Hey Drew Labertew, no pressure kid.
After all, make a 27-yard field goal in the closing seconds and McPherson High advances to the second round of the playoffs. Miss it and all that happens is the season is over.
Labertew, with chilly ice water running through his veins, calmly made the field goal with 13 seconds left to cap a Bullpup comeback and a 21-20 victory over Andale, propelling them onward in the Class 4A Division I playoffs.
The Bullpups will be home again next Friday to take on Maize South, which wasted overmatched Ulysses. The teams met in Week 2 with the Mavericks slogging their way to a 14-6 victory, but that Bullpup team in no way compares to the one that now has won eight games in a row.
Labertew may have been the calmest guy on the field. After a perfect snap from Dylan Baldwin and hold by Casen Hoover, the kick was center-cut and had much yardage to spare.
“I felt good because I had made one earlier in the game and that gave me confidence,” said Labertew, whose 26-yarder with 8:25 left drew MHS within 20-18. “I said to myself that I could make this. I’ve made ‘em in practice before. Off the foot I knew it felt good.”
In fact, Labertew began jumping up and down before the ball had even cleared the bar because it was a no-doubter. He had not made a field goal prior to this game.
It was the kind of game that MHS has lost too often in its star-crossed playoff history. After the Bullpups led 15-8 at halftime, Andale scored twice in the third quarter, but did not convert after either of the scores for a 20-15 lead.
MHS began its game-winning drive from its own 28 with just 3:07 left. The key play was a 31-yard screen pass from Hoover to Jace Kinnamon, who thundered down the sideline and made a couple of tacklers miss. MHS got down to the Andale 4, but a personal foul pushed the ball back to the 19.
“At that point we were just playing for a field goal,” said Pavlovich, whose team’s kicking game had been nightmarish the first half of the season before Labertew came out of nowhere to become nearly 100 percent reliable. “He’s special. Drew is a gamer. We wanted to put it in the hands of Drew. We all trust him and we know he’s going to do some great things for us.”
Statistically, it appeared the Bullpups should have won by more. Their crushing running game produced 339 yards against an uber-quick Andale defense, with Hoover running for 161 on 20 carries and had runs of 9 and 34 yards for scores. Kinnamon, the runaway freight train, bulled his way to 141 yards on 27 punishing carries. MHS had 441 yards of offense and snapped it 73 times to 338 yards for Andale on 50 plays. The MHS offensive line of Britton Bate, Jared Ruth, Raine Reitsma, Cody Gerbrandt and Baldwin imposed its will and would not be denied. MHS grounded out 25 first downs to just 9 for Andale.
And the MHS defense, after being shaky early, rebounded nicely.
“First two drives they marched right down on us,” said Pavlovich, as Andale scored on its first possession of the game and then made it to the half-yard line before MHS came up with a terrific stand. “We kind of settled down and got our footing.”
Andale ended the year 8-2 and it was also the end of the Gary O’Hair era at Andale as he’s stepping down.
“It was kind of bittersweet,” Pavlovich said. “He’s a class act.”
• STATS •
• MHS Listed First •
First Downs — 25, 9. Rushes-Yards — 54-339; 37-188. Passing — 11-19-1-102; 6-13-0-150. Penalties-Yards — 10-83; 7-80. Fumbles-Lost — 2-1, 0-0. Punts-Avg. — 1-16.0, 4-36.0.
• LEADERS •
• Rushing •
MHS — Hoover 20-161, Kinnamon 27-141, Stites 6-32, Labertew 1-5.
Andale — Richter 10-75, Degenais 18-70, King 7-34, Cothan 1-9, Horsch 1-0.
• Passing •
MHS — Hoover 11-19-1-102.
Andale — Richter 6-12-0-150, Degaenais 0-1-0-0.
• Receiving •
MHS — Reed 4-16, Reifschneider 3-35, Kinnamon 2-31, Diggs 1-12, Seidl 1-8.
Andale — Spexarth 2-108, Dagenais 2-29, Stuever 2-13.