ROSE HILL — It seemed to be a no-brainer.
Rose Hill scored with 1:15 left in the third quarter Friday night to pull within two points of McPherson High, 8-6.
Instead of going for a 2-point conversion to tie the game, the Rockets opted to kick the extra point to pull within 8-7.
That decision no doubt will be a hot topic around the water coolers and coffee shops in Rose Hill for days to come as the Bullpups were able to stave off the Rockets the rest of the way despite some anxious moments in a game that played out in a way nobody could have seen coming.
Tom Young’s McPherson teams traditionally have been heavy on the offense and light on the defense. The Bullpups’ M.O. in recent years is to simply outscore the other guy.
But the much-maligned defense turned it up and gave up only 214 yards to key MHS’ second win of the season and even its record at 2-2.
“I was proud of our defensive kids,” Young said. “They really played hard and for the most part pressured the quarterback.”
The win came at a heavy price as top rusher Nathan Nutter was lost with a concussion and he could be out indefinitely. The Bullpups are starting to run out of healthy bodies and will limp their way into next Friday’s home game against El Dorado.
The first half was excruciating if you’re a fan of offense. Neither team scored and MHS had 124 yards to just 69 for the Rockets.
Midway through the third quarter, MHS’ Chris Stoppel came up with an interception and on the next play, Kyler Kinnamon went up top to Payton Stephens for a 41-yard TD strike. Because Nutter was unavailable to kick, MHS went for the deuce and Kinnamon hit Luke Stucky for an 8-0 lead.
Rose Hill came right back as it used a variety of formations to speed down the field, with Brett Bonar hitting Griffin McBride for the score from 11 yards. Then came the head-scratching decision as the Rockets settled for the one-pointer.
“Gone for two,” said Young when asked what he would have done, adding that perhaps Rose Hill was so confident after its scoring drive that it figured it would score again.
MHS was still on pins and needles until Jason Anderson came up with an interception with just under 2 minutes left in the game as the Rockets drove as deep as the MHS 39.
“Terrific play,” Young said. “He really closed on it. You could see what the quarterback had in mind. He (Anderson) followed his eyes and it told him where the ball was going and he had a great reaction.”
The MHS offense basically consisted of Kinnamon. With his security blanket Nutter gone, he had to carry 21 times for 118 grinding yards, many of them on pure effort as the holes closed in a hurry. He also threw for 143 and shook off three first-half interceptions.
• STATISTICS •
• MHS Listed First •
First Downs — 14, 15. Rushes-Yards — 34-137; 32-98. Passing — 12-29-3-143; 13-24-2-116. Punts-Avg. — 4-35.3; 4-37.8. Penalties-Yards — 6-48; 7-41. Fumbles-Lost — 1-0; 2-1.
• INDIVIDUAL LEADERS •
• Rushing •
MHS — Kinnamon 21-118, Hart 4-13, Nutter 8-6.
Rose Hill — J. Rodman 16-44, Bonar 11-43, D. Rodman 4-9, Nolan 1-2.
• Passing •
MHS — Kinnamon 12-29-3-143.
Rose Hill — Bonar 13-24-2-116.
• Receiving •
MHS — Stephens 5-79, Stoppel 3-36, Anderson 2-20, Nutter 1-7, Hart 1-1.
Rose Hill — McBride 8-78, Scantlin 2-21, Nolan 2-10, J. Rodman 1-7.