Jace Pavlovich insists his McPherson High football team did not overlook Augusta last year when the Orioles came into McPherson Stadium and upset the Bullpups.
It was considered an upset at the time as it came early in the season as the Bullpups already had knocked off Class 5A power Salina South and Augusta was a somewhat unknown quantity. But the Orioles went on to finish 7-3 as they used their victory over the Bullpups as a springboard for their renaissance.
Now, some might think the shoe is on the other foot. Augusta has winged away to a 3-0 start while on paper it appears the Bullpups are scuffling at 1-2, though it should be noted the losses were to Top 5-ranked teams.
By a quirk of the schedule, the teams play again at McPherson Stadium this Friday in a game the Bullpups desperately need to start gaining steam for district play. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
For those who can’t make it, dial up 96.7 KBBE-FM on your radio for all the action with Voice of the Bullpups Matt Cole, with pre-game at 6:45.
“We did not overlook them last year,” said Pavlovich, whose team broke into the victory column for the first time last week by thumping Winfield, 46-0. “They reminded us two years ago of an up-and-coming McPherson team from 2006 and 2007. We knew they were a program on the rise. These first four weeks have been a gauntlet of ranked teams. We have enjoyed the challenge. This is a big game. We need to get a win versus a ranked opponent to get us over the top.”
Augusta hasn’t played the caliber of opponents as MHS. The Orioles’ wins are over Winfield, Clearwater and Circle, with the Winfield score being 32-0.
“Augusta is every bit as good as what they were last year,” Pavlovich said. “They are incredibly good on defense. Their offense has two very good lineman, a great tailback and a playmaker at QB. The (Chance) Whitehead kid is explosive and he takes care of the ball when its in his hands. That's a dangerous combination.”
The Orioles have one of the top running backs in Division III in the slashing Luke Dockers, who ran for 188 yards and three scores against Clearwater. Jonny Clausing, 6-7 and 230 pounds, is an imposing defensive end.
But the best player of the bunch is linebacker Dallin Marlnee, a 6-4 and 215-pounder who reportedly has been offered by Wyoming.
Pavlovich believes the Bullpups turned the corner last week and are playing more to their potential.
“We were much improved on both sides of the ball,” he said. “Our defense has been good all year and they are getting better. Offensively we were relaxed and that helped us execute. We need to be able to do that this week against a tough Augusta defense.”
The MHS defense gave up just 105 total yards last week and forced its first two turnovers of the year, which resulted in 14 first-quarter points. Friday’s game, in fact, could come down to which team better takes care of the pig.
MHS will be without two-way standout Dylan Baldwin, who suffered a knee injury on his final scheduled play last week. There is good news, though, on Raine Reitsma, who it was thought might miss the game with an injury, but is back at practice.
• AVCLT D-III STANDINGS •
Augusta, 2-0 (3-0)
Maize South, 2-0 (3-0)
Buhler, 2-0 (2-1)
McPherson, 1-2 (1-2)
Circle, 1-2 (1-2)
Andover Central, 0-1 (0-3)
Winfield, 0-3 (0-3)
• Last Week’s Scores •
McPherson 46, Winfield 0
Augusta 33, Circle 8
Abilene 25, Andover Central 7
Maize South 59, KC Washington 6
Wichita Collegiate 45, Buhler 21