As glorious as McPherson High’s 41-0 football rout of Augusta was last year, the best thing the Bullpups can do, according to MHS coach Jace Pavlovich, is put that game in the rear-view mirror and look at this Friday’s game as though they are playing a team similar to Buhler or Maize South.
The matchup, which has a 7 p.m. start in Augusta, features two ranked teams by CatchItKansas as Augusta is No. 8 in Class 4A Division I and the Bullpups are No. 10.
Catch all the action on 96.7 KBBE with Voice of the Bullpups Jim Joyner on the call. Complete pre-game analysis starts at 6:30.
Just as last year the Orioles enter the game 3-0 — having hardly been tested. But when the teams clashed at McPherson Stadium last season, the Bullpups ran roughshod in the first half to build up a 32-0 lead, kick-started by a pick-six by Caleb Spaich and the defense later got into the act again on a safety by Luke Koehn.
MHS rolled up 444 yards of offense and the defense was electrifying, holding the Orioles to just 167 yards in what was probably its most complete game of the year.
Pavlovich said, however, his team looks at Augusta in a totally different light compared to the team that was steamrolled.
“It is a big test,” Pavlovich said. “They’ve got some really good players on the defensive side. We’ve got to be able to take what they give us. I really don’t expect a repeat of last year, to be honest with you. They’re too well coached and have too many good kids for that to happen again. Last year everything went wrong for them and went right for us.”
The Orioles would probably admit they’ve played the softest part of their schedule with wins over Winfield, Clearwater and Circle. They were a 26-0 winner last week over the T-Birds.
They haven’t been overwhelmingly prolific offensively. Chance Whitehead, a slippery operative at quarterback, leads the team with 270 yards rushing and has thrown for 367 more with seven TDs and three picks. Roman Swartz is the second-leading rusher with just 107 yards, while Colton Barnett is the top receiver with eight catches, three of them for scores.
Augusta hangs its hat on defense, led by 6-8 defensive end Jonny Clausing, a regular since his freshman season. Coban Honey is the top tackler with 17.
Pavlovich said the Orioles played a lot of youngsters last year, much like the Bullpups.
“I see a year of maturity with them,” he said. “They played quite a few sophomores in the offensive line last year particularly and they’re now juniors. This is one of the best offensive lines we’ve seen and we’ve seen two very good ones in Maize South and Buhler. This is going to be a good test for us defensively.”
The Bullpups are hoping to establish the run after picking up 248 yards on the ground last week, part of a 484-yard offensive explosion.
“We feel like we can run the ball on them,” Pavlovich said. “A lot of times you might see us attack the weak side of their defense. We always feel like we can throw as long as we pass protect.”
Kyler Hoppes started 8 of 8 last week as he had good protection and finished the game with 236 yards. He’ll be without one of his top targets though as Gabe Hoover, who had three TD catches last year against the Orioles as a sophomore, will miss the game with a shoulder injury suffered in last week’s game. Ben Nikkel is going to go both ways, one of two Bullpups to do that with Wyatt Seidl the other. Nikkel scored twice last year on jet sweeps which counted as forward passes since the ball was pitched forward.
The MHS starting defense last week gave up minus-2 yards through three quarters before retiring to its quarters for the evening. Winfield did tack on two cosmetic scores against the Bullpup backups during a 38-14 MHS domination.