McPherson High never saw it coming.
With the Bullpups ahead of Maize South 20-14 midway through the third quarter here Friday in the second round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs and coming off a big defensive stop, MHS was anxious to get the ball back in an attempt to pad its lead.
But Mavericks coach Brent Pfeifer gambled by calling for a fake punt, which was converted and that set the wheels in motion for 21 uninterrupted points as Maize South advanced to the state semifinals with a 35-27 victory, ending MHS’ eight-game winning streak and season at 8-3.
“It was a pretty gutsy call,” MHS coach Jace Pavlovich said of Jordan Maxson’s 9-yard pass to Sam Kissane. “We were in a safe punt situation and they executed it well. That was a tough break for us.”
The Mavericks thus kept that drive alive and finally scored on the 16th play as Ethan Richardson powered in with 10:31 left in the game to tie it at 20-all. Jim Sheehan’s PAT put the Mavs up 21-20 and they would never relinquish the lead.
MHS’ next two possessions resulted in interceptions, one leading to a 36-yard TD run by Andrew Bliss and the other was a Pick 6 by Max Domnick that made it 35-20.
The Bullpups gave their fans a couple of final thrills. With 1:40 to go, Casen Hoover hooked up with Jack Reifschneider for an 87-yard bomb that pulled the Bullpups within 35-27. And MHS almost recovered the onside kick, but the Mavs exhaled after recovering the ball and then ran out the clock.
“They did some good things mixing of coverages and looks to confuse us,” Pavlovich said of the South defense. “Our ineffectiveness to run the ball a little bit and the fact they took the air out of the ball, we had only three offensive snaps in the third quarter. That really took its toll on us.”
The Bullpups had led 20-14 at the half on three Hoover TD passes of 1 yard to Reifschneider, 6 yards to Thomas Diggs and 22 yards to Jeff Reed. MHS also ran the ball well in the half with 88 yards, but had just 10 rushes for 15 yards after the break as the big South defensive line just wouldn’t crack.
Hoover was 12 of 14 in the first half and 6 of 10 in the second half and totaled 244 yards and four scores. He also ran the ball well despite being hurt in the first half as he led the Bullpups with 45 yards on 13 carries. Reifschneider had eight catches for 171 yards, but seven of those grabs came in the first half.
The loss ended a monumental season for MHS, which graduates 15 seniors. Five of those made up the starting offensive line that developed tremendously and will be the one area that will have to come along for MHS to get this far or go further next year.
“They’re very talented, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg with this group,” Pavlovich said of his team. “They love to play with each other, they love to play hard, they love to practice, they just love to get better.. the kids never give up, they were raised the right way that’s for sure. I’m just proud of them for never giving up and proud of them for what they achieved.”
Maize South moves on next week to play Buhler, which got past Mulvane 24-14. Miege and Basehor-Lindwood meet in the other semi.
• STATS •
• MHS Listed First •
First Downs — 14, 12. Rushes-Yards — 31-103; 38-125. Passing — 18-24-3-244; 15-17-1-130. Punts-Avg. — 3-37.7; 3-35.7. Fumbles-Lost — 1-0; 0-0. Penalties-Yards — 5-65; 6-45.
• LEADERS •
• Rushing •
MHS — C. Hoover 13-45, Kinnamon 14-42, Stites 3-8, Labertew 1-8.
Maize South — Bliss 8-66, Parke 9-64, Richardson 16-9, Minks 2-3.
• Passing •
MHS — C. Hoover 18-24-3-244.
Maize South — Richardson 14-16-1-121, Maxson 1-1-0-9.
• Receiving •
MHS — Reifschneider 8-171, Reed 3-32, Diggs 3-24, G. Hoover 2-16, Kinnamon 1-1, Stites 1-0.
Maize South — Wiens 6-57, Seiler 3-30, Bliss 2-11, Minks 2-16, Davis 1-17, Kissane 1-9.