For the third straight year, the McPherson High School football team is looking to chase history by making its first appearance in the state championship. This year, Andover Central High school is standing in the way of the that.
Andover Central (10-1), similar to McPherson, is known for its basketball success. Especially last season when the Jaguars won the Class 5A State Championship last season. The football team is filled with basketball players on the roster and made a big jump this season after finishing 5-5 last year.
"Coach (Derek) Tuttle is a class act," McPherson's coach Jace Pavlovich said. "He and I have similar backgrounds. Both of us have followed legends. Both of us were trusted with great programs without any prior head coaching experience. He's done a great job with his program, and we have a ton of respect for everything they have done.
The fact that they have multiple sport athletes makes them hard to beat. They are the defending 5A basketball state champions, and all of them play football. These kids are competitors. They have great skill, but their competitive nature sets them apart."
The Jags are coming into Friday's semifinals as the second-best team in the Class 4A West Standings. Their only loss was to Maize South, a Class 5A team that is in the same AVCTL Division II league as Andover Central, 24-17 on Oct. 4.
The Jaguars have gifted athletes all over the field. Still, the Bullpups will play closely attention to Andover Central's big three, which are quarterback Shomari Parnell (129-233, 2073 yards, 22 touchdowns), and the receiver duo of Xavier Bell (59 rec. 829 receiving yards, 11 TDs) and Matthew Macy (35. rec. 832, 10 TDs). For McPherson's defense, which allowed 8.4 points all year, stopping two of three could be a win, but to that, Pavlovich knows he must take some gambles in his gameplan.
"Containing three guys that are game breakers is next to impossible," Pavlovich said. "We have to take some calculated risks to put pressure on the QB. With those risks comes rewards, but we are also susceptible to big plays."
In the last two seasons, the Bullpups were just one-possession shy of competing for the state championship. Last year they fell to Goddard 15-14, and two seasons ago, they lost to Andale High School 20-13. Pavlovich is not caught up in the "getting over the hump" hooplah but expects the Bullpups to execute on both sides of the field.
"Yes, we have reached this point twice before, but the fact of the matter is that most high school football teams lose in their last game," Pavlovich said. "Losing is never fun, no matter when it happens. We have to be able to run the football and defend the run to get to our ultimate goal."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Winner of Friday's game will take on the winner of the Bishop Miege-Paola game in the East division. The State championship will be in Topeka.
A Jam-Packed Crowd
Both McPherson and Andover Central are doing their parts of filling the bleachers. McPherson's Home State Bank provided an entry fee for each student who plans on attending Friday's game. While the Andover Central booster club is offering free transportation, food and tickets for its students.
"It's going to be a crazy atmosphere Friday night," Pavlovich said. "This is what high school football is all about. Two great communities are supporting their programs."
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