For the third year in a row, the game came down to the last drive with the McPherson High School football team having possession of the ball, but just like the previous two seasons, the Bullpups couldn’t punch it in and lost to Andover Central 7-0 in the Class 4A State Semifinals on Friday night.

It was nothing but a defensive battle. Both teams failed to reach the endzone on offensive plays.

Andover Central only had four first downs and 83 total yards on offense. Yet, the Jaguars struck first due to a special-team miscue by McPherson early in the second quarter, The Jaguars brought the heat on Aiden Hoover at punter. Enough pressure for him to run for his life but got stripped that resulted into a scoop-and-score by Andover Central’s Kyren Parrott.

Quarterback Shomari Parnell was under pressure the whole game, and the running game was almost nonexistent due to the wrath of Cody Stufflebean, Mason Thrash and the rest of the front seven.

As defense has been stout the whole game, the offense was not so successful despite putting up 223 total yards on offense. Down 7-0, McPherson had its fair share of putting points on the board, yet the Jaguars were just one step ahead, forcing them to go three and out.

“They fought like crazy. Unfortunately, offensively, we weren’t able to get it done, and the special teams killed us once again,” McPherson coach Jace Pavlovich said. “We made mistakes in a big-time game you just can’t make, and ultimately, I got to get these guys ready to go a little bit better. “

 Before the end of the second quarter, after a Jakob Feil intercepted with a 1:04 left, McPherson quarterback Kaleb Hoppes rolled out to his right to find Feil in the endzone, but was intercepted by Bridger Warrington, just time to end the half.

“Their secondary was good as advertised," Pavlovich said. "We were open on occasion, and they closed the gap early.

Feil has been a workhorse all night at running back and cornerback. He was just four-yards shy of his third 100-rushing yard performance but had to settle for 96 on 21 carries. As a 5-foot-6 defensive back, Feil had a big challenge in covering 6-foot-4 Xavier Bell and he limited him to 30 yards on five catches and broken up a fourth-down pass with less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter,

After McPherson made another defensive stop, time was running out. Hoppes threw a deep-ball pass to Aaron Powell, which was deflected, but with the help of the football gods, Powell still caught it from inside the five.

As the Bullpups reached the two-yard line, the running game was not a factor. Then illegal formation pushed the Bullpups back five yards on third down. On 4th and 7, Hoppes rolled out to his right and targeted Gus Ruddle in the left corner. The pass was under thrown and deflected to end the ball game. 

 “When we had four plays on the two-yard line, if you’re going to get to the state championship game, you’ve got to be able to run the football,” Pavlovich said. “We tried that a few times and weren’t very successful with it. We had an opportunity. We had the look that we wanted, and for whatever reason, we had an illegal formation. A young man just didn’t get on the line of scrimmage when we needed him there. We made some mistakes in a big-time game that you can’t make. Ultimately, I’ve got to be able to get these guys ready to go a little bit better.”

The Bullpups end their season with an 11-1 record. Also, 17 seniors were not able to reach the championship finals but will go down in history as the winningest class in program history.

“The worst part of my job is having to hug those young men and thanked them everything that they’ve done, but the fact of the matter is as varsity competitors, those guys are the winningest class in school history, just surpassing last year’s group," Pavlovich said. "We have a lot to be happy about and take pride in, but this one hurts a little bit.”

Andover Central will face Bishop Miege High School next Saturday in Topeka at 1 p.m.

Contact Peter Holland Jr. by email at pholland@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow him on Twitter@Petes_Picks_