Home sweet home.
McPherson High’s football team, which spent nearly all of September on the road, will spend most of October at home, starting with Friday’s game against El Dorado.
“It will be good to be home,” an almost-relieved and road-weary MHS coach Tom Young said.
The Bullpups, who have played three of four games away from McPherson Stadium, are home for four of their final five, the only interruption coming in Week 7 at Abilene.
Kickoff for the Bullpups and Wildcats is set for 7 p.m. on a night that will resemble fall football conditions as temperatures are expected near 60.
Pre-game with Nick Gosnell on 96.7 KBBB-FM is set for 6:30 p.m., and he’ll be joined on the game call by Steve Sell.
The battered Bullpups, being held together by miles of athletic tape and pounds of pads to protect a variety of ails, have won their last two games to even their record at 2-2. El Dorado started the year with an emotionally lifting 17-15 upset of Mulvane, but since has lost three in a row, including a 39-0 setback to an Augusta team the Bullpups slipped past 8-7 last week.
However, Young said the Bullpups are in no position this year to take any team lightly unlike some years where their talent level simply was a huge differential. And El Dorado always has played the Bullpups tough, even two years ago when MHS had to storm back in the season opener here to pull out a win. That was a Bullpup team that finished its season playing eventual state champion Holton down to the final second.
“They always play us real tough,” said Young, whose team is 2-0 in AVCTL games. “I don’t know if they circle it on their calendars or what. They really come to play when they play us. They play very hard, so we’ll have to be ready. We can’t afford to look past anybody. But I think we can be competitive with anybody.”
The Bullpups are coming off the gritty one-point win over Rose Hill. No Young-coached team at MHS has ever won with fewer points, as the Bullpups have been known for their prolific offenses during his era. However, injuries and a paucity of depth in the skill positions have stalled the normally high-octane offensive machine.
“We’re just not clicking on all cylinders,” Young said. “It’s seems like almost every play we’ve got one missed assignment. At this point we just don’t appear to be a real disciplined team, but that’s coaching and it’s our job to correct those mistakes.”
The Bullpups’ injury list grew by one last week when top rusher Nathan Nutter went down with a concussion. He’s out this week, which means the running back duties will fall to Ty Hart and Collin Baldwin.
Hart showed signs last year of being a dominant runner in a couple of games, including Hays where he simply ran over the Indians and displayed exciting potential. But he’s concentrated mainly on defense this season, though his focus is going to have to shift. He has all the tools to be a 100-yard back and Young says he’s now in his best shape of the season. Baldwin has shown a lot of promise on trap plays and will get more touches.
They need to step up because the Bullpups simply can’t ask Kyler Kinnamon to do it all on the offensive side and stay in one piece. He took a fierce pounding from an aggressive Rose Hill defense last week, but still gained 118 yards on 21 carries. He also threw the ball well to Payton Stephens, as the duo combined five times for 79 yards, part of the 143 that Kinnamon accumulated. Young indicated the Bullpups could go with a little tighter formation, with just one back and two tight ends.
The MHS defense played well last week, with the front three of Cole Hanken, Cody Starkel and Levi Vu shining, while Hart was the top tackler from his linebacking position. The injury-riddled secondary held up for the most part, aided by constant pressure from MHS’ new 3-4 alignment.
El Dorado is coming off an encouraging performance against Winfield, losing only 23-13. The Wildcats have struggled offensively, averaging just 11 points a game. They no longer have Travis House at quarterback, but sophomore Cade Morrow might be the second coming of House. Young said he both runs and passes well, so a key is to not allow him to get comfortable and keep him under siege.
• AVCTL STANDINGS •
• All Games in Parentheses •
Buhler 2-0 (3-1)
McPherson, 2-0 (2-2)
Winfield, 2-1 (2-2)
Augusta, 1-2 (1-3)
Rose Hill, 1-2 (1-3)
El Dorado, 0-3 (1-3)