McPHERSON — With a combined record of 40-7, the McPherson High School football team graduated its most successful senior class in program history.


"They will have a lasting impact on our program because our young guys learned from them how to do everything right," Pavlovich said.


For the third straight season, McPherson reached the Class 4A State Semifinals last year. McPherson is still seeking its first state championship appearance in history, but the program has reached new heights and still has room to grow.


"Our number one goal is to simply reach our potential and worry about what we can control," Pavlovich said. "Our goal is simple, we want to play good football towards the end of the year."


With six returning starters on offense and five on defense, McPherson will be focused on improving every day.


"We have a ton of talented kids coming up in the program but are unproven in a starting capacity," Pavlovich said. "The last two years, these guys have able to practice eight extra weeks which should benefit us."


On offense, the Bullpups will be led by three returning offensive linemen in Jonah Scott, Dakota Istas, and Blade Anderson.


The wide receiver core will also be deep with Aaron Powell, Trey Buckbee, and Gus Ruddle.


Dylan Rinker is expected to take over at the quarterback position, and Pavlovich is confident the first-year starter will do well. Developing a running back will be perhaps the biggest key on offense.


"We have plenty of guys that can run the ball, we just have to settle in with someone," Pavlovich said. "Our strength is the guys upfront. We will be large, deep, and athletic at that position group."


The Bullpups have prided themselves on defense during their historic run, but will have big shoes to fill with the loss of defensive end Cody Stufflebean - now at Kansas State - and linebacker Mason Thrash - now at Butler Community College.


Brycen Labertew will lead the position group, while defensive backs Jayton Alexander and Jayden Dukes will lead the way in the secondary.


Drew Hanken and Curtis Landrum return on the defensive line giving the Bullpups a little experience throughout the entire defense.


"Our defensive line should again be our strongest position," Pavlovich said. "We need to find an inside backer and a couple defensive backs to fill out a traditionally strong defense."


McPherson hosts Salina South on Sept. 4 to open the season. A Week 3 game against Great Bend should also be interesting, as will a Week 7 matchup at Mulvane.


"What I am most proud of is the fact that our program has gone from five wins to eight wins to 10 wins to 11 wins over the last four years," Pavlovich said. "We hope to continue that trend upwards this upcoming season."