65 seconds aside, Friday's game a slugfest

By Steve Sell
September 11, 2017

McPherson High’s football team couldn’t quite complete its avenge tour this past Friday.

After avenging last year’s loss to Buhler in Week 1 with a 33-21 victory on the Crusaders’ home turf, MHS was hoping to retaliate against Maize South for the two losses the Mavericks inflicted on it last year.

Those 2016 games were polar opposites, a low-scoring slugfest in Week 2, then a high-scoring track meet in Week 2 of the postseason.

Friday’s game, this time in Maize, was reminiscent of the first meeting from last year.

Had it not been for a 65-second Bullpup meltdown just before the end of the first half, who knows. The teams might still be playing as neither was budging in this clash of defensive wills.

A great punt by Maverick star of the game Andrew Bliss set off a chain reaction of disastrous events for the Bullpups. He pinned MHS on its own 1 with just under 2 minutes to play and then on second down after an incompletion, the Mavs boxed in MHS quarterback Kyler Hoppes for a safety. I’m sure it’s a play if the Bullpups had to do it over again would have been changed.

A 2-0 deficit was manageable, but when the Mavs blitzed down the field on four straight completions with no timeouts, the last coming on the last play of the half, a 9-0 disadvantage looked more like 90-0 the way the South defense was playing.

McPherson’s defense has been trumpeted throughout the season and with good reason. Buhler barely cracked the 200-yard barrier and South didn’t even even get there. About the only difference was that the Bullpups were unable to get pressure on the quarterback against the stout South offensive line.

Still, the defense played well enough to win.

The offense, as level-headed fans should expect, is a work in progress. I really didn’t think MHS could put 33 points on the board against Buhler as the Crusaders stubbornly kept seven defenders in the box, even when they were behind. In all honesety, I found it to be a bit of an aberration.

But Maize South, coming off a shutout of woebegone Circle, scouted the MHS screen game and took that away from the Bullpups’ arsenal. Hoppes didn’t have a lot of time to throw, though he did have more of a running game to take off some of the heat. Jace Kinnamon, restricted in the opener, approached 100 yards as he was tough to bring down and is a load once he gets past the front four.

Expecting the MHS offense to be well-oiled through two weeks goes in the category of unfair expectations. An all-new offensive line is going to need time to gel, and it’s not the biggest of units. Whereas Maize South was chockfull of 240- and 250-pounders, MHS is on the light side. It’s going to have to rely on technique more than strength. Hoppes also is a first-time starter, while top receivers Jack Reifschneider and Jeff Reed aren’t going to be replaced over night, despite the success of the first-week passing game. MHS has some good ones there, but they, too, are mostly first-time regulars.

Before the season I thought 1-1 was realistic. Remember, MHS went 0-2 in these same two games last year, at home no less.

The schedule now softens. MHS is home for the only time this month on Friday and the passionate Bullpup Nation is thirsty to see some hometown football. Winfield is the opponent and while it doubled up Circle 32-16 on Friday, it had to rally for the victory. The Bullpups have had their way with the Vikings in recent years and MHS is going to be in a bad mood knowing its potential 9-0 regular season was derailed.