There is no question that Cody Stufflebean is one of most elite talents McPherson High School has ever produced. On Friday night, he showed it both on offense and defense as the Bullpups survived a fierce battle with Goddard High School, 14-8, giving them their 10th win on the year and advancing to the quarterfinals.
It was an emotional night for McPherson after 340 days since their heartbreaking loss to the Lions in last year's semifinals. McPherson's coach Jace Pavlovich knew that he would need his top guys to make plays, especially on defense as the Bullpups had not allowed an offensive touchdown the entire game.
Stufflebean is usually a playmaker on the defensive side, but the K-State commit has been more reliable at the tight end spot. Stufflebean had five catches for 73 yards going into Friday's game. He finished the night with six catches for 103 yards and scored all two of McPherson's touchdowns in the first half.
"Coming into the game plan, I knew that we were going to target the Y a little bit more," Stufflebean said. "Didn't know it was going to be that much, but obviously it's working, so why stop it?"
In the second half, Stufflebean went on a terror defensively. The senior, along with the rest of the front seven, created plenty of pressure on Goddard's quarterback Kaeden Hoefer. Hoefer all night has been trying to avoid the K-State commit, but every snap, he's always in his face and was not able to find his open receivers.
Similar to last year, it came down to the fourth quarter as it was a one-possession game. The difference was that it came down in the hands of Goddard.
On the final drive, Stufflebean made three-straight defensive stops, which included two sacks and one takedown play that would turn to an interception pass from Kaleb Hoppes in the fourth quarter.
"We've always relied on our defense, so that was definitely the best-case scenario for us," Stufflebean said. "Give in all the trust into our defense."
Hoppes also had a big night despite playing banged up the whole game. He rushed for 114 yards on the ground and threw for 126 yards and two interceptions.
"We had some big-time player show up tonight and made big plays, which was exactly what we needed," Pavlovich said.
Both McPherson and Goddard had to deal with some mental errors during the game. For the Bullpups, it was the four turnovers. Two were fumbles in the first quarter. Also there were some special team miscues which paved the way for Goddard's eight points. The Lions blocked a punt inside McPherson's endzone, which resulted into a safety in the third quarter. McPherson then decided to run a "pasta punt" on fourth down but backfired when it bounced to Goddard' Dalton Carraway as he returned it for a 54-yard touchdown.
"That's one of those things where you live and learn," Pavlovich said. Our effort overcame some of the mistakes that we made tonight."
The Lions had their fair chances of taking advantage of McPherson's turnover mistakes but failed to execute.The yellow flags also got in the way of Goddard's scoring opportunities as they allowed 123 yards worth of penalties the whole game.Hoefer threw for 160 yards and rushed for 49. Pavlovich was impressed by the senior and the rest of Goddard's elite talent on the field.
"He's a great football player," Pavlovich said about Hoefer. "I was talking to AVCTL Division-II coaches, and they had four or five kids on there that should be all-state. They have a tremendous group of guys over there, and they are well-coached."
As the Bullpups end their Goddard nightmares, they will move on to the quarterfinals, where they will host Arkansas City High School next Friday at 7 p.m.
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