McPherson High’s football team is not oblivious. The numbers are right there in stark black and white and easy for everybody to see.
The numbers are these: MHS is 7-2 on the season and Friday’s playoff opponent Mulvane is 3-6. The Bullpups beat El Dorado by 39 points and Mulvane lost to that same team by two. MHS knocked off Buhler by two and the Wildcats lost to the Crusaders by 28.
You get the picture.
MHS is coming off a three-game stretch where it beat teams that were ranked in Class 4A Division I. Mulvane went only 1-2 in its district and its only victims on the year are Circle, Clearwater and Wellington, with only the latter team having any kind of successful pedigree.
Human nature tells us this should be a Bullpup walkover. But human nature can be fickle. This game just reeks of “trap,” and MHS needs to come in 100 percent focused.
I give you Exhibit A — the Bullpups last year were 2-0 in district play and had the championship wrapped up. But unheralded Chapman came into McPherson Stadium and outscored the stunned Bullpups 50-46 in a game that left anybody in attendance with a bad taste in their mouth. It went down as one of the most unlikely and improbable Bullpup losses in recent memory
MHS coach Tom Young said it’s been drummed into his team this week that it can’t overlook Mulvane. There is no safety net. This is one-and-done time, as the winner moves on and the loser looks to the winter.
The Bullpups will be playing without standout quarterback Kyler Kinnamon, who is out for a second week in row. To expect Cody Starkel to equal or surpass last week’s jaw-dropping performance in relief is probably unrealistic, but the senior has embraced the challenge and performed magnificently. He’s had a great week of practice, according to Young, and is getting more and more comfortable shepherding the offense.
The Bullpups’ district success works both for and against them. The “for” is that wins over Abilene, Buhler and Hays should have the team brimming with confidence. The “against” is that you hope those three wins didn’t exhaust the Bullpups both physically and mentally.
I think it helps that MHS played Mulvane last year. It was quite a game for three quarters, but the Bullpups eventually pulled away for a 51-28 victory. Most of the Wildcats’ production came from eventual Shrine Bowler Michael Mason, who was as good a running back as MHS faced all year. Now Mulvane basically puts the ball in the hands of quarterback RJ Rieger and tells him to win the game as he accounts for the majority of its production.
Here’s to hoping the Bullpups bring their “A” game to the table. They have the unquestioned advantage in talent level. If they take care of the mental aspect, it’s on to Round 2.