McPHERSON— Last season the McPherson High School football team had arguably one of their best seasons in school history since the Tom Young era after finishing 10-2 and making to the state semifinals where they lost to Andale High School 20-13. The Bullpups have been climbing their way to the top as a football powerhouse in the last three years under head coach Jace Pavlovich.

"Our number one goal is to simply reach our potential and worry about what we can control,"Pavlovich said. "For example, we can't control the strength of our schedule next year, weather, etc. Our goal is simple, we want to play good football towards the end of the year."

Good news for Pavlovich, who is going into his fourth season as head coach, eight returning starters are back on offense. Last season the Bullpups averaged 329.4 total yards per game and 54 total touchdowns. Kyler Hoppes and Jace Kinnamon will be the quarterback-running back duo to help lead the Bullpups' Spread I offense. Hoppes had a spectacular junior year after completing 63 percent of his passes for 1936 yards 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Kinnamon will be carrying the load in the backfield for McPherson after rushing for 1079 and 16 touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry last year. It also helps to have a Mason Thrash as your fullback filling in gaps and taking out linebackers.

Hoppes will also have his big three weapons returning as well. Gabe Hoover ( 45 rec. 541 yards, 7 TDs), Tayln Huff ( 33 rec. 472 yards 5 TDs) and Chandler Wiard (29 rec. 444 yards 5 TDs) all will be the primary targets for Hoppes. At offensive line, Dawson Van Goethem and Courtney Kraig will be Defensively could be a challenge for McPherson. After a dominating year, the Bullpups only returned three starters on defense. Wyatt Seidl will be a tough player to replace as he moves on to Fort Hays State, however Cody Stufflebean, after leading the team in tackles and sacks last year, could be an upside as a pass rusher. Khalil Lisbon will be a disrupting force in the middle going into his senior year. Both Kollin Goering and Jayse Alexander are gone, but Thrash could be the guy to step up at Middle linebacker for the Bullpups. In the secondary, Honestee Whitaker is their top returner at strong safety/hybrid linebacker. The 6-foot-3 195 pounder had two interceptions and 28 tackles (2.0 Tackles-for-loss) in his junior season. The cornerback positions will be up for grabs with Ben Nikkel and Tyson Stites are gone. Brandon Yowell played five games at corner and could be the leading candidate.

"Our defense will have to rely on some inexperienced kids, but they have been improving. Those kids will have to continue to get better this summer and fall. We have a tough league next year and we are looking forward to playing the best 4A has to offer next season.  Our kids certainly feel that we have something to prove this season."

McPherson was close to making it to the state championship. The Bullpups are capable of putting points on the board with everyone on offense returning. If the defense could play at a high level like last season, the Bullpups could bring a state title to McPherson.

 SEASON SCHEDULE:

 Aug. 31 — Salina South

Sept. 7 — at Winfield

Sept. 14 — at El Dorado

Sept. 21 — Abilene

Sept. 28 — at Buhler

Oct. 5 — Augusta

Oct. 12 — at Rose Hill

Oct. 19 — Circle

Contact Peter Holland Jr. by email at pholland@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow him on Twitter @Petes_Picks_orour sports page @MacCountySports