At the start of the year, it was the $64,000 question.
How would McPherson High’s football team ever replace its entire starting offensive line?
In fact, those “in the know” were saying the Bullpups’ success would depend greatly on its development.
Judging from the Bullpups’ 6-1 start and an offense that has been putting up monster numbers, the new group is doing just fine, thank you.
“Our offensive line has seen improvement through the course of the year, just like our group did last year,” MHS coach Jace Pavlovich said. “Each group is a little different and it takes time to figure out their strengths and weaknesses. For example, our inside zone play last year was huge for us. Our guys executed the scheme better than we have seen over the last 13 years here. This year our offensive line is blocking our outside zone better than we have seen in the last 13 years. It is a credit to all of their hard work through the course of the summer and this season. (Assistant) Coach (Pat) Corcoran does a tremendous job with our offensive line. He always has.”
It’s not the biggest or strongest group the Bullpups have had up front, but it’s a cerebral group that relies more on technique than body mass.
Brandon Wilde has been the fulcrum at the center spot.
“Brandon Wilde is one of the hardest-working kids we have ever had,” Pavlovich said. “He is undersized, but has never used that as an excuse. He was doing 10 sets of 10 all offseason in the weight room in addition to what he was doing in class. He is the epitome of what our program is all about — hard work and dedication. Brandon plays one of those positions that if he is doing his job, no one notices him. That doesn’t bother him. He is there for the team.”
Tackles Wyatt Seidl and Dawson VanGoethem certainly have to be in the talk for D-III honors, probably more as they’ll get some state looks from opposing coaches. VanGoethem is the only junior as the others are seniors.
“Both of our starting tackles are dominant,” Pavlovich said. “Dawson VanGoethem and Wyatt Seidl are physical and athletic. That is exactly what you want in offensive tackles. They have been solid all year long. Both of them have gained confidence throughout the season and have started to play faster.”
Seidl has been a standout since his sophomore year and is that physical presence that other teams notice.
“Wyatt came to me this offseason and asked if he could play offensive line,” Pavlovich said. “He knew that it would help the team for him to be up front. Wyatt is an All-State defensive end and was a preseason All-State running back (at fullback). He has taken half of the snaps on defense as a result of his playing offensive line, but he is a kid that doesn’t care about his personal accolades. Wyatt just wants to win.”
The guards are Jori VanGoethem and Kamren Jost, both of whom had their progression slowed because of injuries earlier in their careers.
“Our guards have improved significantly since Week 1,” Pavlovich said. “Jori VanGoethem and Kamren Jost were essentially juniors coming into the season due to the fact that they have missed a year of football in their career. We have worked with them to pay attention to detail and they have responded well. Little things, like taking a 6-inch power step with the correct foot, has made all of the difference in the world for our running game.”
The Bullpups have been developing depth with one eye on this year and another on next year.
“We have three interior backups that we feel comfortable putting in at any time,” Pavlovich said. “Luke Thompson, Shane Starkel and Kourtney Craig are all varsity-ready. Those kids would start for most programs, but we have some depth in the interior. We also have three tackles that we feel comfortable with at any time. Noah Avila, Gage Stolzenburg and Kyler Heim have all received reps in practice and in games. They all have improved a ton over the course of the year. Gage Stolzenburg would probably be starting for us somewhere if he had been playing football the last couple of years. He’s a great kid that works hard.”