The McPherson High School football team needed three yards to save its season. The Bullpups had one play that would ultimately decide whether they would win or lose. It was gutsy, dramatic, and in the end, successful.
After answering a Buhler touchdown in overtime, McPherson decided against an extra point which would have sent the game into double overtime, and instead went for the win on a two-point conversion. What the McPherson High coaching staff drew up was a reverse pass that had quarterback Kyler Hoppes wide open in the end zone for the 15-14 win. The Bullpups are now 9-1 and travel to Maize South next Friday in the quarterfinals of state.
“We have two, two-point conversion plays that we know we can score on for exactly this reason,” McPherson head coach Jace Pavlovich said. “It’s a play that coach [Matt] Sambo drew up and that we really liked, and our kids executed it very well tonight.”
The fourth quarter ended with the game tied at seven, meaning overtime would be necessary to crown a winner. Buhler, who was 11-0 in first round playoff games under coach Steve Warner coming into Friday night, got the ball to begin overtime after McPherson won the toss and elected to play defense first.
In high school overtime, each team starts with the ball at the opposing 10-yard line. Buhler gained nine yards on its first two plays, and punched the ball into the end zone on third and goal from the one to put pressure on the Pups. After a successful extra point, Buhler led 14-7, needing just one stop to win the game.
But McPherson responded in similar fashion, as Drew Labertew scored on a one-yard rushing touchdown on third down to bring the Bullpups within one. Buhler blocked two field goals on the night, which helped make Pavlovich’s decision to go for the win a bit easier.
“I talked to the kids in the huddle and said, ‘Listen guys, this is your team. What do you want to do here?’ And they said, ‘coach, let’s go win this.’ So we put the ball in their hands, and again they just executed the scheme very well.”
After calling a timeout to think it over, the Bullpups lined up with two receivers on each side. Hoppes then shifted to the right leaving Labertew all alone in the shotgun. Labertew sent a man in motion, took the snap, ran to his left, reversed the ball to Gabe Hoover, who lofted an easy pass to a wide-open Hoppes in the corner of the end zone for the win.
McPherson scored its first touchdown on a six-yard pass from Hoppes to Tayln Huff with 1:25 left in the first quarter. Buhler responded in a flash, tying the game at seven early in the second quarter. From there, both defenses took over and kept things tied at seven until overtime.
“We’ve had great defense for a long time, but we’ve never had a defense this solid,” Pavlovich said. “It was just a fun, defensive football game that ended the right way.”
If the Bullpups are to keep their dream season alive, they will have to go through Maize South once more. The Bullpups are 0-3 against the Mavericks the past two season, with three, gut-wrenching losses.
“We’ve got to get back to work; we need to play more sound football technique wise, and if we can get that done I feel like we’re physical enough to come out of there with a win,” Pavlovich said.
The Bullpups will be at Maize South next Friday, who defeated Wellington 49-7.