his back to finish with 189 yards. Hoover finished 8 of 14 for 115 yards through the air.
In the battle for the district championship, Buhler defeated Abilene 21-7 in a surprisingly low-scoring game.
• STATISTICS •
• MHS Listed First •
First Downs — 23, 5. Rushes-Yards — 67-289; 21-25. Passing — 8-14-1-115; 9-19-0-143. Punts-Avg. — 3-18.0; 4-34.8. Fumbles-Lost — 4-0; 1-1. Penalties-Yards — 5-45, 2-15.
• INDIVIDUAL LEADERS •
• Rushing •
MHS — Goering 35-189, Hoover 12-35, Hunt 8-28, Jirgens 6-18, Kynaston 3-12, Reifschneider 2-6.
Hays — Brown 10-15, Dryden 5-11, Blackmon 5-9, Winter 1-(-8).
• Passing •
MHS — Hoover 8-14-1-115.
Hays — Brown 8-17-0-108, Winter 1-2-0-35.
• Receiving •
MHS — Reifschneider 3-43, Diggs 3-41, Reed 2-31.
Hays — Dryden 3-75, Blackmon 3-10, Berens 2-30, Haynes 1-28.