Football 'Pups take 2nd in 7-on-7 event

By Steve Sell
July 17, 2017

OVERLAND PARK – McPherson High’s football team probably opened some eyes around the state on Saturday when it took second place in the 7-on-7 Blue Valley Summer Classic against a field that included much-larger schools.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our kids' effort all day long,” MHS coach Jace Pavlovich said. “This tournament was our focal point all summer long with our skill kids.”

7-on-7 features the passing game as well as linebackers and defensive backs. MHS returns most of its starting defense from a team that finished 8-3 last year, losing in the second round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs to Maize South.

MHS was 2-1-1 in pool play, with the wins coming against Ruskin of Missouri and Blue Valley Southwest. The Bullpups tied with Ray-Pec of Missouri and lost to Blue Valley North.

That gave them the No. 3 seed in bracket play. They knocked off 5A stalwart Shawnee Heights in the first round, then upset Blue Valley in the semifinals. In the championship game, the Bullpups were defeated by Blue Valley North.

The Bullpups actually won two of three in the bracket portion after losing three of their players who had to leave to compete in the American Legion zone baseball tournament.

“We had some young kids like Jake Houghton step up and play very well,” Pavlovich said. “We had to have some kids play both ways in tournament play as well. I love the mental toughness of this team.”

Pavlovich said the team experienced a down-to-the-wire game with Blue Valley Southwest, which was a springboard for the rest of the weekend.

“We had a huge interception for a touchdown as time ran out against Blue Valley Southwest to win the game,” Pavlovich said. “We fought to the bitter end in the first round of the tournament to edge Shawnee Heights in the last minute. In the semifinal game of the tournament, we fought Blue Valley (who did not have anyone play both offense and defense) to a two-overtime win. These guys simply refuse to lose.”

One of the big question marks going into the season is the quarterback position as MHS must replace decorated two-year starter Casen Hoover. Pavlovich said both Drew Labertew and Kyler Hoppes showed enough to make him feel more comfortable.

“Quarterback play was solid all day long.” Pavlovich said. “Both Drew and Kyler have their strengths and their weaknesses, but we have two quarterbacks right now that can step in and lead us.”

MHS has less than a month before the first day of practice on Aug. 14. The Bullpups will have to be ready from the get-go as they open their season Sept. 1 at Buhler in one of the top matchups of the night in Kansas.