McPherson College football coach Paul Mierkiewicz never knew the late Blake Reed, but knowing his father Ronnie — who works with the Bulldogs’ program—he can only imagine how special he was.
Blake’s memory lives on this Saturday with the annual Mac-2-Mac Blake Reed Memorial Game against Southwestern College at McPherson Stadium. Blake was a student coach for the Bulldogs before passing away in 2010 after a lifelong battle with Muscular Dystrophy.
Game time is 7 p.m., and donations to the Blake Reed Memorial Scholarship Fund will be accepted at the gate. The game has raised more than $50,000 in the past and Mac senior Kavoderic McIntyre will be recognized at halftime as the recipient of this year’s scholarship named in Blake’s honor.
For those who can't make it out, catch all the action on 96.7 KBBE-FM with Matt Cole on the call. Pre-game is 6:45.
Mierkiewicz admits while none of his players were acquainted with Blake, the enormity of the game hasn’t been lost on them.
“I would have loved to have met Blake,” Mierkiewicz said. “I don’t think I need to have met him to know who he is and what he meant to our program. I know he looks over our program and our kids know that.”
The Bulldogs finished non-conference play 0-2 against a couple of quality teams, losing 34-29 to Nebraska Wesleyan and 27-13 to Dordt (Iowa) College. In both games the Bulldogs were in it in the fourth quarter, but mistakes led to some points being left on the field in both games.
“I feel it was a good preparation for the start of conference play,” Mierkiewicz said. “We saw two completely different styles of play. The biggest thing you’re trying to get to is the speed of the game. You never get to that in practice. There’s times we played really well and I think our guys have learned that when we’re all on the same page we can be pretty good and when we’re not, it becomes really difficult. Our kids played hard last week, we just have some things we need to get shored up.”
Southwestern is a bit of an enigma. It has been off since Sept. 1 when it lost 57-0 to Missouri State, an NCAA Sub-Division school. The talent differential of the levels makes it hard to evaluate the Moundbuilders, who like Mac are painfully young and picked near the bottom of the KCAC standings.
“I think we’re going to be a little more set for the tempo,” Mierkiewicz said, as his team is playing at a supersonic pace. “The game they played was over two weeks ago, so I think we’re going to be a little more in tune. My concern with them is that they had almost like another (preseason) camp to get ready.”
The Mac offense has improved by leaps and bounds over last season. Newcomer Ed Crouch has been outstanding at quarterback as he ranks in the Top 3 in the KCAC in passing and also is a run threat. Tyrone Campbell has been getting the tough yards and Mierkiewicz said he may stay more with the ground game this week after getting away from it in the second half last week. The offensive line has showed marked improvement, especially McPherson High graduate Jaelon Barnes, who Mierkiewicz said has been playing “outstanding” football.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have been led by McPherson High graduate Travis Steenson and Ashton Serpas, with Steenson leading the team in tackles with 26, while Serpas has 22. While the Bulldogs gave up a lot of yards last week, they toughened up in the red zone.
The defense will be facing a Southwestern offense that managed only 116 yards of total offense in its opener, but again you have to take the opponent into consideration as Southwestern stepped way up in competition.
• KCAC STANDINGS •
Saint Mary, 1-0 (2-1)
Kansas Wesleyan, 0-0 (2-0)
Sterling, 0-0 (1-0)
Southwestern, 0-0 (0-1)
Bethel, 0-0 (0-1)
Tabor, 0-0 (0-1)
McPherson College, 0-0 (0-2)
Ottawa, 0-0 (0-2)
Bethany, 0-0 (0-2)
Friends, 0-1 (0-2)