McPherson High faced a crossroads at halftime Friday night against Mulvane.
Wildcat quarterback R.J. Reiger improbably completed a 58-yard Hail Mary to Ethan Evans as time wound out in the first half after the ball had been batted away by McPherson defensive back Collin Harvey to score. Instead of being up 17-14, the Pups, instead, trailed 21-17 at the intermission.
It was a make-or-break moment for a Bullpup team that had lost two straight.
“We just told them not to fall apart,” McPherson coach Tom Young said of the coaches’ halftime talk with the Bullpups. “Our emphasis all week was playing with a high degree of energy and enthusiasm. It really paid off for us.”
It did in spades, as the Bullpups responded for 21 unanswered, third-quarter points on their way to a 51-28 blowout of Mulvane to improve to 3-3 (3-2 AVCTL Div. III).
McPherson was able to move the football better than they have since a win over Rose Hill Sept. 20, as they had 465 rushing yards on 42 carries. The main workhorses for the Pups was the dynamic duo of quarterback Kyler Kinnamon and TJ Stites, who made his second start at tailback for the injured Ty Hart. Stites carried the ball 26 times for 231 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard charge with 7:39 left to go in the fourth quarter that polished off the MHS scoring effort Friday night.
Kinnamon, not to be outdone, had 225 yards on only 12 carries, scoring three times. Of those scores, two were for huge gains.
The first touchdown came with just under a minute to go in the half after a beautiful fake to Stites that opened up a seam for Kinnamon to race 70-yards for the touchdown.
Kinnamon then kickstarted the Bullpup charge in the second half, as he went 81-yards to the house on virtually the exact same play.
Marcus McDaniel then picked off Reiger on the Wildcats’ first play of their next possession, taking the ball back 45-yards for a pick-six and the rout was on for McPherson, as they never looked back after the interception.
“All along we’ve felt we could play this well,” Young said. “I think we proved that tonight.”
The Bullpups were light on passing, with Kinnamon only netting 60 yards and completing 6-for-11 passes. His longest was a 35-yarder to Harvey. McPherson didn’t really need the passing game, though, as the rushing attack of Stites and Kinnamon proved more than adequate against the Wildcats. In his two games at running back, Stites has 357 yards, impressive for someone who had played wide receiver for the Bullpups’ first four games.
“TJ just keeps getting better and better,” Young said. “I hate not having him at wide receiver; I’d like to have him at both spots. But he’s really helped us at that tailback spot.”
Page 2 of 2 - Kinnamon, meanwhile, is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing for the year, as he has racked up 785 on the ground with nine touchdowns through six games.
The Bullpup defense also stepped up huge, energized by McDaniel’s interception. They held Mulvane to 373 total yards of offense, with most of that coming from their prolific running back, Michael Mason, who had 230 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns for the Wildcats.
By comparison, the rest of Mulvane’s rushers had 60 total yards.
McPherson needed the momentum, as they being district play next week against Smoky Valley, who remained undefeated Friday with a 56-28 drubbing of Lyons.
“This is a huge deal,” Young said of the Smoky Valley game. “This is a special deal. We’ve got to be ready to play these guys because they’ve got a really good team.”
Kickoff for McPherson and Smoky Valley will be at 7 p.m. from McPherson Stadium for what will be MHS’ homecoming.
Contact Chris Swick by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @SwickSentinel.