McPherson returns tough defensive personnel

MCPHERSON BULLPUPS

Head Coach: Jace Pavlovich
2016 Record: 8-3

Returning Starters Offense: Jace Kinnamon - TB – JRl , Dawson Van Goethem - OL – JR, Thomas Diggs - WR - SR
Returning Starters Defense: Wyatt Seidl - DE – SR, Michael Mendez – DL – SR, Jayse Alexander - LB – SR, Kollin Goering - LB – SR, Gunnar Reiss - Safety – SR, Drew Labertew – Safety – SR, Ben Nikkel – Corner – SR, Tyson Stites – Corner - SR

2016 Season Highlight: Defeated Andale to win a Regional Championship

Outlook: McPherson returns eight starters to a defense that Head Coach Jace Pavlovich calls their best in twelve years. Leading the defense will be three-year starters Jayse Alexander and Kollin Goering at linebacker. Goering led the team with 90 tackles in 2016 and Alexander came up one shy of him.

“Our team starts with our defense and at the end of the day that’s how we like it," says Alexander. “We’ve all played together, except three of us and it’s great for chemistry. We know what each other is going to do and we have each other’s back.”

Transfer Khalil Libson will help the defense improve up-front. The 6’4”, 240-pound defensive lineman comes to McPherson by way of Gateway, FL. Libson should anchor the trenches on defense while splitting time at fullback on offense.

QB Competition

Drew Labertew and Kyler Hoppes are competing for the starting quarterback spot. The duo split snaps during the summer and a starter won’t be named until late in fall camp.

“We’ve got two kids that are phenomenal quarterbacks and they’d probably start at quite a few different schools our size,” says Pavlovich.

Hoppes started at the JV level in 2016 and turned heads during summer workouts. He’s a good pocket passer and a playmaker that's not afraid to make a mistake. Labertew takes a conservative approach, but he has good size and speed and takes care of the ball.

“We’re pretty even and we’ve just been going at it all summer,” says the senior, Labertew. “Whichever one of us gets it will be successful because we’re both competitors.”

Once Pavlovich finds his quarterback, he'll need to protect him and that might give the head coach an ulcer. The Bullpups are replacing their entire offensive line from 2016. There is some relief: they have depth, with ten players fighting for those five spots.

“Anytime you have competition over a job it makes everyone a little bit better,” says Pavlovich.

McPherson is confident in their skill spots. The running back tandem of Jace Kinnamon and Honestee Whittaker return in the backfield. Kinnamon rushed the ball 99 times for 460 yards, while Whittaker saw limited action, but put up 120 yards on just 33 carries. At wide receiver, the 'Pups will run a trio of sticky handed ball catchers: Thomas Diggs, Gabe Hoover, and Taylin Huff.

The 'Pups early season schedule is punishing. McPherson opens the year against the top teams in their division: Buhler and Maize South.

The Bullpups love opening their season against Buhler. It gives them something to work towards during the hot summer workouts.

“Sometimes when you play an opponent that you’re not fully aware of its kind of hard to get that interest level over the course of the summer, admits Pavlovich. “Our guys are looking forward to it and we’re really excited.”

“Obviously, we want to start off 2-0 but it will not define our season,” says Pavlovich. “We are in a tough league with some great programs.”