Jace Pavlovich doesn’t have to worry about his McPherson High football team’s intensity if this morning’s controlled scrimmage at McPherson Stadium with Class 6A powerhouse Garden City is any indication.
The Bullpups stood toe-to-toe with the much-bigger and extremely physical Golden Buffaloes during a 90-minute scrimmage conducted under the guidance of McPherson College head football coach Paul Mierkiewicz and his staff.
“Our competitiveness really caught my eye,” said Pavlovich, entering his third year and coming off an 8-3 season that ended with a loss to Maize South in the second round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs. “It’s not a surprise. We know our kids are very competitive and they’re not going to back down from a 6A or 3A or whoever it is. I was pleased our physicalness across the board.”
MHS certainly didn’t pick on one of the 6A lesser lights. The Buffaloes were 9-1 last year, losing to Lawrence Free State in the postseason. They were much bigger in the offensive and defensive lines, but the Bullpups countered with quickness.
The scrimmage was broken up into three sessions. MHS’ first offensive session produced most of its big plays, including a touchdown pass from Kyler Hoppes to Talyn Huff and a couple of nice runs by Jace Kinnamon, Honestee Whittker and Austen Hunt, who is coming off knee surgery that cost him his junior year after he was MHS’ second-leading rusher as a sophomore.
Drew Labertew also threw the short ball well, with Huff and Gabe Hoover making some nice catches.
The Buffs, led by All-Stater Demarcus Murray — a massive defensive lineman who was a headache for the MHS line — tightened up considerably in the second session, but the Bullpups ended the scrimmage on a high note with a TD pass from Labertew to Huff to close out the third session.
“The second and third session their defensive line was bringing a lot of pressure,” said Pavlovich, who said his team hasn’t had time to work against that since it’s had only two practices. “They were bringing five and six guys. We need to be prepared for that. It was great for us to see. That 3-tech (Murray) is a Division I talent with incredible size.”
The MHS defense, expected to be the team’s strength, never allowed the home-run play and picked off several passes, including Jayse Alexander on the very first play Garden City snapped.
“It’s no secret we’re really excited about our defense,” said Pavlovich, who had some nice rushes from Wyatt Seidl and Michael Mendez.
MHS loads up the bus early Thursday morning and heads out for the Fort Hays State camp, where the Bullpups will see a lot of big-time schools. Bishop Carroll is the headline performer from Kansas, while there’s top teams from Colorado and Oklahoma also coming.
This takes the place of the annual Pittsburg State camp. One reason the Bullpups have switched is that Fort Hays State actively has recruited many MHS players in the past.
“I want our kids to get some exposure because we have some kids who can play college football,” Pavlovich said.
Rose Hill, Mulvane and Hays are among the schools that will be there that are closer to MHS’ size.