ABILENE — It was a night where both McPherson High and Abilene walked off the football field accomplishing their goal.
For the Bullpups, their convincing 28-7 victory on Friday gave them the district championship and a home playoff game next Friday against state-ranked Andale in a matchup of two of the better teams in Class 4A Division I. After losing their first two games of the season, the Bullpups have reeled off seven wins in a row.
For the Cowboys losing never felt so good, thanks to Wamego. The Red Raiders defeated Hays 30-13, leaving Abilene, Hays and Wamego all at 1-2, but Abilene moves on to play Buhler on Friday because of the point differentials. The Cowboys are also 7-2, but enter the postseason with a two-game losing streak.
"I felt great about tonight's game," MHS coach Jace Palvovich said. "The kids played hard. The second quarter, we struggled a little bit. Struggled to run the ball on the perimeter, inside runs between the tackles. Struggled a bit throwing in the second quarter."
But much like last week, the Bullpups came alive in the second half as they broke a 7-7 tie with 21 unanswered points.
"These guys are tough, they're resilient," Pavlovich said as Casen Hoover threw three touchdown passes after halftime after going just 1 of 3 for 2 yards in the first half.
Hoover threw a pair of TD passes to Jack Reifschneider and was 9 of 9 in the second half. His other scoring toss was to Wyatt Seidl.
Early on, Tyson Stites was the ground game. He had 11 early carries for 52 yards, but left with a back injury.
Enter Jace Kinnamon.
The burly sophomore ripped off a 25-yard TD run for MHS' first score on his first carry after replacing Stites. He went on to finish with 123 yards on 17 sledgehammer carries, becoming the fourth different Bullpup back to go over 100 yards in a game this season.
"What a tremendous effort by Jace tonight," Pavlovich said. "Yards after contact I believe was probably best we've had all year. Jace had the hot hand and we stayed with it."
The Cowboys could do next to nothing on the ground, running it 24 times for just 18 yards. But Ryan Wilson was by far the best passer MHS has faced this year as he returned from sitting out last week to complete 13 of 31 for 209 yards, exposing the middle of the field for some big plays. He hit Parker Base out of the backfield on a 65-yard seam pass, the second time Abilene has scored on that play in as many years, but it would be its only points.
"I was really impressed with their pass protection," Pavlovich said. "We've got some guys who can run and hit up front, but we didn't get much pressure on him all night."
MHS did come up with a pair of picks, one by Drew Labertew and the other by Jayse Alexander.
MHS will have its hands full with Andale, which generally is one of the state's fastest teams. It lost to Buhler in Week 7 and took second in that district.
• STATS •
• MHS Listed First •
First Downs — 15, 9. Rushes-Yards — 37-223, 24-18. Passing — 10-12-0-87; 13-31-2-209. Punts-Avg. 5-39.4; 5-38.4 Fumbles-Lost — 0-0; 1-0. Penalties-Yards — 8-65, 2-35.
• LEADERS •
• Rushing •
MHS — Kinnamon 17-123, Stites 11-52, C. Hoover 7-29, Reifschneider 2-19.
Abilene — O'Neal 6-20, Campbell 5-2, Anguiano 1-0, BAse 4-0, Wilson 8-(-4).
• Passing •
MHS — C. Hoover 10-12-0-87.
Abilene — Wilson 13-30-2-209, Wildey 0-1-0-0.
• Receiving •
MHS — Reifschneider 6-70, Reed 2-12, Seidl 1-10, G. Hoover 1-(-5).
Abilene — M. Anguiano 6-45, Wildey 3-71, Base 1-66, Sprouse 1-16, Veach 1-8, Hoerner 1-3.