In maybe the most wild, crazy, insane football game ever played at McPherson Stadium, one that produced a mind-boggling 129 points and 1,371 yards of offense, it wound up coming down to a measly half-yard.

McPherson High wide receiver Marcus Houghton was stopped a half-yard short of the goal line on the game’s final play Friday by the Emporia defense, as the Spartans held on for a 66-63 victory that left everyone gasping for breath.

The loss means the Bullpups’ season comes down to a winner-take-all game here Friday night when they entertain Newton for the right to go on the road for the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. MHS and Newton are both 1-1 in the district, while Emporia is 2-0 and assured of being home.

This was one of those games you had to see to believe. MHS put up 687 yards of offense and Emporia had 684, as both teams’ defense borderlined on the invisible.

“Neither team could stop the other,” said MHS coach Tom Young, whose Bullpups are now 6-2. “It’s the craziest game I’ve ever experienced.”

The Bullpups appeared to be in trouble after Emporia took a 60-42 lead late in the third quarter by rattling off 26 straight points after trailing 42-34 at the half.

But MHS never quit, eventually closing within 66-63 with 2:22 left in the game on Austin O’Bannon’s sixth touchdown. The Bullpups’ Cody Cape then recovered an onside kick and MHS set up shop at the Emporia 49.
Tyler Matthews then led MHS down the field, with some clutch receptions made by Houghton and Jordan Hart. MHS had the ball at the Emporia 9 with 13 seconds left and Matthews hooked up with Houghton, who was stopped inbounds at about the half-yard line. But MHS could not get to the line of scrimmage fast enough and time ran out.

“I really thought we were going to win,” Young said. “I was proud of how we never quit. But we’ve got a lot of football left. We win and we’re still in. It’s not the end of the world. There have been teams come in second in their district and go on to be state champions.”

The individual performances were jaw-dropping. Matthews threw for 441 yards and two scores while also running one in. O’Bannon ran for 160 yards and six scores, Houghton had 210 yards on 10 catches and a touchdown, and Hart also snagged 10 for 188 yards, rushed for 41 yards and scored twice. Kaare Vidvek was 9 of 9 on extra points.

Emporia also had a galaxy of stars. Quarterback Braxton Marstall threw for 267 yards and three scores and rushed for 82 yards and another score. Derek Gifford pounded out 204 yards and four touchdowns, while Dylan Jackson added 104 yards and two scores on just four carries. Brady Marstall had 89 receiving yards and two TDs, while Austin Knight had two catches for 106 yards.

Another amazing stat was that MHS ran 84 plays, while Emporia snapped it only 46 times, as it averaged more than 10 yards a play.

Newton defeated Valley Center 34-14 in the other district game and while the Railers are just 3-5, they led Emporia in the fourth quarter last week before losing, 40-35.

MHS Listed First
First Downs -- 26, 17. Rushes-Yards -- 44-246; 37-417. Passing --24-40-1-441; 8-9-0-267. Punts-Avg. -- 3-34.7; 2-43.5. Fumbles-Lost -- 0-0; 2-1. Penalties-Yards -- 5-83, 4-65.
MHS -- O’Bannon 27-160, Hart 6-41, Matthews 9-41, Clark 2-4.
Emporia -- Gifford 20-204, Jackson 4-104, Braxton Marstall 12-82, Knight 1-27.
MHS -- Matthews 24-40-1-441.
Emporia -- Braxton Marstall 8-9-0-267.
MHS -- Houghton 10-210, Hart 10-188, Cape 2-35, Clark 1-6, O’Bannon 1-2.
Emporia -- Knight 2-106, Brady Marstall 2-89, Jackson 2-13, Campbell 1-55, Eichler 1-4.