Jace Pavlovich has heard the question before and he’ll hear it many more times before McPherson High’s football season opener Sept. 1 at Buhler.
“How’s the offensive line coming along?”
After his Bullpups topped off their week-long team camp by traveling to Fort Hays State, Pavlovich is more definitive now than he was at the beginning of the week.
“Our offensive line was a big question mark going into the season. I feel very good about where we are at now,” Pavlovich said. “All of our guys upfront were able to understand our schemes and perform them well. We have guys that stepped up to the plate from seniors such as Jori VanGoethem and Brandon Wilde to juniors such as Shane Starkel to sophomores (Kourtney Craig) that can all get it done.”
Pavlovich is having to replace his all-senior offensive line of Clayton Gerbrandt, Jared Ruth, Britton Bate, Dylan Baldwin and Raine Reitsma. He knows that his litany of talented backs and receivers will be only as good as the men blocking for them.
The week began with three days of camp here, including an impressive scrimmage against Class 6A power Garden City on Wednesday where the Bullpups more than held their own. Then at Hays, the Bullpups were able to get a lot of work in against a host of schools from Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado.
“Going into the camp we had a goal to be the most physical team at the camp all three days. I felt that we accomplished our goal,” Pavlovich said.
Replacing two-year starter Casen Hoover at quarterback is one of the other preseason priorities and Pavlovich came away feeling good about the position as Drew Labertew is the expected starter, though Kyler Hoppes impressed the coach as well and is making a strong push for snaps.
“Our quarterback position is more even than ever before,” Pavlovich said. “Both quarterbacks did some great things with the football. I feel great about either one at this time.”
Labertew is expected to be one of the top defensive backs in the state, not to mention MHS’ place-kicker. He, of course, hit the game-winning field goal in the playoff game against Andale in one of the most memorable finishes in Bullpup history.
The linchpin of the 2017 Bullpups, though, is expected to be the defense. The fly-to-the-football unit excelled against Garden City, not allowing the Buffs to ever break a home-run play. And MHS’ defenders performed well at Hays.
“Defensively we were solid. That group is going to be one of the best we have ever had,” said Pavlovich, who returns nearly his entire starting unit.
The only negative of the week was an injury to lineman Noah Avila, who suffered a kidney injury in the Garden City scrimmage. Pavlovich expects him to be ready in August when the team reports for preseason camp.