With a trip to the state championship on the line, McPherson and Andale High School exemplified what a high school football game is all about.

Two teams leaving everything they had on the field until the final whistle. Unfortunately for the home team, one of the greatest seasons in McPherson High School football history came to an end Friday night with a 20-13 loss to Andale. The Bullpups finished the season with a 10-2 record, and reached the state semifinals for only the second time in program history.

Down 14 at halftime, the Bullpups made things very interesting in the fourth quarter, but the Indians held on to book their ticket to the state championship game where they will face fellow unbeaten Bishop Miege next Saturday in Topeka.

The Bullpups created a lot of great memories this season, and head coach Jace Pavlovich will never forget this team’s world-class work ethic.

“This is a talented bunch, but the bottom line is they come to work everyday,” Pavlovich said. “Their work ethic is the primary key to success for this group.”

Pavlovich and the rest of the coaching staff said goodbye to one of the most talented senior classes in McPherson history Friday night. The Bullpups, especially the defense, were loaded with senior leadership, which will not be easy to replace next year.

“It’s tough to see a group of kids like this end the way it did, but a 10-win season is special and I’m proud of them; they made the program better,” Pavlovich said. “Our younger kids have got to see that, step up, and get it done.”

Andale was gifted a short field on its opening possession after recovering a McPherson fumble near midfield. On 3rd and 12, Andale competed a 45-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the McPherson defense to go ahead 6-0 with nine minutes left in the quarter.

The McPherson offense went three-and-out on its next possession, and the Andale offense marched down the field looking to go up by two scores. But the McPherson defense came up huge on fourth and short inside the red zone, forcing a turnover on downs with a tackle in the backfield. McPherson capitalized on its next drive, capped off by a 13-yard touchdown pass from Kyler Hoppes to Gabe Hoover. The extra point was no good, keeping the game tied at six with 1:28 left in the first quarter.

In the first half, the McPherson defense was its usual self on first and second down, but completely fell apart on third and long. On third and eight, Andale torched the secondary again on a 62-yard touchdown pass 65 seconds after McPherson tied the game. The Indians led 13-6 with 23 seconds left in the first quarter.

Andale would create some separation right before halftime on a 20-yard touchdown pass on third down. Down 20-6 at halftime, the Bullpups needed to make adjustments on both sides of the ball, which they did.

The defense kept Andale off the board the rest of the game, and the offense was able to run the ball much more consistently in the second half. McPherson’s opening drive of the second half was nearly flawless as running back Jace Kinnamon capped off the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run to bring the Bullpups back to within seven.

And even though the Bullpups never tied the game, they had their chances offensively. The fourth quarter began with a fourth and six from the Andale 23, but a Hoppes pass fell incomplete for a turnover on downs.

Later in the quarter, McPherson took over at the Andale 38, but a fumbled handoff was recovered by Andale with 5:51 left in the game. McPherson had one final shot and was driving down the field with the fourth quarter winding down. Nearing the Andale red zone, Hoppes was picked off down the middle of the field with 1:24 left, and the Indians were able to run out the clock from there.

“We made a few minor adjustments at halftime, and that’s a credit to our kids because they were able to adjust and get it done in the second half,” Pavlovich said. “They had just over 20 yards in the second half; our defense was our normal defense. We just committed too many turnovers and failed to execute when we needed to.”

The McPherson High senior class went 30-12 in its four years with the program. The next generation of Bullpups has a lot to live up to, and Pavlovich says it starts Monday in SPS class.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do and that begins Monday in the weight room,” Pavlovich said. “There are some young kids that we really like where they are now. But again it all comes back to these seniors; hopefully these younger kids have seen what it takes to be successful.”

The Bullpups finished the season with a 10-2 record.

Contact Gallagher Martin by email at gmartin@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow him on Twitter @GMartinSentinel