Unlike the last meeting where the game ended in one half due to inclement weather, the McPherson High School football team played all four quarters against Abilene High School on Friday's opening round of the Class 4A state tournament. The results remained the same as the Bullpups took care of business against the Cowboys, 63-7, and can now focus on their rematch against Goddard High School next week Friday in the round of 16.
"We talked about opportunities all the time, and our opportunities are running out," McPherson's coach Jace Pavlovich said. "Our kids did a great job. You know, between our offense and defense, I can think offhand four mistakes that we made all night. That's pretty good. Our guys did a good job being physical no matter who is on the other side."
What can go right, went right for McPherson. The Bullpups focused on the running attack as they netted 193 yards on the ground, and rushed five touchdowns the whole game. Jakob Feil was the top rusher with 94 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns. five more Bullpups also put up points on the board in the first half. That includes a one-yard run from both Kaleb Hoppes and Jonah Clarke, and a Aiden Hoover 28-yard jet sweep. Matt Ramey had the longest touchdown run with 43 yards in the second quarter. The Bullpups led 49-0 at halftime.
"We're healthy and were able to rest some kids," Pavlovich said. Our guys have been pretty focused. That's the first time we went to an actual huddle in the 15 years I've been here, and we weren't perfect by any means, but we were good enough."
Anthony Brooks, among other young backups, saw playing time in the fourth quarter. Brooks added two more rushing touchdowns, which is his first as a varsity player. Pavlovich believes the future is bright after seeing his backups produce on the field.
"That's what builds our program," Pavlovich said. "We were able to distribute the ball to some sophomores and juniors, and even some freshmen that we feel have a bright future. When you're able to do those things across the board with games like this, it really helps the future out for sure."
Abilene's offense struggled to move the chains on McPherson's swarm of defense, disrupting the backfield. The Cowboys only had negative two on the ground. Cody Stufflebean made his return to the starting lineup after being sidelined in the last two games due to knee injury. When the Cowboys went three-and-out on the opening drive, Stufflebean blocked a punt that would result in a 10-yard scoop-and-score by Brycen Labertew.
When the third quarter kicked off, so did the running clock. Abilene was able to avoid a shutout with less than a minute in the fourth quarter when Jackson Randles threw a 68-yard bomb to Kaleb Becker.
Now that the Bullpups got this out of the way, the real challenge begins when they finally get their rematch against Goddard. Pavlovich is confident that they will be ready next week.
"This is just a tune-up for next week, which will be an actual battle," Pavlovich said. "Our guys are locked in. We got what we wanted out of this game, and we can move on."
The McPherson-Goddard game will kick off at 7 p.m. at the McPherson Stadium.
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