McPherson High football coach Jace Pavlovich hopes his team’s “second season” goes as well as the first.
The Bullpups completed the pre-district portion of the schedule with a 5-1 record, the only blemish a 9-0 setback to once-beaten Maize South when MHS had a brief 65-second meltdown that the Mavericks converted into all their points.
Other than that, the start has been near-perfect, including a rousing 33-21 victory in the season opener against arch-rival Buhler.
Now the Bullpups are realistically 0-0 when they journey to Hays to take on a 2-4 Indian team that could be better than its record indicates as the district season is under way. This will be MHS’ only road game, as the final two are at home.
Kickoff at Fort Hays State’s Lewis Field is 7:00. Join Voice of the Bullpups Jim Joyner on 96.7 KBBE-FM for the pre-game at 6:30.
“I like the way we’re playing,” said Pavlovich, whose team has beaten Hays three years in a row including last year’s 48-14 steamroller at McPherson Stadium. “I like that we’re healthy physically and mentally. I think we’re ready to go. We’re excited for a scary Hays team that we really don’t know what to expect.”
Hays opened with a 2-1 start, including wins over tradition-rich 5A programs Great Bend and Liberal. But it has since lost three in a row and has experienced an offensive outage with just 17 points during that stretch.
“Defensively they’re incredible. This may be one of the best defensive teams we’ve faced since Week 1 or Week 2,” Pavlovich said. “Offensively, they have struggled. They’re trying to find an identity still this late in the season. They’ll go spread, one-back, no-backs and then the next play they’ll jump into a power-I or wishbone set. It gives us a lot to prepare for.”
Hays really has struggled in the passing game. The Indians did not complete a pass against Liberal and had just two completions in both the Great Bend and Garden City games. That should play right into the hands of the Bullpups, who have been stout all year against the run and only on a few drives has a team been able to pass the ball right down the field. The MHS defense has been tested early the last two weeks, then has turned up the heat.
The Bullpup offense has been efficient. Quarterback Kyler Hoppes has passed for exactly 1,000 yards and thrown just two picks, both in the first game of the season. Jace Kinnamon has been providing methodical running with his patient style, backed by Austen Hunt. Hoppes has a bevy of receivers as it seems like every game it’s a different one stepping up.
Pavlovich said the Hays front is among the best MHS will see.
“Their defensive front is good, very good,” he said. “Our offensive line is going to have to play well in both the run and pass game. We have to take what they give us. Last year they stacked the box. If they stack the box again, we’ll have to throw them out of it. I feel confident in our passing game, especially our deep passing game.”
Abilene and Wamego meet in the other district game and Pavlovich said he’s not sure what to expect as both teams have been rather unpredictable. Abilene is only 2-4 and the last few years it has been 6-0 going into district. Wamego played a lot of juniors last year and is 3-3.
“I have no idea about that game, I really don’t,” Pavlovich said. “We have film on them, I’ve watched them, I’ve talked to other coaches about them. Everybody tells me something different. Every film I turn on I see something different. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.”