Pavlovich says younger players stepped up in latest competition

By Steve Sell
June 22, 2016

McPherson High football coach Jace Pavlovich knew he would be without some of his front-line players last week at the Vype 7-on-7 Tournament hosted by Wichita Collegiate.

An MAYB Tournament as well as two baseball tournaments somewhat thinned Pavlovich’s ranks. But it also gave him a chance to see what some of his younger players could do and the experience could prove to be valuable for the upcoming season.

The second-year Bullpup coach came away pleased with his team’s performance. It went 2-2 in the scrimmages, beating Kapaun and the Sharp Performance All-Stars, who had won an earlier tournament in Manhattan. The losses were to Topeka High and Derby, Class 6A schools.

“I was pleased to see some of our guys step up and perform very well,” said Pavlovich, whose first Bullpup team turned in a 5-4 record for a 10th straight winning season at MHS. “Brock Malm and Sam Arbuckle got a chance and they did not disappoint. Both made some great catches in pivotal parts of each game. Jace Kinnamon moved over to play our H-receiver spot on Friday night and did a great job. Our go-to guys in Jeff Reed and Thomas Diggs both lived up to their reputation as big-play receivers. I felt that Casen Hoover was the best quarterback of all that we saw at the tournament. He is gaining confidence with each throw that he makes.”

The Bullpups didn’t have Jack Reifschneider and Britton Bate, injured at Pittsburg State. Reifschneider is in a cast for an ankle injury, but is expected back when the first practice begins in August. Bate also will be 100 percent by then. MHS didn’t escape from this tournament totally healthy, either, as Austen Hunt suffered an injured knee on a play where there was no contact. The severity of his injury hasn’t been determined and hopefully the news will be good because he should be one of the best backs in Class 4A Division I.

The MHS defense, which features a lot of speed, had some good moments and pleasant surprises.

“Ben Nikkel shined,” Pavlovich said. “We knew he was a competitor, but he was able to run with speedy receivers down the sideline and make some great breaks on the ball. Jayse Alexander, Kollin Goering and Luke Koehn all have great size and strength at the linebacker position, but they proved that they are athletic enough to break up short throws across the middle. Tyson Stites did a great job at corner opposite Ben as well.”   

The Bullpups aren’t done with their summer schedule. They head to Kansas City this weekend to play in a national qualifier at the Chiefs training facility. MHS has drawn Glendale High School of Springfield, Mo., Har Ber of Arkansas, Libery, Mo., and Mill Valley, which won the Class 5A championship this past season.

The season will be here before you know it. MHS opens on Sept. 2 with Buhler at McPherson Stadium and plays four of its first five at home before closing with three of the final four on the road. Wamego, Hays and Abilene make up what should be another tough district.