AUGUSTA — Fortunately for McPherson High’s football team Friday, it didn’t make history — the forgettable kind.
The Bullpups had never started 0-3 during the Tom Young era, or lost three games in a row for that matter in his previous eight years.
They avoided the dreaded hat trick against AVCTL Division III newcomer Augusta, as a nice combination of offense and defense propelled them to a 32-20 victory.
“We’ve started off a little slow this year with a couple of losses, but you’d never know it by watching us practice,” Young said. “Our kids have really worked hard and it’s great to see them get rewarded.”
Augusta, which has been uplifted by new coach Jason Filbeck, was hardly the pushover that had been anticipated at the start of the year. It held leads of 6-0 and 14-6 before MHS scored 10 points in the final 1:34 of the first half for a 17-14 lead, a 75-yard rainbow from Kyler Kinnamon to Luke Williams and then a 20-yard field goal by Nathan Nutter after taking advantage of a punt snafu by the Orioles that set up shop for MHS at the Oriole 8.
On the first possession of the second half, Jason Anderson recovered an Augusta fumble, which MHS cashed in on a Kinnamon floater to Payton Stephens from 6 yards. MHS made it 32-14 on its next possession on a dive by Collin Baldwin, then turned the game over to its defense. Kinnamon had a pick to stop an Augusta threat, actually going 90 yards for a score, but having it short circuited because of a penalty. Augusta did score a late cosmetic touchdown to deny MHS a second-half shutout.
Young was excited that the MHS defense saw its turnovers turned into points.
“That definitely was a factor,” he said. “You’ve got to take advantage and we did for the most part.”
MHS had nice balance to its offense. Kinnamon was 10 of 19 for 177 yards and more importantly, no picks. He also ran for 61 yards on 11 carries and earned MHS’ first score on an 11-yard run. He perhaps found a new favorite target in Stephens, who latched on to five balls for 44 yards as he proved to be a mismatch problem for Augusta.
Nutter, held to just 27 first-half yards, started to rumble after the break and closed with 85 on 21 tries.
“They’ve got a good defensive unit, they’re really aggressive up front,” Young said. “We had a tough time blocking them. They came out with a little different defensive front than they’d run the first couple of games. It was a bit of a surprise to us. It took us a while to get adjusted.”
Augusta running back-punter Connor Hurst was hurt on the punt play late in the first half that gave MHS golden field position. He never returned after catching seven passes in the flat for 72 yards. Quarterback Dustin McEachern did a nice job with 50 yards rushing and 182 passing for the Orioles, who were held under 300 total yards with 292. Raef Hilt scored two of the Augusta touchdowns on runs of 1 and 3 yards.
The victory started MHS off on the right foot in D-III play and it hopes to make it 2-0 at Rose Hill on Friday. The Rockets pounded El Dorado 46-14, while the other D-III matchup found Buhler using a big second half to defeat Winfield, 50-15. It was just 22-15 at the half.
• STATISTICS •
• MHS Listed First •
First Downs — 13, 14. Rushes-Yards — 37-143; 38-110. Passing — 11-20-0-177; 15-20-1-182. Punts-Avg. — 2-38.0; 4-27.0. Fumbles-Lost — 0-0; 2-1. Penalties-Yards — 7-68; 9-70.
• INDIVIDUAL LEADERS •
• Rushing •
MHS — Nutter 21-85, Kinnamon 11-61, Baldwin 1-1, Hart 1-(-3).
Augusta — McEachern 15-50, Hilt 17-48, Hurst 2-7, Carter 1-4, Goken 2-4, Reynolds 1-(-3).
• Passing •
MHS — Kinnamon 11-20-0-177.
Augusta — McEachern 15-20-1-182.
• Receiving •
MHS — Stephens 5-44, Stoppel 3-15, Williams 1-75, Nutter 1-43.
Augusta — Hurst 7-72, Howerton 4-41, Hilt 2-18, Carter 1-39, Reynolds 1-12.