I generally have a good read going into the season in regards to what kind of record McPherson High’s football team might produce.
But this year has me stumped.
I can see this team going anywhere from 7-2 to 4-5. There are so many variables involved, from health to the schedule to momentum gained from early season success or lost due to early season failure.
I have been to several practices and scrimmages and the more I watch this team, the more I like it. I wrote earlier that it plays with a quiet confidence and doesn’t show a lot of emotion. I’m not quite sure what that reveals, but we’ll see when the whistle blows at 7 p.m. Thursday at Salina Stadium.
The Bullpups are about to embark on a schedule that conjures up days of the old AVL from the late 1970s and early 1980s. There’s not many games on the schedule that you can automatically check mark the box in the “W” column.
The home schedule is the best I’ve seen in my now 36 years of covering the Bullpups. Except for the El Dorado game, which the Bullpups should win handily if they are focused, the other four are against 4A titans Andale, Winfield, Buhler and Hays. Every night is going to seem like a playoff game and don’t forget the opening road game against Salina South, the Class 5A runner-up from a year ago.
Here are my five keys to the season:
1. Health. Without health, you have nothing. While the Bullpups have almost no players going both ways, it’s imperative they are relatively injury free.
2. Balance on offense. The Bullpups can’t sit and watch Kyler Kinnamon run around and try to make all the plays. If Nathan Nutter and Ty Hart run like they have in scrimmages, they can take a lot of heat off Kinnamon. Also, MHS coach Tom Young said his receiving group is the most improved area on the team. Now they must prove it.
3. Defense against the pass. Given that MHS will go up against premium throwers such as Jace Williams of Buhler, Alex Delton of Hays and Will Adler of Winfield, the Bullpups must improve by light-years in the secondary after being scorched quite often last year. Not all of that falls on the D-backs, the front four must get a push.
4. The offensive line. There’s some new guys here, but it’s probably the second area that has improved the most since the start of fall camp. The Bullpups must play with a nasty attitude and get a push. Kinnamon, Nutter and Hart don’t lead a lot of room to create. Give them a crack and you can move the chains.
5. Survive the first two games with Salina South and Andale. Even though maybe no team in Class 4A opens with a more difficult schedule, this is imperative. My feeling is that if the Bullpups can split with the gruesome twosome, that could set them up. Granted, Buhler and Hays will pose titanic district challenges, but I think the Bullpups can play with both teams. Kinnamon does as much for the Bullpups as Williams does for Buhler and Delton does for Hays. Which supporting cast is the best could determine the district qualifier. And don’t believe for a second that I haven’t forgotten about Abilene, a team loaded with skill players that probably is tired of hearing about MHS, Buhler and Hays and saying to itself, “What about us?”
I can’t wait to see how this fascinating scenario plays out. Maybe we’ll enjoy a little “McPherson magic.”