Jace Pavlovich’s time has come.
The longtime McPherson High defensive coordinator was approved Monday night as the Bullpups’ new head football coach, replacing the retired Tom Young.
"I am thrilled to take over this program," Pavlovich said Monday. "I have learned a great deal from coach Young over the last nine years on everything from player treatment, to X’s and O’s, to how to run an effective Speed, Power and Strength (SPS) program. I do understand that I have some big shoes to fill. Coach Young is arguably the best head coach in the history of Kansas football."
The 35-year-old Pavlovich says all he can do is be himself.
"I fully realize the amount of pressure that accompanies following a living legend like coach Young," Pavlovich said. "I am confident, because of my experience in playing and coaching, I am confident because of the administration that is presently here, I am confident because of the incredible coaching staff, I am confident because we have a program established. It is no secret as to why coach Young has been very successful virtually everywhere he has been. He has a process that he follows. He is a creature of habit. This process is what I have been studying the past nine years coaching under him.”
Pavlovich has had a big hand in the Bullpups’ success the last nine years, as MHS has compiled a 75-22 record and was a playoff participant in each of those years after having gone 18 years without making postseason play.
And since the process has produced those glowing results, don't expect radical changes, Pavlovich said. But he may make a tweak here or there.
"First off, I am not going to try and be coach Young. He is one of a kind," Pavlovich said. "We will use the same basic running schemes we have been using. We will try to hit the perimeter a little more than we have in the past to try and slow down opposing teams blitzing us to death. We will also be under center a little more than we have been.
"Teams that go deep into the playoffs have the ability to run the ball even in obvious running situations and we need to do the same. Our passing attack has been second-to-none over the last nine years. This summer will have a big impact on how much we throw the ball in the fall. If we get kids to 7-on-7 practices this summer, we will be able to gain confidence in our passing game and will look to be more balanced in our attack this fall."
Pavlovich will be relinquishing his defensive coordinator duties to longtime assistant Chet Harlin.
"Coach Harlin will be the defensive coordinator. He will do a fantastic job," Pavlovich said. "(Assistant) Coach (Chris) Allen and coach Harlin have been working very hard already to develop some new ideas defensively. We will continue to adapt to the personnel that we have. Expect to see us in a 4-2-5 defense next year as our base. We had success (in a) 3-4 last year and will look to get into that front on occasion."
The other assistants from last year except for one will return and that spot already has been filled.
"The staff will remain intact for the most part," Pavlovich said. "Coach (Travis) Sears (who runs the middle school SPS program) is no longer on staff. It was a family decision for him. We spend a lot of time in the office and on the practice field year-round and it does put a stress on the family.
"Coach Harlin will be the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach. Coach Allen will remain as our interior defensive line coach and will be instrumental in helping develop a game plan week to week. Coach (David) Goerzen will transition from coaching the corners to coaching the safeties. I am excited to report that coach (Treg) Fawl, who is new to the staff but not new to Bullpup football, will coach the cornerbacks. We are looking into hiring a defensive ends coach in the near future. We have some really good candidates already to choose from.”
Pavlovich will move to the other side of the ball.
"I will be the offensive coordinator and will oversee the tailbacks,” he said. “Coach (Pat) Corcoran will continue to be in charge of our offensive line. Coach (Eric) Hoops will continue to coach the wide receivers. Coach (Matt) Sandbo will continue his role with our quarterbacks. Coach Allen will also serve as our tight ends and fullbacks coach."
The Bullpups, who were 7-3 in Young’s final year, have a plethora of holes to fill next year. Graduation will take nearly every starter on offense, while there’s more experience coming back on defense.
“We only hope to achieve our potential,” he said. “We have had years in the past where we were disappointed at equipment check-in because we took an earlier-than-expected departure from the playoffs. We have had years where we were disappointed we lost, but felt pretty good about our season. It’s hard to put a total on wins or losses going into a season due to all of the factors that are out of our control such as injury, level of competition, etc.
“This year will be an interesting one. We return two offensive linemen and a tight end from last year’s starting squad. Not to mention we lose the top career total yards leader (three-year starting quarterback Kyler Kinnamon) in McPherson history. We will be slightly more experienced defensively as we return five starters from last year. However, we have a ton of young talent that has the ability to perform at a high level this season. We could have quite a few sophomores next year seeing a ton of varsity playing time. Our kids are maturing very well physically in SPS, but are unproven mentally at the varsity level. This summer is going to be instrumental in their overall development.
“My goal at the end of the season is to feel that our players and coaches did everything possible with regards to preparation and execution to achieve our full potential as a program.”
Pavlovich was a standout at both Onaga High School and Canton-Galva High School and was a four-sport athlete. He earned All-State honors in three of the sports at C-G, where he was one of the school’s all-time great athletes in football, basketball and baseball.
He was a football standout at Fort Hays State University, where he started at safety for three years and still ranks eighth all-time at the school for tackles. He earned All-Conference and All-West Region honors, while serving two years as a team captain.
He has a Bachelors Degree in secondary education and a Masters in Exercise Science.
He joined the Fort Hays State football staff in 2003 as a cornerbacks coach for one year, then was defensive coordinator for two years at Hays High under then-coach Kent Teeter.
When Young got the job at McPherson in 2006, Pavlovich joined his initial staff. He has been instrumental in the SPS program both in the summer and teaching classes during the school year. He also teaches sociology and AP U.S. Government.
Pavlovich also is the Bullpups’ head track and field coach, while in the past he served as an assistant baseball coach. He has been a featured speaker at clinics sponsored by the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, Kansas Football Coaches Association and Western Kansas Football.
He will be teaching SPS full time beginning in September of 2015. His wife, the former Chaunzey Rierson, was a former Bullpup star athlete as she was the point guard of three straight MHS girls basketball state championship teams. They have three daughters — Cora (8), Carmin (6) and Elles (2).
His father, Jack, was a head football coach at three schools, including Kingman, Russell and Jefferson West before becoming a school administrator, including a stint at Canton-Galva. His brother, Dane, is now the Athletic Director at Bethany College.