It was a game that could be viewed as worthy of the state championship.
For four quarters, the McPherson High School defense slowed the vaunted Holton Wildcat rushing game, exchanging blows with the top team in Class 4A for the right to move onto the semifinals against Mulvane. In the end, though, Holton won, not on the ground, but by air.
“It’s a real heartbreaker,” MHS head coach Tom Young said minutes after the 31-27 loss. “We just played so hard, especially on defense.”
That defense held the Wildcat rushing attack to half it’s average output, as Holton managed 266 yards on the ground, a far cry from it’s average of 424.9 yards a game entering the quarterfinal against MHS.
Holton struck first on a 30 yard field goal with 5:44 left in the opening period, then again just 90 seconds later, as running back Drake Ewing found a hole in the Bullpup defense and ran in a 25 yard touchdown to make it 10-0 Holton after the first quarter.
McPherson would respond in the second quarter, first with a 10 yard pass from Kyler Kinnamon to tight end James Mowery to make it 10-7. The Pups defense would force a Holton fumble on the next drive and Austin O’Bannon would take advantage with a five yard touchdown run to put McPherson up 14-10.
The lead would change hands twice more before Holton would eat up over nine minutes off the game clock on a 17 play, 94 yard drive that gave them a 24-20 lead with five minutes left in the ball game.
The Bullpups proved game, though, as Kinnamon drove MHS down the field and connected with wide receiver Marcus Houghton for a fifteen yard pass in the end zone to put McPherson up 27-24 with 1:11 left on the clock.
Holton, however, would answer, as quarterback Jaxon Wright would find running back Trent Tanking for a 65 yard dagger in the Bullpups season with one minute left on the clock. McPherson would try valiantly to get down the field, but the clock was against Young’s team, as the offense stalled out at the Holton 35 with two-tenths of a second left on the game clock. A Hail Mary from Kinnamon to the end zone was batted away and McPherson ended their season at 10-2.
For McPherson, Kinnamon went 16 of 28 passing for 188 yards and three touchdowns in he loss. Houghton accounted for two of those scores and 79 yards receiving.
O’Bannon led the Bullpups in rushing with 64 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.
Afterwards, Young acknowledged the loss stung, but was complimentary of his seniors.
“They put so much into this,” Young said. “We ha the right attitude going into the playoffs because of our senior leadership.”
For Young, it was a tough end to a memorable season.
Page 2 of 2 - “Obviously, we would have liked to extend it a week or two,” he said, “but we got beat by a really good team. There’s no shame in that.”
Holton now faces Mulvane, who shut down Buhler 15-0.
McPherson listed first
First downs — 19, 16
Rushing yards — 121, 266; Passing — 16-28-2 188, 2-3-0 80; Fumbles/Loss — 0-0, 1-1; Penalties — 5-55, 5-42; Punts/Avg. — 2-37, 3-30.
MHS — O’Bannon 19-64; Kinnamon 14-54; Clark 1-2; Houghton 1-1.
Holton — Karn 8-115; Ewing 14-64; Lassiter 4-53; Wright 7-14; Wilson 4-12; Tanking 2-8.
MHS — Kinnamon 16-288-2-188.
Holton — Wright 2-3-0-88.
MHS — Houghton 7-79; Hamilton 4-46; Mowery 2-19; Sorenson 1-25.
Holton — Tanking 1-65; New 1-15.