SALINA — It was an unusual season opener for the McPherson High School football team. However, the Bullpups came through and picked up a 29-17 win over Salina South on Friday.
Kaleb Hoppes made his first career start at quarterback, however, things were not looking right in the beginning. The offensive line struggled to get a push in the running game and recorded negative rushing yards before the end of the first half.
"We were a little bit stubborn offensively," Bullpups Head Coach Jace Pavlovich said. "We wanted to run to run the football, especially in the first quarter."
To top of it all off, the Bullpups surprisingly were down 10-0. That is something unusual for McPherson to be on the ropes and trail early.
However, the Bullpups didn't hit the panic button. The defense continued to do their jobs and made two key turnovers that turned this game around. One of them included an interception by Jayden Dukes, who made his career start at cornerback.
That interception would set up their first touchdown of the evening from Kaleb Hoppes' 25-yard pass to Cody Stufflebean just in time to end the first half.
The momentum shifted in the third quarter when the offense finally got the offense moving when Aaron Powell made a huge run off a jet sweep which would later result in a rushing touchdown by Hoppes. The Bullpups captured their first lead at 13-10. Powell would later made another big play when he caught a 99-yard pass to put McPherson up 19-10.
The Cougars were down, but not out. Salina South got the ball moving again and would later score again to make it a closer game, yet the defense took it up a notch by making key stops, especially on third and-fourth down, which was their struggle in the first half. Hoppes put the game away with his second rushing touchdown of the evening.
"They really showed great leadership. Not freaking out or panicking at all," Pavlovich said. "We were a little bit nervous. It was great to be able to find adversity."
Powell would finish the night with eight catches for 156 and one touchdown. Hoppes was a bulldozer on offense whenever he got his touches. He was able to pick up four total touchdowns in first start. Cody Stufflebean made his presents with his two-sack performance to go along with his offensive touchdown at tight end.
"We had been smacked in the mouth and our kids fought adversity and never quit," Pavlovich said. "Second half we got physical up front. We executed in our passing game really well. I'm really proud of our guys."
Now at 1-0, the Bullpups will host Winfield High School next Friday t 7 p.m. at McPherson Stadium.
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