MHS should remain 4A, but could be 5A next year

By Steve Sell
September 22, 2014

Monday’s musings....

• MHS EXPECTS TO REMAIN IN CLASS 4A; 5A IN 2015? — Today is count day for the Kansas State High School Activities Association as enrollment numbers are due.

Official classifications will be announced next Monday.

According to McPherson High Athletic Director Shane Backhus, the school’s enrollment is up by 29 to an exact 700.

The largest 4A school last year had 734 students, while the smallest 5A was 737.

“I have no doubt we will continue in the 4A classification this year,” Backhus said.

However, MHS could make a run next year at returning to 5A, where it was housed for more than three decades. There are only 140 students in this year’s senior class and moving up will be an eighth-grade class that currently numbers 188. The anticipated net gain next year would put MHS right on the 5A-4A cutline.

To be honest, I thought our 5A days were over. It’s certainly been welcomed for MHS fans for state events, as Salina seemingly is the hub of any and all things 4A state-related, including basketball, volleyball, softball, wrestling and baseball. I, for one, don’t miss those trips to the Topeka Expocentre for state basketball.

However, it won’t surprise me at all if the Bullpups aren’t back to being 5A next year, albeit the smallest of the 32 schools in the class.

• BULLPUPS BACK ON TRACK — It had been a long time since McPherson High’s football team had encountered a must-win situation during the pre-district portion of the schedule.

The Bullpups had started 0-2 for only the second time in the Tom Young era, though it could be excused on playing an ambitious schedule as they dropped games to Salina South and Andale. South is looking more and more like a 5A state championship contender after going on the road and knocking off perennial power Hutchinson on Friday, while Andale is the class of Class 4A Division II as it’s at the top of the heap.

Going to Augusta on Friday was like entering the land of the unknown. The teams had never met and the Orioles, thought to be one of the lighter weights on the schedule, had caught MHS’ attention the previous week by steamrolling El Dorado by 39 points.

The Orioles played hard and energetic under new coach Jason Filbeck and even had leads of 6-0 and 14-6. But some late first-half magic for the Bullpups allowed them to score 10 points in the final 1:34 and then they dominated the second half for a 32-20 victory.

It wasn’t quite the dominating performance of recent years, but it was a much-needed shot of confidence, especially since MHS is the Kansas City of high school football with a litany of injuries.

The Bullpups stay on the road this week to Rose Hill, which put a 46-14 thumping on El Dorado Friday that certainly grabbed MHS’ attention. They are 2-0 against the Rockets since joining Division III, but both games have been competitive. Rose Hill does best what MHS struggles against most and that’s pass defense as it has a good quarterback in Brett Bonar.

Once MHS gets past this week, it plays four of its last five games at home, the only exception being a district game at Abilene.

• FORGETTABLE NIGHT FOR BULLDOGS — Let’s hope that McPherson College quarterback JT Levenseller can get well soon.

Levenseller missed Saturday’s game at Bethel because of the flu and his importance to the team was magnified in a 13-0 loss, something nobody in the Mac camp probably expected since this was one of the games it figured to win.

Mac coach Steve Fox elected to go with untested Cody Groff as Levenseller’s replacement and while he managed the game adequately, the Bulldogs suffered from a lack of big plays. When asked after the game if he considered turning to the more-experienced Jordan Hoffman, who threw for more than 2,000 yards last year, Fox replied that it was Groff’s game and the Bulldogs were going to sink or swim with him.

The Bulldog defense was magnificent. The Threshers compiled less than 200 yards and their only two scores were basically achieved because of advantageous field position. They had short fields after an interception and a failed fake punt, respectively.

Mac certainly has a defense that can play with most teams. But when the dynamic Levenseller hasn’t been on the field, the offense has spun its wheels. It’s clear the first order of recruiting business for next year is adding speed, as the Bulldogs have no game-breakers outside of Ste’fon Walker, who touched the ball just once.

The Bulldogs certainly will be glad to get home Saturday night to take on Kansas Wesleyan. They have yet to play before the home fans as the first three games have been on the road, including long journeys to Muskogee, Okla., and Olathe.

• SWEDES PULL OFF STUNNER – That rumbling of ground you heard Saturday night occurred in Ottawa, where Bethany College shook the KCAC foundation to its core with an out-of-the-blue 34-24 stunner of the 16th-ranked Braves.

We’ve been hearing for quite some time that second-year coach Manny Matsakis has brought in a number of uber-talented athletes, it was just a matter of getting the right people on the field.

Newcomer Jake Umphreyville has emerged as one of the KCAC’s best quarterbacks as he’s flinging the ball all over the field in Matsakis’ heralded “Triple Shoot” offense. He played sparingly in relief in the first game, before coming on in the second half last week against Graceland to put 22 second-half points on the board. He started for the first time against Ottawa and he’s probably there to stay.

I’ve been saying all year the Swedes are the KCAC’s unknown quantity. Matsakis, the one-time head coach at Emporia State and former assistant to Bill Snyder at Kansas State, is a recruiting demon, having brought in the conference’s largest class. He seemingly knows every contact from coast to coast and while it’s just one game, you have to wonder if he’s going to return the Swedes back to the glory days of the legendary Ted Kessinger.