McPherson High came out on the wrong end of the blocked punt exchange here Friday night.
Buhler’s blocked punt against the Bullpups in the second quarter resulted in a Crusader touchdown, which pushed their lead at the time to 20-0.
In the third quarter, MHS’ Jayse Alexander blocked a Buhler punt, but all the Bullpups did with tremendous field position was spin their wheels for four plays and had to turn the ball back over on downs just when they had a chance to tie the game.
That offensive misfire seemed to take the air out of the Bullpups’ sails, as they didn’t threaten the rest of the way in a 26-13 loss to the Crusaders in the season opener played before a packed house at McPherson Stadium.
The Bullpups showed some grit by coming back, scoring just before the half to make it 20-7 and then on the first offensive series of the second half to get the crowd back in it at 20-13.
Alexander’s blocked punt came late in the third quarter and the Bullpups set up shop at the Buhler 36. But Buhler’s defense, which was the story of the game, sabotaged MHS’ hopes of coming back.
“Our effort physically was very good,” a disappointed MHS coach Jace Pavlovich said. “It was very good all night, especially defensively. You just can’t make mental mistakes against a good team and expect to win the game.”
The Bullpups fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter as Ethan White hooked up with Dalton Smyres for a 64-yard scoring pass and Dalton Brown used a nice cutback move to race 60 yards, with the scores coming just 1:47 apart.
The killer, though, was early in the second quarter when a snap for punter Casen Hoover sailed over his head and the ball bounced back to the MHS 10. Hoover tried to kick it off the ground and Buhler blocked it, returning the punt for a score.
MHS was late in getting a player on the field and Pavlovich said if he had to do again, he would have called timeout. “That puts a lot of pressure on the snapper having to get it off in time,” he said.
MHS did score just before the half on an 8-yard TD pass from Hoover to Jack Reifschneider and then the Bullpups started the second half with that duo hooking up again from 45 yards. The extra point was ruled no good, but MHS was back in it.
However, the rest of the game belonged to the Buhler defense. The Bullpups did not have a first down the rest of the way, they couldn’t run the ball and the Crusaders began to tee off on Hoover because they knew he had to throw to get MHS into it.
“They had a 160-pound defensive lineman that we couldn’t block,” Pavlovich said. “We had them at the point of attack, but that kid has a lot of heart and made a lot of plays for them. Their defense is fast and very physical as well. We’ve got to be able to run the ball better. Fifty-nine yards, whatever it was, that’s not going to cut it. They were leaving five guys in the box and if we can’t run against five guys in the box, then we’re in trouble. We’ll get back work tomorrow and our kids and hungry to get better.”
Tyson Stites rushed 17 times for 44 yards to lead MHS. Jeff Reed caught six passes for 40 yards and Reifschneider had five catches for 75 yards. Brown rushed 20 times for 114 yards for the Crusaders and Smyres had three catches for 102 yards.
MHS did hold Buhler to 267 yards as the game was far different that previous scoringfests between the teams.
MHS will stay at home on Friday to play Maize South, the first-ever meeting between the teams.