A frigid October night made passing the ball difficult for both teams. Running the ball, now that was a different story.
Thanks to four rushing touchdowns from junior Jace Kinnamon and two rushing touchdowns from senior Austen Hunt, the McPherson High School football team blasted Abilene, 49-6, Friday night at McPherson Stadium on Senior Night. With the win, the Bullpups finish the regular season with an outstanding 8-1 record and as district champions. The reward: Buhler in the first round of the playoffs.
But before McPherson head coach Jace Pavlovich and the rest of the Bullpups could focus their sole attention to Buhler, they had to take care of business against Abilene, who traditionally plays McPherson tough. Abilene was clearly outmatched this year, as the McPherson High offense and defense had its way with the 2-7 Cowboys from start to finish.
“We’ve got a bunch of really good players and we’ve got depth, so we’re able to wear out teams; we’re also explosive enough to get after it right away,” Pavlovich said. “Our guys executed every scheme we called tonight.”
McPherson marched down the field on its first drive, only to come up short on fourth and goal from the 8-yard line. Abilene took over from there, and had its best drive of the night. The Cowboys gained three first downs, all on 3rd and long, only to fumble the ball away near midfield. Senior Gunnar Reiss was there for the recovery, and it wasn’t long before the Pups turned the turnover into points.
With 2:33 in the first quarter, Hunt punched the ball in from four yards out to give the Bullpups a 7-0 lead. From there, the rout was on.
With Friday being Senior Night, Hunt started the game and it wasn’t until the second quarter that Kinnamon, the starting running back, received his first carry. The Abilene defense is definitely wishing Kinnamon would have been on the sidelines longer.
Kinnamon scored his first touchdown, a 42-yarder, less than two minutes into the second quarter. After the Bullpups forced a three-and-out, Kinnamon scored on the first play of the drive, bouncing off tacklers and going 52 yards for the touchdown.
Kinnamon wasn’t done there, scoring his third touchdown of the quarter with 3:18 left in the half. To cap off a nearly flawless half, Hunt scored on a six-yard rushing touchdown with 53 seconds left to send the Bullpups into the break up 35-0.
The first-team offense and defense each received a couple of series out of halftime before some of the younger guys took over. The varsity defense kept Abilene off the board, while the varsity offense scored two more touchdowns — a five-yard run from Kinnamon and a 44-yard touchdown pass from junior Kyler Hoppes to junior Gabe Hoover. Late in the fourth quarter, Abilene scored on a quarterback sneak from the goal line to avoid the shutout.
To complement the offense and the defense, special teams was also in favor of McPherson. Senior Drew Labertew was a perfect 7-for-7 on extra points, and senior Tyson Stites had a few good punt returns.
The Bullpups had their way with the Cowboys in every phase of the game, but next week against Buhler will not come as easy.
“We’re going to have to control the line of scrimmage a lot better than we did in week one,” Pavlovich said, referring to his team’s 33-21 win over Buhler on Sept. 1. “We saw some really nice things on film against them, and we also saw some areas where we need to improve. We really feel we are a better football team than we showed Buhler week one, and I expect them to be a better team than they showed us. It really comes down to simple execution and taking care of the football.”
Buhler, 7-2, finished second in its district behind 9-0 Andale. McPherson and Buhler have played some meaningful games in the past, but this one could be the biggest installment of the rivalry.
Game time next Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m.