Bullpups, Bulldogs show improvement

By Steve Sell
September 15, 2014

Monday’s musings...

• MHS SHOWED IMPROVEMENT — Now that McPherson High’s football team has completed its two-game, season-opening gauntlet, the Bullpups can start to build some momentum heading into district play, which is what it’s all about anyway.

Bullpup coach Tom Young is going to stay the course. He’s not going to waver in the face of his first 0-2 start since 2006, as he knows there’s a lot of season left and believes he has the makings of a good football team that can make the playoffs.

I agree.

The Bullpups showed marked improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. Forget the 42 points they gave up, Andale is going to do that to every team it plays. The Indians have blinding team speed and the Bullpups showed that no matter how many good stops you make, they’re going to break a few at some point.

MHS won’t face a running back as good as Hunter Knoblauch the rest of the year, or his teammate Hank Eck for that matter. Andale is an outstanding team that is going to blow through Class 4A Division II (yes, even Holton). I’m not so sure it couldn’t give 4A Division I Bishop Miege a run for its money.

The competition levels off for a few weeks as the Bullpups play teams they either are on par with or better than. I already had checked the box for a victory over Augusta this week, but the Orioles caught my eye Friday with their 39-0 rout of El Dorado, which had upset Mulvane in Week 1. It’s obvious the Bullpups had better be focused this week and not take the Division III newbie for granted.

The Bullpups’ offense pounded Andale between the tackles on Friday, as the Indians made a concerted effort not to let elusive quarterback Kyler Kinnamon get to the perimeter. Nathan Nutter took advantage for his second straight 100-yard game as he’s proven to be reliable.

The passing game was much improved in the first half, but did taper off when the game started to get away, as Andale’s quickness up front proved to be too much to handle once its front four could pin its ears back and play the pass.

The defense gave up TD runs of 90, 75, 44 and 44 yards, but there were many instances where the Indians were held to 3 yards or less. It’s just a matter of tightening things up.

This week’s game is pivotal. A convincing MHS win and the Bullpups are back on track.

• LEVENSELLER IGNITES MAC — The wait for quarterback JT Levenseller was worth it for the McPherson College Bulldogs.

Levenseller, a one-time quarterback at Washington State, was brought in by former Mac head coach Pete Sterbick last year, but was not eligible. He had been out of school for a while and had to get his academic work in order.

He was not deemed eligible for the 2014 opener, but all the I’s and T’s were finally dotted and crossed for Saturday’s game at MidAmerica.

On his very first pass, he hit a streaking Ste’fon Walker for a 65-yard touchdown. It was just like riding a bicycle.

His final numbers — 1o of 26 for 221 yards and two TDs — were somewhat skewed by a few drops. But the Bulldogs looked like a different team with him at the controls and they were up against a much better opponent than Week 1.

I was surprised with Levenseller’s ability to improvise. He had better running ability than I thought, though I’m sure coach Steve Fox would prefer that he stay in the pocket.

Like McPherson High, the Bulldogs probably won’t face a team much better than MidAmerica. The Pioneers have a new coach, Brian Willmer, and from what I saw there’s no way they’re going to be a 5-5 team like they were last year. This was one of the most physical teams the Bulldogs have played in quite some time, much like the McKendree (Ill.) team they lost to in the 2010 playoffs. If MidAmerica is middle of the pack in the Heart, that tells me the conference is loaded this year.

Mac now opens its KCAC season on Saturday at Bethel, which has been picked last in the preseason poll. This is probably the perfect opener for the Bulldogs as if they play with the defensive intensity of the first two games, it could be a long night for the Threshers. There’s still some major question marks about the secondary, but the front seven is solid. 

The Bulldogs are still a team that has some serious depth issues in certain areas (running back for sure), but if Levenseller can stay in one piece, I think they have a shot at finishing in the upper division at No. 5, since Tabor, Ottawa, Friends and Sterling are a cut above the rest of the KCAC.

• SWEDES LET ONE GET AWAY — Judging from what I’ve gathered from my sources, the Bethany Swedes are probably kicking themselves for letting a 2-0 start get away.

The Swedes were hoping to make it back-to-back wins on Saturday at Graceland. I really believed this was the one game of the 10 between the KCAC and Heart of America in the Challenge Series where the Swedes had a decided edge.

But Bethany wheezed in the first half and found itself in an improbable 35-7 hole. Coach Manny Matsakis changed commanders in the second half and transfer Jake Umphreyville led a furious rally that came up a score short in a 35-29 loss.

It will be interesting to see which direction Matsakis takes this week. Virgil Bridges was sharp in Bethany’s opening win, but was yanked after a half on Saturday. Umphreyville fired three TD passes and the Swede offense moved at will. 

Probably most disappointing was their inability to run the ball. The much-anticipated debut of Raahmil Brantley, who has a resume normally reserved for an NCAA Division I back, didn’t go as planned with 24 yards on 12 carries. He’s reportedly a 225-pound sledgehammer who figures to roll out 100-yard games with regularity. Now that he’s got his feet wet, maybe he’ll show that form this week.

Bethany, though, drew one of the short straws for the first week of KCAC play. Former Swede All-American Kent Kessinger brings his Ottawa Braves into his hometown and they were one of the two KCAC teams to win this past weekend, 59-47 over Benedictine. A huge onus will be on a Swede defense that obviously found itself in the second half on Saturday as it shutout Graceland after giving up a five-touchdown barrage in the first half.