Jace Pavlovich knows his McPherson High football team has one of the toughest opening stretches of the season that any team can have.
The Bullpups began 2016 last week with a 26-13 loss to perennial Class 4A Division I powerhouse and arch-rival Buhler.
Now they’ll try to rebound here Friday against brand-new opponent Maize South, a Class 5A state titan last year and a 66-6 winner over Circle last Friday to begin its season with a bang.
Game time at McPherson Stadium is 7 p.m. Those who can’t attend can hear all the action on 96.7 KBBE-FM with Matt Cole on the play-by-play call. The pre-game starts at 6:45.
Maize South scored at will against a Circle team coming off an 0-9 season with a similar outlook this season.
So are the Mavericks that good or are the T-Birds that inferior?
“A little of both,” Pavlovich said. “Maize South is very good. They were a state semifinalist in 5A last year. I know they lost some key kids from last year’s team, but they got three more weeks of football than we did last year. Circle is not a bad team. They do some good things on both sides of the ball.”
The Mavericks will be like looking in a mirror.
“They are a spread offensive team,” Pavlovich said. “They run inside zone, outside zone, and counter trey. Basically, they run the same offense that we do. They motion their receivers to cause some confusion in the secondary. Our kids have done a good job in practice making necessary adjustments.”
The pinwheel is quarterback Ethan Richardson, who ran for four touchdowns last week and threw for an additional 100 yards as his night ended early after a 59-0 first half. As a team, the Mavericks pounded out 390 yards rushing.
The Mavs’ defense will be tested for the first time on Friday.
“Defensively they are a 4-3 team,” Pavlovich said. “Their formation adjustments are very similar to Buhler's. They keep seven guys in the box and dare you to throw the ball.”
The Bullpups were victims of the big play last week, giving up two touchdowns of 60 yards or more as well as a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown. However, the defense gave up less than 300 yards to a Buhler offense accustomed to 400- and 500-yard games.
“We played well defensively as a whole,” said Pavlovich, as two plays accounted for nearly half of the Crusaders’ yards. “I felt we controlled the line of scrimmage against them defensively for most of the night. That is hard to do against a team like Buhler, who prides themselves on getting movement upfront.”
It’s offensively where the Bullpups have to get it cranked up. The passing game showed promise as times last week as Casen Hoover hooked up with Jack Reifschneider for a pair of TD tosses, while Jeff Reed moved the stakes as a possession receiver. Thomas Diggs could get more involved from the tight end spot as his only catch last week went for 28 yards.
Pavlovich said a key is to get the running game untracked. Tyson Stites didn’t have much daylight as Buhler’s defense flew to the football and held him to 44 yards.
Pavlovich said the Bullpups are hardly disheartened and haven't dwelled on the loss as they have rolled up their sleeves and gone back to work.
“They are playing in practice with a chip on their shoulder,” Pavlovich said. “These kids want to get back into the win column. There is no better way to get over a tough loss than to get together on the practice field and get better.”
• AVCTL DIVISION III STANDINGS •
Augusta, 1-0 (1-0)
Buhler, 1-0 (1-0)
Maize South, 1-0 (1-0)
Andover Central 0-0 (0-1)
McPherson, 0-1, (0-1)
Winfield, 0-1 (0-1)
Circle, 0-1 (0-1)