It was a history making night in more than one way for McPherson High School on a cold, rainy Tuesday night.
On the one hand, you had junior quarterback Kyler Kinnamon, who soared past a 25-year MHS record for single-season rushing yards, with at least one more game left for the Bullpups on the schedule.
Not to be outdone was senior TJ Stites, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark on a cold, rainy Tuesday night against Clay Center in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs.
It marked the first time in recent memory, at least, MHS sported not one, but two backs that had met that mark.
And then there was the defensive effort in the 47-7 win.
McPherson had been shocked Thursday by Chapman 50-46, giving up 505 yards to a team that had, previously, only won two games against opponents that had a 2-14 record to that point. This was following a similar performance against Abilene in week two of district play.
That defense, however, was nowhere to be seen Tuesday against Clay Center.
The Bullpups stepped up their game to an incredible level in the playoff opener, allowing the Tigers only 46 yards of total offense and just one first down. For the game.
It was as masterful a performance as you could ask for on all sides of the ball.
“That was quite an effort,” MHS coach Tom Young said. “I was talking to the team [after the game], and had just one question; ‘Who are you guys?’”
McPherson started the beatdown from the opening drive, as the defense attacked the Tigers hard, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Clay Center on the 22 yard line. The next play, Tiger quarterback Kody Gregory tossed an interception to Marcus McDaniel.
Kinnamon blasted through the Tiger defense on the very next play, taking the ball 22 yards for his first of three touchdowns. His second would come after the ensuing possession by Clay Center, as the MHS defense forced a three-and-out.
Kinnamon then ripped off a 75-yard run to paydirt with 8:22 left in the game and Clay Center was left with no answers for the Bullpup attack. Kinnamon and Stites would both add three-yard runs before the end of the of half.
The exclamation point in the opening period was a Cole Hanken interception of Gregory with 3:53 remaining in the opening period that he returned 33 yards to the house for a pick-six.
Kinnamon would cap his night in the third quarter with a 73-yard punt return to put the score at 47-0, enacting the running clock rule that KSHSAA has, which states that, when a team reaches a 45-point lead in all classes but 8-Man, the clock will not stop unless it is a time-out.
Page 2 of 2 - Kinnamon finished the night with 13 carries for 186 yards. He now sits at 1,541 for the season, eclipsing the 1988 record of legendary Bullpup Dwanye Chandler, who posted 1,536.
Stites, meanwhile, finished with two touchdowns and 167 yards on 21 carries. He has 1,047 rushing yards on the year, which is even more impressive when one considers he didn’t start playing running back until Oct. 4 against Winfield.
“The offense has been clicking really well,” Young said. “We don’t have any weak spots. Everybody is executing and getting the job done up front. The wide receivers, even though they didn’t have a lot to do tonight, as cold and windy as it was, just as important is blocking down the field. They’ve really improved this year in that area.”
McPherson (6-4) only threw two passes, neither of which were caught, against Clay Center, but still managed 395 yards of offense, regardless.
The Tigers (6-4) had 39 yards on the ground, led by Gregory’s 18, and 7 passing yards. That was made on a single pass by Kade Wallace after the JV squads for both teams entered the game in the fourth quarter. Wallace also notched Clay Center’s only touchdow with 4:48 left in the game.
The road doesn’t get any easier for McPherson as they enter the round of 16 on Saturday. The Bullpups will face undefeated Andale on Saturday night. The Indians (10-0) are coming off a 60-0 thumping of Larned Tuesday.
“That’s the same pattern as last year,” Young said, referring to the Pups facing the Indians in the second round of the playoffs. “Hopefully, it will turn out the same way. We’ve got to play like this. If we don’t come out with our A-game, like tonight, it will be a long night. But, if we play like this, we’ve got a shot at those guys.”
In fact, the pattern could be exactly like last year, as a win against Andale Saturday could have the Bullpups facing defending 4A champions Holton in sectional play on Nov. 15. The Pups lost to the Wildcats 31-27 in what many considered to be the true state championship.
Kick off times will be announced later.
Contact Chris Swick by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @SwickSentinel.