MAIZE — It was 65 seconds to forget for McPherson High’s football team.
In that short span to close out the first half, the Bullpups were stuffed for a safety and then after the free kick, Maize South for the only time all night dented the vaunted MHS defense for a lickity-split 55-yard touchdown drive and 9-0 lead, scoring the TD on the last play of the half.
And that’s the way it stayed as the Mavericks emerged from the defensive slugfest of state-ranked powers Friday night.
MHS, after piling up 33 points against last year’s Class 4A Division I state runner-up Buhler, had two early chances to score, but came up empty. From there, Maize South’s defense was a wall as the Bullpups never seriously threatened again.
MHS thus emerged from its two-game road trip against Top 3 teams with a 1-1 record. While before the season that might have been acceptable, once the Bullpups toppled Buhler thoughts of a 9-0 regular season danced in their heads.
“Going into it, we knew they were going to be a really strong defense,” MHS coach Jace Pavlovich said of the Mavericks. “They return a lot of guys from last year. We moved the ball well, and then we shoot ourselves in the foot down by the goal line, whether it’s not executing our assignments or just dumb penalties. Bottom line is we just weren’t ready to play offensively. That’s my job and I didn’t do my job tonight and we got beat as a result.”
MHS opened the game storming down the field with a 12-play drive and had a second-and-goal from the 4, only to lose two yards on the next three plays.
On MHS’ second series after getting the ball on a Drew Labertew pick, it again moved into scoring position, but a Labertew 39-yard field goal attempt went wide.
From there it was all about defense.
Late in the first half, a 39-yard punt by the Mavs’ Andrew Bliss pinned MHS on its own 1. MHS quarterback Kyler Hoppes was sacked in the end zone on second down for a 2-0 South lead with 1:05 left.
“We just wanted to sneak it through and survive because they didn’t have any timeouts,” Pavlovich said. “If we could have simply got the ball out of the end zone, that’s the half. They pinched on us and we failed to get any movement up front, which was the case all night.”
The free kick gave the Mavs the ball on their own 45 with just 59 seconds remaining, but four straight completions against the vaunted MHS secondary, the last a 14-yarder on the last play of the half from Ryan Grabman to Corey Minks, stunned the Bullpups.
But other than some nice runs by Jace Kinnamon, the MHS offense spun its wheels in the second half, as did the Mavericks when they had the ball.
“Offensively we couldn’t throw the three-step game,” Pavlovich said. “We ran the ball fairly effectively with our outside zone, we should have come back to that a little bit more. We had some chances to make some plays and we didn’t tonight and we did the other night and that was the difference.”
Kinnamon did rush for 91 yards on 18 carries and MHS actually had more yards, but it’s points on the board that counts. Hoppes, who threw for 246 last week, could throw for just 54. South was hardly a world-beater on offense with just 177 total yards.
“Defensively, I told the guys you gave us a chance to win,” Pavlovich said. “They did a great job all night. They were on the field all night and put in some tough positions. Again, our defense is our strength. Offensively, we’ve got to find a way to get some things done.”
MHS will finally make its home debut on Friday when Winfield comes to town.