McPHERSON — McPherson High School senior quarterback Dylan Rinker threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bullpups to their fifth straight win over rival Buhler, 18-6, on Friday night at McPherson Stadium.


McPherson never trailed, but Buhler was never too far behind. Although the Bullpups put up nearly 400 total yards on offense and held the Crusaders to six points on defense, it was far from a perfect game from McPherson.


The Bullpups fumbled the ball four times and lost two of them, while committing seven penalties for 74 yards. But in a rivalry game against a quality opponent, picking up the win may sometimes come at the expense of looking pretty.


"We wake up every morning wanting to get better so we can beat Buhler - that’s what a rivalry is all about," McPherson head coach Jace Pavlovich said. "It wasn’t real clean tonight, we didn’t execute the way we are capable of, but we got it done tonight and I’m proud of our kids’ effort."


The Bullpups are coming off their first defeat of the season - a six-point loss against De Soto in which Pavlovich believes his team learned a lot in defeat.


After allowing 41 points to De Soto last week, the McPherson defense responded by holding Buhler to six.


"I was proud of the defense to come back and put up the performance that they did. They settled in when they needed to," Pavlovich said. "Yeah they put up 41 against us last week, but that is a really good De Soto football team, and we learned a lot from it, and we should learn a lot from this one tonight, too."


That’s not to say Buhler had nothing going on offense all night. Star running back Sam Elliott rushed for 140 yards on 24 carries, while quarterback Bradley Neill threw for 149 yards.


Buhler had a handful of drives that went and ended inside McPherson territory. Moving the ball was not Buhler’s problem - finishing drives with points was.


"We have to do a better job on offense," Buhler head coach Steve Warner said. "We had some opportunities early in the game, We have to convert on our opportunities which will give us a chance to be successful."


The Crusaders looked impressive early. After forcing a quick 3-and-out on defense, Buhler took its first drive deep inside McPherson territory, but turned the ball over on downs inside the red zone.


McPherson struck first early in the second quarter on a one-yard rushing touchdown by Jayvn Hill on a drive that was set up by a 52-yard screen pass from Rinker to Trey Buckbee.


With 91 seconds remaining in the first half, Elliott scored a 28 yard rushing touchdown to tie the game at six.


The Bullpups responded when Rinker and company orchestrated a beautiful drive that ended with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Powell with 25 seconds left in the half.


The Bullpups practice their two-minute offense often, and it showed on Friday night.


"Our two-minute offense has always been really good. We have great receivers and a great offensive line," Pavlovich said. "We can throw the three step and five step really well. Our kids are knowledgeable, they can step out of bounds or get a first down when they need to. It’s a credit to our offensive coaching staff and it’s a credit to the kids for accepting the coaching."


After a scoreless third quarter, Rinker found Powell from 17 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 18-6. The drive was made possible when Rinker connected on a deep pass to Gus Ruddle for 46 yards.


Buhler did not go away and looked destined to make it a one-score game late in the fourth. The Crusaders drove deep into McPherson territory, but fumbled the ball and McPherson’s Collin Pearson came up with the recovery.


The Bullpups took over with about four minutes left and were able to take three minutes off the clock. Buhler was lucky to see the ball again, but when the Crusaders did take possession, they did so with a minute left, no timeouts, and most of the field in front of them.


McPherson put up big numbers on offense as 145 of Rinker’s 312 passing yards went to Buckbee. But the Bullpups were held to under 30 points for the first time this season by a Buhler defense that returned only two starters from a year ago.


"I thought our defense played really well," Warner said. "Our defensive line was physical - they didn’t run the ball on us until the very end. We’re still inexperienced, but we’re getting better every week.


"I’m ready for the playoffs. We have to take it one week at a time, but I think each week we’re getting better and better, and I’m proud of our kids."


When speaking to the media after the game, Pavlovich wanted to send his prayers to Buhler’s Raiden Stewart, who became paralyzed last winter in a car accident.


Stewart played football and wrestled for the Crusaders last year.


"We know he’s a tough kid and we know he wanted to be out here on the field," Pavlovich said. "He’s a fighter, and he’s going to do some tremendous things in his life."


The Bullpups are now 5-1 and travel to Mulvane next Friday. Buhler drops to 3-2 and hosts Wellington next Friday.