There was a time when Arkansas City’s football team owned McPherson High.
MHS joined the old Ark Valley League in 1978 and the game it dreaded each year was the matchup with the Bulldogs.
In fact, Ark City won 20 of the first 21 games from 1978 to 1993, including some lopsided MHS losses as the Bulldogs were a 5A power, including a state championship in 1979. The only MHS victory in that stretch was in 1983, a year the Bullpups were only 3-6 but were a 10-0 winner in the game.
But as in all sports, it goes in cycles. Since 1993, the Bullpups have won 12 of 13 meetings, but the teams have not played since 2011, a 47-0 MHS victory. In 2009, the Bullpups were a 66-0 winner.
So Friday’s playoff game at chilly McPherson Stadium will be a renewal of the series, with a berth in the Class 4A semifinals on the line.
Kickoff at McPherson Stadium is set for 7 p.m. Gates will open at 5:30. Playoff prices are $6 for adults, $5 for K-12.
Coverage on 96.7 KBBE-FM starts at 6:00 with the pre-game show, hosted by “Voice of the Bullpups” Jim Joyner.
Of the eight classes in Kansas, Arkansas City is the lowest-rated team still in the playoffs as it brings a No. 13 seed into the quarterfinal clash. The Bulldogs outlasted Mulvane 29-26 in the first round, helped by the Wildcats’ starting quarterback breaking his leg on the first series. The Bulldogs followed that up with a 28-6 win over Coffeyville, which didn’t come as a surprise to many as the Nado was short on numbers.
The Bulldogs, just 4-6 but better than their record indicates, displayed a crushing running game against Coffeyville, as Ike Abrams pounded out 158 yards on 23 carries and dazzling quarterback Cevin Clark added 117 on 17 tries. Clark also was 9 of 15 through the air for 90 yards as he’s a tremendous athlete.
"You can tell the marked improvement each and every week," said MHS coach Jace Pavlovich, whose team is 10-0 and has put the last nine games into running clock. "We have their Week 1 film and we thought early on, 'I hope we play Ark City one of these days.' Now we have to be careful for what we wish for because now we have it. They have improved so much through the course of the season. They have some great athletes and we've seen them in basketball and the athletes they have. We've seen the type of wrestlers they have, so they have a great mix of tough kids and skill kids. This is going to be a heck of a matchup."
The Bulldogs will have more size than any team MHS has faced this year.
"They're huge up front both offensively and defensively," Pavlovich said. "I don't where they get these kids from, they're massive, massive creatures. They have skill to go with that. Offensively, Cevin Clark makes everything go for them. A lot of his yards come on scrambles when he's looking like Michael Vick out there creating plays. We have to keep him bottled up as much as possible."
The teams have only one common opponent in Winfield, but the Bulldogs’ 7-3 win came in the first game of the season and the Bullpups’ 47-7 rout of the Vikings came in Week 2.
The weather could play a factor, though no snow is on the forecast for Friday. So the only detractor may be the cold and Pavlovich said that won't change how his team approaches the game.
"It's not going to change anything we do offensively or defensively," he said. "We had a great practice in the cold weather Wednesday night. Basically what it boils down to in playoff football, it's who wants to continue to play. If it's us, then we're going to move on. If it's them, then they're going to move on."
The Bullpups’ offense has been in overdrive all season. Despite the starters playing half the game most of the time (including the last five games), they have averaged 427 yards while allowing only 129, much of that against the second team.
Kyler Hoppes is 130 of 192 (66 percent) for 2,183 yards, 30 TDs and just 2 INTs. Gabe Hoover has 59 catches for 1,098 yards and 16 scores, while Tayln Huff (27, 371, 5) and Chandler Wiard (21, 390, 6) have been dangerous as well.
Jace Kinnamon has some staggering numbers. He has 157 carries for 1,494 yards and 31 TDs and has 3,033 career yards as he’s approaching Dwayne Chandler’s 30-year-old record of 3,182. He has broken school records for TDs in a season, rushing TDs, career rushing TDs (48), single-season scoring (162 points) and is 5 points off the career scoring record of his brother Kyler (288).
The winner of Friday's game will play either Goddard or Wellington in the semifinals. Pavlovich said it's a toss-up, but he really likes how Goddard has been playing in recent weeks.
If the Bullpups win, that game will be next Friday at McPherson Stadium.