MHS appears primed for district play

By Steve Sell
October 10, 2017

 It’s hard to imagine McPherson High’s football team being any more ready for the “second season,” also known as the district schedule.

MHS, 5-1 after six games, has demolished Winfield, Augusta, Circle and Rose Hill since the 9-0 loss at Maize South, a game that now makes me scratch my head as to how the Bullpups could get shut out given how crisply they currently are executing.

The Bullpups certainly are playing like a team capable of representing the West in the Class 4A Division I state title game against Miege. But they also have three powerhouse teams to contend with in Buhler, Maize South and Andale. Buhler and Andale play this week, with the winner going to be the district champ while the loser will likely finish second.

I’m not trying to get ahead of the game, since MHS must take care of business against Hays, Wamego and Abilene. It’s starting to look to me as if Hays is the Bullpups’ most worthy challenger as the Indians have tradition and some tough kids. Anyone expecting another MHS game with the starters on the bench by halftime or early in the third quarter is sadly mistaken.

My only worry is that these four straight shellackings have given the Bullpups a false sense of security. Yet, coach Jace Pavlovich and his staff are doing and saying all the right things, treating every opponent as if it were Buhler or Maize South. 

Hays probably will be the third-toughest team MHS has played to date. While just 2-4, its schedule is populated with 6A and 5A teams and anyone who can knock off traditional powers Great Bend and Liberal can’t be bad. However, Hays’ offense has managed just 17 points in the last three games and has scored in single digits in four of the six games, which has to light up the MHS defense’s eyes.

It’s been interesting the last two weeks that MHS’ heralded defense has given up a long drive to open the game before morphing into stifling mode. Circle went right down the field before a Jayse Alexander pick (that he returned 78 yards) ended that march, then Rose Hill trucked 67 yards for an 8-minute drive last Friday that ended on downs. The Rockets didn’t have a first down the rest of the game.

The defense is where the Bullpups still hang their helmets, but the offense is getting more prolific by the week.

It starts with the improvement at quarterback as Kyler Hoppes has been pinpoint by completing 65 percent of his throws and has exactly 1,000 yards with only two INTs. He was 15 of 18 on Friday, with two of his misses being drops and the other incompletion came when he tried to air it downfield about 50 yards. He's making good decisions and valuing the football as if he were Alex Smith.

The running game has been solid, with Jace Kinnamon an early game workhorse and then Austen Hunt coming in with fresh legs. Neither has a lot of carries the last few games, so they should be close to 100 percent bruise-free going into the final third of the season.

The receivers are a balanced bunch as no one player can be doubled. The offensive line improves weekly.

Maybe the only question now is conditioning. MHS has not played a 48-minute game since Maize South, but I’m sure the coaching staff is doing a good job in practice of keeping the team in game shape.

Hopefully the Bullpups still have a lot of season left. You have to get out of the second season to get to the third, which is postseason playoffs.