ABILENE — It was vintage Kyler Kinnamon.
With his McPherson Bullpups clinging to a 10-6 lead early in the fourth quarter Friday night against undefeated and No. 5-ranked Abilene in the all-important district opener, Kinnamon added just another clip to his burgeoning highlight film.
On a first-down play from the Cowboy 38, Kinnamon looked to make a handoff, but nobody was there. Just when it appeared he was hemmed in for a loss, he made a couple of darting moves before setting sail down the sideline for the score that basically ensured MHS’ 17-6 victory.
“Well, that’s Kyler. He’s done that several times,” an admiring MHS coach Tom Young said. “Just a fantastic run. It was kind of a busted play. What looked like was going to be a loss turned into a score.”
The victory sets up a battle of 1-0 district teams next week as Buhler sent thundershocks throughout the state with a 55-21 dismantling of previously undefeated Hays as the Crusaders racked up nearly 600 yards of offense. Buhler goes to McPherson Friday night, with the winner taking command in the district, not to mention it’s for the AVCTL Division III title, though that’s mostly a footnote.
MHS and Abilene were expected to duplicate last year’s track meet when the Bullpups won a 58-46 shootout that featured more than 1,000 yards of offense.
But this turned into a battle of the trenches, though the Bullpups certainly came away with a feeling this game should never have been close as they controlled the line of scrimmage.
“Our kids really played hard, that’s the first thing,” said Young, whose team won for the fifth straight time and at 5-2 is assured of a ninth straight winning regular season as just two games remain. “Physically we were pretty dominant on both sides of the ball. We needed to be. We hurt ourselves quite a bit with some of the penalties we had. We had some dropped passes earlier and a fumble on the goal-line... we were a little sloppy that way. But we did play hard, we played hard for four quarters.”
Nathan Nutter’s 20-yard field goal started the scoring for MHS in the first quarter after its opening drive stalled out due to a penalty. Kinnamon made it 10-0 in the second quarter on a 14-yard dash, but Abilene scored late in the half on a fourth-down pass to pull within 10-6, with the extra point deflected.
MHS had a chance to make it 17-6 midway through the third quarter. It appeared Kinnamon scored on a dive, but the officials ruled he fumbled before he broke the plane. But he made up for it with his clinching touchdown.
Kinnamon finished with 165 yards on 23 carries and was augmented by the powerful Ty Hart, who hammered for 122 on 23 attempts. MHS pounded out 289 yards on the ground.
The other big story was the MHS defense, gashed by the Cowboys last year. Take away a Harley Hazlett 42-yard run late in the first half and Abilene would have been under 200 yards, finishing with 212 on 47 plays.
“It was a great, fantastic night for the defense,” Young said, as it was the third straight game where MHS had permitted just single-digit points. “They (his coaching staff) put together a pretty good scouting report.”
Abilene star Tanner Hoekman was limited to just 28 yards, 13 of those on one carry, as the Bullpup defense swarmed him. He did play with a dinged ankle, but even early when he was healthy he couldn’t get untracked.
Now the Bullpups must prepare for the juggernaut that is Buhler, the defending 4A champion as it sent a message that it’s not quite yet ready to surrender its title.
“I can’t wait to see that film. That is a bit of a surprise,” Young said. “Buhler and Hays are both really good teams. I thought it would be a close game.”
• STATISTICS •
• MHS Listed First •
First Downs — 18, 10. Rushes-Yards — 48-289; 26-73. Passing — 6-17-1-65; 821-1-139. Punts-Avg. — 3-38.3; 8-30.1. Fumbles-Lost — 1-1; 0-0. Penalties-Yards — 8-55; 4-42.
• INDIVIDUAL LEADERS •
• Rushing •
MHS — Kinnamon 23-165, Hart 23-122, Nutter 1-2.
Abilene — Hazlett 13-58, Hoekman 7-28, Hirsch 2-1, Base 1-(-1), Bender 1-(-1), Rimmel 2-(-12).
• Passing •
MHS — Kinnamon 6-17-1-65.
Abilene — Hazlett 8-21-1-139.
• Receiving •
MHS — Stephens 3-26, Starkel 1-20, Anderson 1-18, Hart 1-1.
Abilene — Barbieri 3-47, Goodwin 2-36, Hoekman 1-29, Stalder 1-18, Rimmel 1-9.