One stat really summed up Friday night’s Class 4A District 15 clash between McPherson High School and Abilene.
The total offensive yardage was 580 yards.
By the time the dust settled at Cowboys Stadium, the lead had changed 11 times, the two teams had put up 1,001 yards of total offense and scored 104 points, with McPherson standing tall 58-46 to stay undefeated in district play and cinch a Class 4A playoff spot.
“The offense is clicking,” McPherson coach Tom Young said after the game. “Defense, we need to go back to the drawing board a little bit. There’s some things we probably need to work on. It’s towards the end of the end of the year and, if we want to see some progress in the playoffs, we’ve got to get better on that side of the ball.”
Bullpup quarterback Kyler Kinnamon, in particular, had a history-making game for MHS (5-3, 2-0 District), as he went over the 1,000 yard mark in both passing and rushing during what was, essentially, an offensive track meet with Abilene.
Kinnamon rushed 21 times for 263 yards and five touchdowns and added 97 yards on 5-for-11 passing with another two touchdowns. On the season, Kinnamon has 1,157 yards on the ground and 1,043 in the air and has found the end zone 25 times total.
“I’m proud of our offense for how hard they played and how well they executed the option,” Young said. “Both Kyler and TJ [Stites] ran the ball really hard. Dan [Dick] blocked well.”
The offenses truly ruled the day for both teams, as neither defense really seemed to be able to make much headway against the onslaught of the opposing team.
Abilene drew first blood on a 6-play, 62-yard drive that culminated in a Tanner Hoekman one-yard touchdown run with 9:27 left in the first quarter to go up 7-0. Kinnamon would respond barely two minutes later with a 24-yard keeper that capped a 7-play, 75 yard scoring drive for McPherson, though the attempted two-point conversion would miss, leaving McPherson trailing 7-6 with 7:16 left in the quarter.
That back-and-forth set the tone for the first half, as the two teams exchanged touchdowns almost at will. Hoekman scored on a 66-yard pass from Chase Stalder and runs of 8- and 40-yards. Abilene also got a touchdown from a Harley Hazlett pass to Jesse Patrick.
Kinnamon retaliated three times himself in the first half, scoring on runs of 27- and 3-yards, respectively, while also connecting with Dick on a 9-yard pass.
The Pups special teams also stepped up once again, as Nathan Nutter blocked a Cowboy punt and took the ball back 24-yards for a touchdown.
Page 2 of 3 - Unfortunately, McPherson struggled to convert the extra point, as they missed three of the five attempts after the touchdowns and found themselves trailing 34-32 at the half.
For the game, the Pups were 3-of-9 on the PAT.
The second half looked to be the same horse race, as McPherson scored barely 30 seconds into the third quarter off a Kinnamon 53-yard pass to Collin Harvey that gave the Pups back the lead, but it wouldn’t last for long.
Abilene responded with a Hoekman 15-yard run. The ensuing kick was blocked by the Pups, who found themselves down 40-38 with 6:30 left in the period.
MHS went back to work though, as Kinnamon shot down the field on the next drive 44 yards for a touchdown that made it 46-40. The Pups defense finally managed a three-and-out to end the quarter, which gave Kinnamon time to orchestrate a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ate nearly five minutes off the clock before he punched it in for a 9-yard touchdown.
Abilene never regained the lead after that, though Daniel Dick added an insurance touchdown with 6:05 left in the game to give McPherson an 18-point cushion.
The Cowboys had one last gasp of offense, an 8-yard pass from Hazlett to Patrick, but it was too little, too late as the Pups sat on it to get the district win.
McPherson finished the game with 515 total yards of offense, 418 of which came on the ground. Abilene had 486 yards on offense, with 261 coming from the rush game, and 225 in the air.
Stites continued his impressive play in the backfield, carrying the ball 27 times for 156 yards. Hoekman finished the game with 189 yards on 23 attempts with four touchdowns. He also had the touchdown pass from Stalder to his credit.
The Pups will be at home Thursday night against Chapman for the season finale, which will go a long way towards determining where MHS will play in the playoff opener on Nov. 5. The Fighting Irish will come to McPherson Stadium looking to play spoiler after losing 33-12 to Smoky Valley Friday night.
The Pups won last year’s game 42-36.
“It’s not a whole lot different than last year,” Young said of the situation the Pups find themselves in with Chapman. “I think we were overconfident and they played us really tough for three quarters. They gave us a really good game last year.”
Young feels his offense is playing with a lot of confidence, though, coming into Senior Night next week at McPherson Stadium.
“I think so,” Young said. “We’ll get our defense playing that way. We slipped a little bit, but we’ll look at the game film and we’ll make those corrections.”
Page 3 of 3 - Contact Chris Swick by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @SwickSentinel.