The defense started out way ahead of the offense during Saturday’s McPherson College Spring Football Game.
But through some creative scorekeeping, the outcome wasn’t decided until the final play of the game.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Cody Groff threw a 2-point conversion to transfer receiver Jermaine Sims to break a 38-all tie and give the offense the 40-38 victory over the defense.
First-year coach Steve Fox employed an elaborate scoring system that gave each side credit for a particular play as the scoreboard was fluid throughout the game. Interestingly, it just happened to work out that it was an all-or-nothing final play that determined the outcome.
Groff had thrown an 80-yard TD pass to redshirt receiver Ste'fon Walker to set up the game-winning 2-point conversion.
For much of the early part of the day, the defense — which Fox coordinated before taking over as head coach — had its way, as the Bulldogs have a majority of their key players back on that side of the ball.
But little by little, the offense picked it up, including some nice runs by McPherson High graduate Austin O’Bannon, a redshirt transfer from Highland Community College. Helping open holes for him were a couple of MHS graduates, Avery Goering and Highland transfer Jaelon Barnes, while another MHS offensive lineman and Highland transfer, Collin French, sat out the game with a knee injury.
All in all, Fox was relatively pleased with what he saw. He suited up about 40, as the Bulldogs have a laundry list of players (more than a dozen) who currently are injured.
O’Bannon was among the players who caught Fox’s eye.
“He’s coming along,” Fox said. “It’s taken him a while because there’s been a learning curve with the new offense. He’s come way along in the 15 practices.”
KCAC rules permit teams to hold 15 practices during the spring, which was great for Mac since Fox is beginning his first year as head coach, not to mention Justin Van Houten has taken over playcalling after being the running backs/tight ends coach last year.
Fox expects the defense to be strong. The unit will be led by linebacker Trent Forrester, a senior from Salina who should contend for KCAC honors. There’s a number of other starters back.
“We’ll hang our hat on the defense, that’s where we have the most experience,” Fox said. “We got a little tired there at the end. That’s been our problem since I’ve gotten here is finishing on defense. We’re still trying to iron that out.”
Fox had a long talk with his team following the scrimmage, preaching family and togetherness. He wants to field a team the school and town can be proud of, doing things the right way and being model citizens.
“We’ve taken a lot of time to teach and slow things down from the last two years,” Fox said. “We want to get more into the mental part of schemes. We preached and stressed having fun. That’s turned into a little more passion from each player. I’m proud of them for that.’
Fox said the Bulldogs made the most of being short-handed.
“We’ve got quite the injury crew right now,” he said. “We’re excited about getting those players back (in the fall). The kids have been working hard and we’re proud of them.”
When the smoke clears and the fall arrivals are on board, Fox is hoping to have a squad in the 85-90 range. He has kept under the radar in terms of announcing recruits, as he would rather wait to see who’s on campus for the first practice in August.
“We’re excited. Cautiously optimistic,” Fox said with a grin, maybe knowing a lot more than he’d like to divulge at this point.